On Monday the fleet of competitors in the ninth annual Archipelago Raid left Lidingö and Stockholm rapidly to stern as the 26 catamarans took advantage of between 8 and 12 knots of westerly wind and headed northeast out into the Stockholm Archipelago.
Although almost half of the teams are Swedish, it was three foreign teams that came off best immediately following the race start at 14:45 on Monday afternoon. Team Cobalt, comprised of British sailors Luke Yeats and Conrad Humphries, was first to cross the starting line and head downwind, with the FG Porsche crew - Belgian sailors Francis Proot
and Simon Van Acker - in second place. Nipping at their heels in third position were Team Audio Networks with British sailors William Sunucks and Simon Farren
. It paid off to be close to the pin mark with Team FG Porsche briefly taking the lead at the second rounding for the start of the tack back up to Kyrkviken and the run to the first checkpoint at Bogesund.
The first phase of the race ends in the Stockholm archipelago, after which, early on Tuesday morning, the boats must cross "Ålands Hav" over to Åland and Finland. They will be back in Swedish waters on Friday when the boats reach Sandhamn. On Saturday afternoon the exhausted crews will finish right back where they started, outside Lidingö in Stockholm, by which time they will have logged over 500 miles of sailing.
This year is the ninth edition of the Archipelago Raid - one of the world's greatest and most extreme orienteering sailing races, in which an international field of teams race through the Stockholm archipelago, Aland islands and Finnish archipelago. It's a tough and exhausting test of skill and stamina where complex navigation is made all the more difficult by the effects of sleep deprivation.
The race started on Monday and finishes on 22 August 2009 at the conference centre At Sea on the island of Lidingö outside Stockholm. The race will pass through the Stockholm archipelago, through the Aland Islands, thence to the archipelago outside Finnish Turku before returning to Lidingö. The boats are all Formula 18 catamarans: very fast 5.5 meter twin-hull craft sailed by two crew.
The competition's uniqueness comes from the fact that the competitors must pick their way through the countless islands which the race route encompasses, briefly stopping at between 20 and 25 checkpoints along the way. A checkpoint could be a lighthouse, beach, dock or other geographical feature, and the racers can choose what they believe to be the fastest route between checkpoints. The main idea is for the race to be as mentally and physically stressful as possible, therefore some of the stages of the race are very long in order to necessitate round-the-clock sailing. There are occasional short stops, but any respite for the crews will be lessened by having to carry out maintenance on the boats. Sleep will be in short supply, snatched in the open air.
Thanks to the unique form of competition and the beautiful natural setting in which it takes place, the race has grown into a large and well-respected competition among the world's leading racing sailors. This year more than 30 teams from 13 countries will be competing. Among the participants are Anders Lewander, who was skipper aboard Ericsson 3 during parts of the recently finished Volvo Ocean Race, and Olympic yachtsman and Swedish F18 champion Martin Strandberg
. The Finnish Olympic gold medallist and helmsman of Ericsson 3, Thomas Johanson
, is racing, as is Gustav Morin
(SWE), who was media crew member aboard Ericsson 3 in the Volvo Ocean Race.