...take on Three Peaks and cancer challenges.

FOR the first time in several years an all woman team is tackling the challenging Three Peaks Yacht Race and, in the words of the organisers, it is "one most of the men will struggle to beat!"

'5girlsinaboat' will tomorrow (Saturday) line up against 21 other challengers for the start of the race from Barmouth, North Wales, to Fort William, scaling the highest peaks of Wales, England and Scotland on the way.

By the finish they will have sailed 389 nautical miles, risking sandbanks, rocks and fierce tides.

Over approximately four days they will get little rest and, in addition, at least two members of each team must complete 72 miles and 14,000 feet of climbing to reach the summits of Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis.

It is no easy task when you may have to run at night, unsteady on your feet due to sea sickness. But 5girlsinaboat' have a driving ambition as boat skipper Susan Rutter has recovered from breast cancer and has formed the team to both live life to the full and also in the hope of raising thousands of pounds for Breast Cancer Care UK and St Wilfrid's Hospital, Chichester, organisations that helped Susan through sickness and depression from bouts of chemotherapy in 2002.

Now restored to health, Susan, a keen sailor since 1969 and yacht skipper since 1980, is joined by Ali Bramall, who had sailed with her when they were at school together in Devon. Ali, who lives at Sedbergh, is a mountaineer and skier. She leads walking holidays in the Alps and Lakes and was the first woman to complete a winter Bob Graham Round run (a circuit of 42 Lakeland peaks and 24,000 ft of ascent, within a 24 hour period).

Ali enlisted Wendy Dodds who represented England in the World Mountain running championships in 2002 and 2003.

Wendy ran her first Bob Graham Round in 1979 and then in 2002, aged 50, she added another eight summits to the round. She won the English Fell Running Veterans 50 Championship in 2002 and 2003.

The third runner to sign on was Nicky Lavery, a fortunate choice as she completed the Three Peaks Yacht Race in 1982 and is also an experienced sailor. Nicky also competed in the cross-country skiing Winter Olympics in 1984 and in 1999 she completed the winter Bob Graham Round in under 22hrs.

More recently, Nicky completed the 46 Lakeland Peaks circuit, consisting of 72 miles and 26,000ft of ascent and she often partners Wendy in Mountain Marathons.

The fifth member of the team is Julie Fawcett who comes from a sailing background and holds a Yachtmaster qualification and skippered a yacht in last year's Three Peaks Race.

Julie will perhaps have the toughest task for '5girlsinaboat' have also entered the Tilman Trophy, which requires at last four members of the team to reach a mountain summit.

She faces the prospect of being dragged to at least one mountain top by the runners.

The race is likely to take four days, depending on weather conditions, and last year's winners 'Spirit of Barmouth' are returning, with the same experienced crew, but two new runners aboard. They will renew their rivalry with the strong Dutch team on 'Hellefix' who were second last year while European Triathlon champion Rob Barel is back to run again, this time with experienced British fell runner Nick Hoad.

The other international entry is a very experienced Israeli team, which has another world-class triathlete aboard in Daniel Karen.

After the start the teams sail to Caernarfon. After the runners tackle Snowden the sailors must then pilot them safely through the treacherous Menai Straits then across Liverpool Bay to Whitehaven. From there the runners become cyclists for the dash to Ennerdale where the run up Scafell Pike begins.

The longest leg of the journey is then the sail to Fort William and the final ascent of Ben Nevis.

Live race coverage, including daily reports, picture galleries of all the action and current positions will be hosted by the adventure racing site www.SleepMonsters.co.uk Anyone would like to make a donation to the team's chosen charities send a cheque to: '5girlsinaboat', Ali Bramall, 7 Highfield Road, Sedbergh, Cumbria LA10 5DH.