The anticipation was palpable on June 29 in the Race Village at Djurgården in Stockholm for the start of the 2023 Round Gotlund offshore race. Crews were prepared for a very tough race, with forecasts exceeding 30 knots for most of the competition. Overall winners were the seasoned team on Pro4u (First 36.7) who beat the hard-working double-handed crew on Tutalör (Figaro 3) and the solid crew on Magix Mix (X-41).
Yes, the 2023 Round Gotland Regatta was a very special race. The forecast showed winds exceeding 30 knots for over 24 hours, a near repeat of the 2019 event when boats were met by strong winds on the first night that lasted most of the race. With many having 2019 fresh in their minds, crews carefully discussed how to act, which resulted in many choosing not to expose themselves and their boats to the conditions.
The pre-race in Wasahamnen (Wasa Harbor) was a brilliant start to the Round Gotland week. Royal Swedish Yacht Club hosted activities that included test-sailing, a sustainability seminar, children’s activities, Manta cycling on the water, Trim-on simulator, performances and much more. On the docks, more red storm sails were hoisted then normal, in preparation for the heavy wind. Even though the inauguration itself was rainy, the sun mostly shone on sailors, officials and visitors and created a wonderful atmosphere in the race village.
The start on Sunday in light shifting winds was followed by rarely experienced strong rain showers during the sailing out through the archipelago. Hardly the perfect start for those who were determined to complete the whole race, and perhaps t influenced some to retire when they reached the Almagrundet lighthouse. Many were by then both wet and cold.
Then the wind came with full force. The number of retired boats grew quickly, with over 100 of 175 boats scratching by Sunday evening. In the Classic fleet, none remained and in many other classes had only a handful of boats still racing. Ultimately, only 23 boats crossed the finish line. The 2023 Round Gotlund was about having a persistent and experienced crew and a robust boat that could stand up to tough conditions.
The line honors were quite easily taken by the largest boat in the fleet, the mighty 85ft Swiss catamaran Allegra, skippered by Rob Grimm, which finished before the next boat passed the halfway mark at Hoburgen. However, rules dictate the overall winner must be a monohull boat, otherwise Allegra would have crushed the competition.
I sailed this year in the beautiful SK75 Bacchant and we had a healthy dialogue on board about how to tackle the tough conditions. Skipper Magnus Adlercreutz made it clear that winds over 30 knots would be difficult for the nearly 100-year-old boat, and we therefore turned back about an hour after Almagrundet in order not to expose the boat or ourselves to unnecessary risks. This is how many others reasoned as well.
Several breakdowns were reported, but quite a few considering the conditions. After a rudder failure, a double-handed Farr 38, had to be abandoned in the Baltic Sea. The crew was evacuated by helicopter after the sails were lashed and drift anchors were laid. The boat could be salvaged a few days later and was safely taken to port. Two broken masts without serious injuries were also reported.