Friday, June 22, 2018

Sweden Midsummer Solo Challenge a Success!

J/111 sailing off Stockholm, Sweden (Stockholm, Sweden)- Without a doubt, Swedish offshore sailor and entrepreneur extraordinaire, Peter Gustafsson, is always thinking, always dreaming, always innovating, wondering how to do things better in business as well as indulging in his favorite pastime- sailing his J/111 BLUR.SE.

Recently, Peter had yet another spasm of inspiration, commenting, “we have a crazy new side project, to start a solo archipelago race through Bohuslän. 125 nm with no rules.  We managed to fill 60 slots within 24 hours of announcing the race! 48 boats started, 15 finished (due to light winds and two nights at sea).  Nevertheless, the first edition of Midsummer Solo Challenge lived up to expectations. Remember, that far north in Scandinavia, it is “sunset twilight” all night long, the sun never fully sets!

Here is Peter’s commentary on the race from aboard his beloved J/111 BLUR.SE:

“How about 50 solo sailors completing a 125 nm course through one of the world's most beautiful archipelagos, in the middle of the light and warm Swedish summer night?

J/111 sailing at sunset- Stockholm, SwedenWhen the initiative was launched six months ago, the initial 50 spots filled up within 24 hours. We’ve seen the popularity of similar races, like the Danish Silverrudder, but a true archipelago race for solo sailors is something new.

On Thursday evening, 48 skippers met for a three course dinner and a weather briefing promising light to moderate winds from south... and lots of sunshine! Administration was kept to a minimum, and everyone just had to put a signature on a list to verify that they intended to take part.

A few of us had a final beer, but then everyone wandered off to their boats to prepare for the challenge ahead.

Friday morning, the mini class (boats from 18 to 25 feet) stated at 10:00 in 4-8 knots of wind from SW. With a mix of downwind sails set, the group set off to the north. As the second group started an hour later, the first wrestled with some major decisions; inshore through the small straights and through the picturesque fishing village of Gullholmen, or the westerly route close to Käringön and the landmark lighthouse of Måseskär. Inshore is shorter, but offshore you can catch a current pushing you north at 2 knots. One of many decisions to be made in the coming 24-48 hours.

Leif Jägerbrand in his Seascape 24, loved the conditions, took the shortest route and quickly extended his lead.

At 13:00 the bigger boats left Marstrand, trying to hunt down the smaller boats ahead. J/111 Blur with Peter Gustafsson was expected to be the fastest boat, and showed pace and set of offshore before hoisting his huge 155 sqm gennaker.

J/111 sailing off Sweden twilight zoneLate afternoon, the different classes started to mix, gybing through the islands ticking of Lysekil, Hållö, Smögen and many of the anchorages where people spend their summer vacation. It’s easy to spend 4-5 weeks cruising here and each night find a new amazing spot to anchor.  It was a strange feeling to cover the same distance in a day.

When the sun set, the leading boats were leaving Fjällbacka and aimed for the northern mark of Ramskär. The wind became even lighter, and some struggled to keep their boats going. It is always a special feeling to turn the boat around and sail towards the finish. But knowing it would be 15-30 hours of light upwind sailing and adverse current everyone understood the meaning of the word ”challenge”.

The first three boats, the Seascape 24, Jonas Dyberg in his J/88 and J/111 Blur stayed in the archipelago to avoid the current. Short tacking south, they reached the finish late afternoon. The smaller boats had a duel where the Seascape had to give in to the J/88 after leading the way for almost 30 hours. Blur crossed the line within the hour to post the fastest time around the course with 27 hours 35 minutes and 3 seconds.  Second was Dyberg’s J/88.

J/111 sailing with Code zeroBut that didn’t really matter. No winner was announced; no awards were handed out and the important thing was to prove to yourself that you could do it. And naturally to receive the t-shirts with ”FINISHER” printed at the back.

The three finishers had dinner, wondering if anyone else would make it. The wind had slowly died and many boats were parked with the finish in sight. Another bunch where anchored or drifting at Måseskär, as every attempt to get past just resulted in being pushed back by the current.

Would the skippers have the patience and endurance to hang in there and wait for the morning breeze? Later Saturday night, a few boats trickled in, managing to cross the line.  Early morning, a few more, and after 46 hours Staffan Cederlöf closed the gate in his red Compis 28 Retro Balloon.

All in all, 15 boats of the 48 that started, managed to complete the Midsummer Solo Challenge. And as always, it came down to grit and sheer will. It wouldn’t be surprising to see all of them, and quite a few more, back next year to challenge themselves again.

Enjoy this entertaining J/88 sailing video from Jonas Dyberg

The story and results in Swedish:

For more information about the Midsummer Challenge Race- please contact Peter Gustafsson- M: +46 733 304000 / E: Add to Flipboard Magazine.