Leg two of the Nord Stream Race set sail from Copenhagen this afternoon. At 420 nautical miles, this will be the longest of the four legs in the St Petersburg Yacht Club’s annual trans-Baltic yacht race. It will take the competitors anticlockwise around southern Sweden to Stockholm.

Before leg two got underway, special guests were able to experience racing on board the five state of the art Club Swan 50 yachts in three short inshore races. These were held in southeasterly winds that gradually built from 4 knots.

Once again Deutscher Touring Yacht-Club (Team Germany) dominated. The young crew, which like those on the other boats qualified for the Nord Stream Race by winning its national sailing league in 2016, yesterday claimed leg 1 from Kiel into Copenhagen. Today, off Skovshoved Harbour to the north of Copenhagen, it promptly won the first two inshore races. Frederikshavn Sejlklub (Team Denmark) led up the first beat of race two. She came into the top mark on port and perfectly tacked just ahead of the German crew, but then hooked herself on the windward mark. By the time she had untangled herself she was last.

In race three, much to the relief of the other crews, the German favourites at last released their stranglehold on the 2017 Nord Stream Race, when they got off to an uncharacteristic, bad start. The Danes led initially, but were overtaken by Cape Crow Yacht Club (Team Sweden), who hung on to first place until the finish.

At 1415 the offshore race set sail, upwind into 10-12 knots of south southeasterly wind. At 1700, as the competitors were passing back beneath the magnificent Øresund Bridge linking Copenhagen and Malmo, Germany was back in the lead ahead of the Swedes, followed by the Danes, Russians and Finns, but with just 0.6 miles separating first from last.

From here, the forecast has the moderate upwind conditions holding as the fleet continues south, but possibly dropping and veering into the southwest as they head down to the west of the traffic separation scheme (TSS) off the southwesternmost tip of Sweden. After passing the TSS the course requires them to take a sharp left turn ready for the 88 mile broad reach in 15 knot winds (building to 20) to Bornholm, off southern Sweden. Once round this Danish sovereign island, it will be spinnakers up for the long run north towards Stockholm. The direct route takes the boats west up the narrow channel between the long thin island of Öland and the Swedish mainland, however given the boats are likely to want space to gybe, it is more likely they will take the longer offshore route to east of the island. During this period the southerly breeze is expected to build to at least 20 knots.

Approaching Stockholm is tricky because there are countless tiny islands and lots of hard granite rocks. The finish line is off the Kungliga Svenska Segel Sällskapet (KSSS) south of the city, where the boats will be mooring. The leg is expected to take around three days to complete.

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All photos: Lars Wehrmann / Nord Stream Race 

Michael Tarabochia, skipper of Deutscher Touring Yacht-Club (Team Germany) shared his approach for leg two: “Our main targets will be to keep the guys awake and focussed; to keep the boat sailing fast and picking a good route to Stockholm.” For this he once again has British Figaro sailor Hugh Brayshaw to help him.

The German team did well on the opening leg by going straight into a watch system, of two hours on, two hours off, two hours stand-by, to keep their helmsmen and trimmers fresh. Tarabochia said they were going to amend this tonight. “We have a new watch system so the experienced, older guys will be on deck from midnight until 0500 so the younger guys can rest. That will be safer and if there’s a big manoeuvre like a sail change, everyone will be on deck.” On board they have a schedule of eating every eight hours and drinking and having snacks every two.

All of the crews for leg two are the same as for leg 1, except the Danes, who have swapped over four crew, with Kris Houmann on as skipper for the remainder of the race.

“It will be a tough leg,” predicted Houmann. “It will be about getting sleep because in the early morning hours, when you’re tired, you make mistakes. We didn’t win the last leg due to a personal mistake. Some of the guys are pretty tired still from the first leg, so we will send them down [to sleep] first.”

The crew with most experience of sailing the leg 2 course are the Finns from the Nyländska Jaktklubben in Helsinki. He acknowledges that they will have to change their modus operandi. “On the last leg we didn’t have a watch system and the crew were pretty tired. Now we are going to run with three man watch systems, six on and three resting.”

While they have dedicated drivers, notably match racer Staffan Lindberg, Thelen said they were also going to give the less experienced crew a chance to drive. “It should be fun – as sailing always should be.”

On this leg all eyes will be on the Swedes. Patrik Sturesson is the youngest of the five skippers. He has sailed offshore before but leg one was the first time he had ever helmed at night. He has not sailed the Nord Stream Race course, save for the latter part when he compete in a Gotland Runt, Swedish’s largest offshore race. “But the navigator is from the area and doesn’t need a map to navigate between the islands! This time we will sleep a bit more. During the first leg we learned how to sleep on the rail.”

The Russian crew on Lord of the Sail – Europe are hoping to improve on their fifth place on leg one, when they wasted time trying to untangled their keel from some flotsam.