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J/121 Jolene's report on winning the shorthanded class in the Gotland Runt Race

by Fredrik Rydin 18 Jul 08:17 BST 3-5 July 2021
Gotland Runt Race 2021 © Royal Swedish Yacht Club

J/121 Jolene with owner Fredrik Rydin and co-skipper Johan Tuvstedt completed the Scandinavian offshore race Gotland Runt (round Gotland Race) as winners of the Shorthanded class.

Gotland Runt is the largest annual offshore race in Scandinavia gathering some 200-300 participants every year. The start is in the centre of Stockholm and the first 40.0nm of the 350.0nm race runs through the beautiful Stockholm archipelago before going offshore at Sandhamn for the remaining 310.0nm round the island of Gotland and back to Sandhamn.

The race was cancelled last year due to the pandemic situation and also this year it remained somewhat uncertain to what extent the race could be carried out. Thanks to some easements in the governmental restrictions as per 1 July it was possible to run the race with almost 200 participating boats provided that the starts where divided over two days.

Here is Fredrik's report:

"Our SRS Shorthanded Class with 26 boats started on Saturday together with the ORCi class, the Multihulls and the Classic yachts.

The weather forecasts predicted light north easterly to easterly winds, which meant a light beat out through the archipelago and then a reach out to Gotland. Downwind on the east side of Gotland and a light upwind/reach leg back back to Sandhamn and the Finish line. Summer time in Scandinavia means unreliable forecasts and very local weather, so with Gotland Runt you do not really know what weather scenario you will end up with in real life. This year, the reality turned out to be not so far from the predictions.

Race day morning the winds were north easterly 10-12 kts. The breeze was predicted to gradually come down during the afternoon in the archipelago and then pick up again offshore. After some discussions amongst the two of us, we decided to start with the J2. Changing headsails is a costly maneuver when racing doublehanded, especially since we have soft hanks on our jibs. Our plan was to change to J1 later in the day during a short leg with the free flying Code Zero.

Start was at 11:40 for our class. With Jolene being the second largest boat in the class on handicap we were expected to be in the front. The only boat rating higher than Jolene was the German X-46 JuxeBox. We got off to a good start and managed to defend our lead against JuxeBox out through the archipelago. After some three hours and numerous of tacks we did the planned change from J1 to J2. The breeze was then down to 2-4 kts at times and the additional power of the J1 was desperately needed.

At 7pm we were the first boat out of the archipelago part in our class and it later turned out that we also were in the lead on corrected time, which we were very happy about. The smaller, lighter boats often have an advantage in light and tight conditions in the archipelago, but our active sailing and focus on boat speed had paid off.

Out on open sea heading for the northern tip of Gotland we had TWA of approximately 120 deg. and 10-13 kts of breeze. For us that meant A3 spinnaker. Leaving the archipelago behind we could now also get some well-needed rest.

Offshore doublehanded sailing is very much solo sailing with two people. Maneuvers, tactical decisions, sail changes are done together, of course. But, in between that we try to get as much rest as possible, with one person driving the boat while the other is taking a nap. One hour turns work well for us.

We had to make a couple of sail changes during the night between A3, A2 and Jib Zero. We were at the reporting point at the north end of Gotland around 6:00 AM in the morning on Sunday. Still in the lead. It is always a tactical challenge to decide whether to stay close to shore east side of Gotland or to go further out in the sea. From our experience, in the rather light conditions that we were facing now one is more likely to park without any wind at all close to land so we decided to keep some distance. It was a nice comfortable downwind leg under A2 and a staysail all the way down to Hoburgen, which is the very south point of Gotland.

We kept a close eye on the AIS and the boats going closer to shore and it seemed that the breeze was somewhat lighter in there so our decision to stay a bit out was probably the right one. We made a couple of gybes on our way down to Hoburgen and rounded the mark as first boat in our class at 6:30 PM on Sunday. We had a comfortable lead over JuxeBox (the X-46) and we had also managed to keep our closest competitors, the SunFast 3600 Groovie, and Farr38 Pandion, at sufficient distance to maintain our lead also on corrected time.

Half of the race distance was now behind us, but still the most difficult part ahead. The homestretch up west side of Gotland, rounding a mark just outside Visby and then back to Sandhamn and the Finish line promised challenging conditions with almost no wind at all during the night outside of Visby. This is a very familiar situation for everyone who have sailed Gotland Runt before. And, it turned out to be just as frustrating as we had feared. The weather routing suggested that we stayed as close to land as possible all the way up to Visby.

We started our way up to Visby with TWA 60 and 12-13 kts of breeze. Fantastic sailing. Code-zero, full water-ballast tanks and speed around 9 kts. We could see on the AIS that the boats ahead were going really close to land. Skirting very very closely the 3.0m depth curve. We followed suit. The wind started to weaken during the evening and with some 20.0nm left to Visby we were down to 1-2 kts of breeze. We managed to avoid parking completely, but it was frustratingly slow at times. Slowly the wind started to build again after midnight and we rounded Visby mark at 3:50am Monday morning.

The leg from from Visby to Almagrundet Lighthouse was a 100.0nm reach in TWA 95 to 115 deg. with wind speed in the range of 11-15 kts. Again we had our Code Zero up and full water ballast for the entire leg and it was a drag race with focus on keeping the polar targets above 100% all the way. Once we had the Code Zero up and in good order, we could take turns, and get a couple of hours well-deserved sleep.

We crossed the finish line late afternoon on Monday and took the line honors in our class. We had also managed to maintain our lead through out the entire race on corrected time. Fantastic achievement and a very happy crew!"

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