Having sailed most raids since 2004 I have many very strong memories from each year, but it sometimes becomes blurry what happened which year. I tend to attach the memories to something that stood out that specific raid. “The year we started in Mariehamn, the wind died and we had to paddle across the Åland sea (2005)”. “The year with a very windy first day when Darren and Jeroen sailed leg 2 from Finnhamn to Fejan with an average speed of 17 knots (2015)”. Etc.
The raid 2021 will be stored in my memory as the downwind raid with more gennaker runs than ever before. All eight races started downwind with gennaker hoisted and it stayed up most of the time. This because the wind shifted 180 degrees just in time for the fleet to head back towards Stockholm after two days.
Day 1: Saltsjöbaden to Nässlingen
The Forecast looked great with 15-20 knots of wind from West to South west, a little more in the gusts. As we left Saltsjöbaden behind and approached the outer archipelago the winds had increased to 20 knots+ and we where flying with the gennaker, according to the GPS we hit hit 24 knots. Navigation was difficult since all focus was on sailing fast without capsizing.
As we approached the Check point Gillöga, with many shallow areas, Demesmaeker / Gagliano (BEL) where in second place behind Karlsson / Nordblom (SWE) when they hit a underwater rock in high speed. Both daggers broke right off leaving the boat standing on the rock. They had to lift and push it off and borrowed a tool from a safety boat to cut off the splintered daggers. They managed to sail the remaining 15 Nm downwind to the finish line without daggers. Incredibly enough their Akkurra wasn’t damaged other than the broken daggers, so with two replacement daggers they where all set and ready to go in time for the start of leg two.
Erik and I where doing fine as we approached Sandhamn on a half wind reach until a gust buried the bow into the water with a capsize as a result. When we got to the finish we realised that most teams had capsized at least once.
Tengbom / Engstrand broke their rudder so bad they decided to abandon race. Fortunately they where very close to Tengboms home where they left their damaged F18 and traded it for his private hydroplane. Before we knew it they set the air plane down in the bay where we had our lunch brake and then followed the fleet from air instead.
The second leg started outside Sandhamn, rounded the light house Svängen out on the open sea towards the beautiful skerries of Björkskär. The wind was up making it hard to aim high enough with the gennaker up. Some teams capsized, others places it safe getting their gennaker down before reaching Björskär.
As we rounded the check point and turned west the wind had really picked up. It was now a very fast upwind on port tack, through the narrow straights of Finnhamn before tacking our way to the base camp Nässlingen.
Demesmaeker / Gagliano where on fire eager to get back in the game when their jib hook broke. They lost many boats without their jib and finished on 17th place overall after a terrible start of the raid.
The Dutch team father and son Noordzij where incredibly strong and consistent finishing 1st and 2nd giving them the overall lead after the first day.
The sailors dropped in at the beautiful island Nässlingen one after the other and pulled up their boats on the beach and lawn. The large sauna was hot, the beer cold and the food was delicious after a pretty rough first day. At the end of the dinner the Race Officer Ian presented the check points of day 2 and all teams got busy preparing for day 2.
Day 2: Nässlingen to Fejan
Nice warm 12-15 knots winds from south east and not a cloud in the sky. A beautiful sight as all boats hoisted their gennakers and bore away for a 1,5h downwind reach towards the check point Ängskär. The navigation was not hard, but closing in at Änskär there where many options and boats chose different ways to approach the narrow strait between the islands.
The final stretch was a 5 Nm half wind in high speed towards the paradise Rödlöga where the villagers opened up the cafe and handed out icecream. It is the only habited island in the area and provided a good shelter for the southerly breeze. Some teams had hit rocks and had some repairing to do before the 2nd start of the day.
As always when starting downwind the winner is not always the one who crossing the line first. Teams coming from behind can steal the wind and pass a number of boats in high speed.
The first check point was 10 Nm away downwind with some gybes here and there and dangerous rocks to avoid on the way. After a few more narrow straights the fleet rounded the iconic island and Light house Söderarm and then turned west for a long port tack to the finish at Fejan. A well deserved sauna and the best food that the archipelago has to offer in the restaurant that the well renowned chef Pelle Lydmar runs since a couple of years.