Tjörn Runt: Road Trip to Sweden
Published on August 20th, 2014
by Chuck Skewes, Ullman Sails
Nine sailors from San Diego, who had been racing the past four years on the Andrews 70 Alchemy, flew to Sweden on August 1 to start preparing for the Tjörn Runt.
The Tjörn Runt, the second largest race in Sweden, attracts over 400 boats for the 40nm route around the island of Tjörn. Held annually since 1963, the race is made famous by its small passages and submersible obstacles. Over the years, it has also become a public celebration that attracts nearly 30,000 spectators.
In advance of the August 16 race, the team went out to sail each leg several at different times, charting rocks and recording the wind shifts around the islands in several different wind directions.
It was a little daunting at first, with only a small amount of the rocks marked and charts that were originally plotted in 1910. There are several slightly submerged granite reefs, channels only a few meters wide, currents that change with the barometric pressure, unstable weather patterns, and over 400 more boats to deal with during the race.
After hauling the boat with most of the team wet sanding and fairing the bottom of a Beneteau 40.7, our team was starting to get noticed. Other competitors had heard we were there and were walking by to see what we were up to. It started a frenzy of boats getting hauled out to sand the bottom and other teams to start practicing.
After practice each night the team would analyze the data to determine which mode in which condition was working the best. We needed to improve our downwind speed. Ullman Sails shipped a new spinnaker for us after not being happy with the spinnaker that was supplied by a different sailmaker. This gave us the downwind speed we were looking for.
On race morning, the team felt well prepared and went out to have fun. Our start was at 9:10am, and after getting away cleanly, we beat out the channel, but struggled against the lighter boats which could accelerate a little better. Three boats got ahead of us, and while we were still doing well under the handicap, we felt we needed to push harder.
As we left the narrow start channel and started working outside, we hit the right pressure and shifts to pull into second, 4 minutes behind the leader. We stayed even on a reaching leg with the leader pulling on the boats behind. We sailed past the RC 44 World Championships near Marstrand, and started heading back into a narrow channel that brings you into a crowded archipelago with approximately 100 islands and reefs.
As we sailed downwind, picking as clean of lanes as we could with so many boats, we picked up every minute on the leader. Approaching the final bridge to sail under, the trumpets sounded, alerting the spectators that we were the leaders just as we passed the last boat. It was quite a feat to put 8 minutes on them on the run.
Our group, Team Alchemy, was first in class and first overall. The crew included Will Stout, Artie Means, Chuck Skewes, Jay Davis, Brad Ruetenik, Patrick Koranda, Mike Hurlihy, Gunner Sege, and Per Peterson.
These videos were from the 2009 race, highlighting some of the craziness that can occur. Race organizers have since adjusted the course to keep boats away this major minefield.