Challenge of the Nord Stream Race beckons for rookie offshore sailors
Some young, talented sailors are about to undergo one of the biggest challenges of their lives as they set sail in the 1,000 nautical mile offshore race, the Nord Stream Race this Saturday.
While all the competitors taking part in the race are expert sailors in some form of the sport, many of them are completely new to sailing out of sight of land and concentrating for hours and days at a time. The five teams are made up of the five championship winning clubs who won the 2016 edition of their respective National Sailing Leagues.
The National Sailing League racing is a series of short, sharp 10-minute windward-leeward races held in identical J/70 sportsboats. Now it is up to these same sailors to learn the ropes on the much bigger and much powerful ClubSwan 50 high-performance yachts that will contest the Nord Stream Race, a passage through the Baltic Sea which starts on 26 August from Kiel in Northern Germany. From there it’s a stage race to Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki and the finish in St Petersburg in Russia, where the fleet is expected to arrive on 6 September.
The five competing yacht clubs are the Deutscher Touring Yacht-Club from Germany, Frederikshavn Sejlklub from Denmark, Cape Crow Yacht Club from Sweden, Nyländska Jaktklubben from Finland and Lord of the Sail – Europe from Russia. Each of the five clubs is sending a crew with ten of their best sailors.
“Before the start of the first leg of the offshore race, we will hold two to three short inshore races in the morning,’ said Klaus Lahme, club manager of the Norddeutscher Regatta Verein, the organising yacht club in Kiel. ‘This short-course racing format is what league sailing is all about. This kind of ‘stadium sailing’ means spectators can follow the racing from the shore, and it’s something that’s going to happen in between each of the long-distance offshore stages of the Nord Stream Race.” The inshore racing will at least be partially familiar to the sailors with short-course League racing experience. The offshore passage will be something quite different.
Three-time Olympic Champion and double America’s Cup winner Jochen Schümann is president of the ClubSwan 50 class, and says the racing will be very close even when they’re at sea. ‘The CS50 is a strict one-design class, which means all yachts are 100 per cent equal – including the rigs and sails. Basically the CS50 is comparable in sailing characteristics to smaller boats like the J/70. The only difference: they are significantly larger and of course more demanding in terms of the handling. The overall weight is 8,150kg instead of 800kg and the gennaker 235qm instead of 43qm. You need to put a lot of power through the winches when you’re trimming the CS50’s sails.’
With the responsibility of navigating a high-performance yacht a thousand miles through the Baltic Sea, Schümann says the experienced sailors on board will have a key role to play. “There will be at least two professional sailors on board, and a good navigator. With a 3.50m draft and an average of 10 knots of speed, navigating safely through the Swedish and Finnish archipelagos is a real challenge. The crews will have to be really focused if they are to drive the boat day and night at its full potential and at optimum trim for the duration of the race legs.”
Their strong backing for the race shows just how committed Nord Stream AG and Gazprom have become in their support for sailing. Aside from supporting the Baltic offshore Nord Stream Race, the companies have joined forces with the National Sailing Leagues of the Northern European countries and Russia.
Sponsored by Nord Stream AG and Gazprom and in cooperation with the Saint Petersburg Yacht Club, the Nord Stream Race has been held annually since 2012. Initially, the regatta connected Russia and Germany, with the route following the Nord Stream Pipeline after which the competition was named.
by Andy Rice