For the average sports lover it is hard to understand the connection between pistol shooting and cross-country skiing. Or why it is necessary for an athlete to cycle, swim, fence, run and ride a horse to win one event.
Nevertheless, the biathlon and modem pentathlon are Olympic events requiring highly skilled athletes to excel in diverse sports. Far removed from the Olympic arena but in the same vein as such similar disciplines, Sydney has the MMI 3-Ports Circuit starting this Saturday.
A curious combination of yachting and running, the 3-Ports Circuit was dreamed up by Frank Martin, former sailing secretary of Middle Harbour Yacht Club, who based it on a similar event held in Britain.
In the inaugural 3-Ports Circuit last year 38 runners negotiated Sydney traffic from the Spit Bridge at Mosman to the Opera House, where they were picked up by the 19 yachts in the fleet.
After sailing to The Basin, at Pittwater, the runners were put ashore for the 15km course around West Head. West Head. Then it was off to Port Kembla for the most arduous section of the event, the 30km climb and run no Mount Kembla.
The winner of last year's race, Barclay Wade's Apocalypse, sailed into Sydney Harbour with an aggregate sailing/running time of 3 hr 22min 32s. According to Wade, he liked the race because it was different from normal sailing.
"I loved it. There was so much variation," Wade said. "Sailing can get very boring."
The race certainly wasn't boring for one of his running crew, Glen McConnell, who was violently seasick during the ocean stretches.
"A lot of the runners got seasick," Wade said. "But they ran anyway." "
Apparently, the other two runners on Apocalypse, Lou Young and 1987 Westfield marathon champion Tani Ruckle, were better sailors.
Ruckle was at the centre of controversy after being disqualified and later reinstated as winner of the Westfield race.
Collectively, the team won the 63km running section of the race in 6hr 21min 58s and Brandon Pietzch (Aussie Spirit) took the King of the Mountain title.
Wade said he had wanted Ruckle to run again but after the Westfield drama she had been advised not to take part in the 3-Ports Circuit this year.
Instead, triathlon athlete Tony Sattler and half-marathon runner Mike Lawson, who were "looking for a challenge", will brave the high 'seas. Both are members of 'Warringah Triathlon Club and Sattler's claim to fame is his seventh place in the Hawaiian triathlon two years ago.
The Hawaiian race - regarded as triathlon's world championship - is an event of exhausting proportions. Competitors swim 3.8km, cycle l80km and run 42km. Sattler finished 18th in 1987 and has decided not to compete this year.
He regards the 3-Ports circuit as something a bit different and hopes to get a lot of enjoyment out of the race. Lawson, who saw a news item about the race on television, rang Sattler and convinced him to join the Apocalypse team.
"We couldn't pass up the opportunity," Lawson said. "It's inspiring to be a part of a team. We hope to make the sailors' job a bit easier."
This year's 3-Ports Circuit field has dwindled to 14 yachts, with 28 runners. There is a smaller field because six of the 1987 entrants are involved in the Around Australia Yacht race.
The running section begins with a dash from the Middle Harbour club to Manly, followed by the Pittwater and Port Kembla runs - a total of 58km.
Apocalypse, a pocket maxi part-owned by Wade and Peter Wood, will carry 10 crew for the trip.
Wade said the runners were not expected to hoist mainsails. All they did was eat and sleep.
Sattler and Lawson said they were good sailors but, with last year in mind, they may be advised, to pack sickness pills with their running shorts.