Late this afternoon the five ClubSwan 50s competing in the Nord Stream Race were beyond the half way stage of leg two from Copenhagen to Stockholm. At 420 miles this is the longest of the 2017 race’s four legs.
Having left Copenhagen yesterday afternoon, more than 24 hours on, at 1700 local time, the boats were passing the southern tip of Öland island off Sweden’s east coast, still tightly grouped, with the finish line 200 miles away.
After sailing upwind for the first few hours of leg two yesterday, at around 2100 the crews were able to ease sheets as they rounded a turning mark off the southwesternmost tip of Sweden to head east. At this point, less than a mile separated the five boats with leg one winners, Deutscher Touring Yacht-Club (Team Germany), holding first place with a small lead over Nyländska Jaktklubben (Team Finland) and Lord of the Sail – Europe (Team Russia).
Throughout the remainder of the night, the light to moderate southerly breeze held. For the boats, this made for an 88 mile beam reach along the south coast of Sweden (albeit some way offshore to avoid commercial shipping lanes) to the next turning mark, south of the Danish island of Bornholm.
At 0100, as the boats were half way along this leg, the German team was overtaken first by Cape Crow Yacht Club (Team Sweden) and then by Nyländska Jaktklubben (Team Finland). British Figaro sailor Hugh Brayshaw, calling tactics for Deutscher Touring Yacht-Club, explained: “Maybe I was a bit conservative or maybe our boat set-up wasn’t quite right during the night, which was down to a lack of experience on our part. It was a little frustrating to see what we’d lost.”
The boats rounded the mark off Bornholm at 0600 today. At this point Cape Crow Yacht Club (Team Sweden) was one mile ahead of Frederikshavn Sejlklub (Team Denmark) with the Germans third, Team Russia fourth and the Finnish team bringing up the rear, albeit just 2.9 miles off the lead.
Heading north it was finally a chance to set kites for some VMG running. Tactically the crews had the option of leaving the 75 mile long, slender island of Öland to starboard. According to Hugh Brayshaw, this was an option they had a “long look at. But it was a risk.” While it was the shortest course, none of the other boats appeared to be heading that way and the relatively narrow channel between the island and the Swedish mainland would have meant a considerable number of gybes. Instead the boats have since headed off, en masse, on a long gybe towards Gotland.
However Team Germany did put a hitch out to the west of the rest of the boats. “There was a little wind shift underneath the island. Splitting from the pack was good,” said Brayshaw.
Whether it was due to a windshift or the rest of the fleet feeling the urge to cover the German leg one winners, they all subsequently gybed across. Nonetheless for the German team, the early split had paid dividends. As the boats converged and resumed their passage north on starboard gybe, they had pulled back to second just over a mile behind the Swedes.
Passing the southern end of Öland, the wind had built to 15 knots with gusts of up to 18 and they were making 11-12 knots downwind. “It is really nice, flat water – quite comfy,” reported Brayshaw.
On board the German boat, they had settled well into their two hour on-off-standby watch system.
Meanwhile the youngest member of the crew, Marco Tarabochia, son of skipper Michael Tarabochia, and who had turned 17 yesterday, was doing well, enjoying the atmosphere on board and being set to work grinding.
Tonight, as the ClubSwan 50s continue north, the wind is set to build from the south to 20 knots, the most seen so far in the race, before veering slightly and dropping tomorrow morning as the boats enter the Swedish archipelago. With its numerous rocks and islands, this will be the most complex stage of the race for the navigators, also coming at a time when they will be at their most tired.
The boats are due to arrive at the finish line off the Kungliga Svenska Segel Sällskapet (KSSS) at 1200 local time.