After a night of terror, exhilaration and 20+ knot boat speeds, Cape Crow Yacht Club (Team Sweden) arrived home to a glorious victory this morning at the end of leg two of the 2017 Nord Stream Race. At 420 miles, this was by far the longest of the trans-Baltic yacht race’s four legs, taking the boats from Copenhagen to the Royal Swedish Yacht Club (KSSS) at Saltsjöbaden, outside Stockholm.

The Swedes relieved Deutscher Touring Yacht-Club (Team Germany) of the lead halfway to the turning mark off Bornholm on Monday night. Last night, passing Gotland, they seemed to find a groove of their own, extending away, to finish with a lead of 50 minutes.

For the five crews, last night’s ride on their ClubSwan 50s was sensational, hard running in 25 knot winds, gusting to 30, in steep, short waves. In the pitch black night, the fast ride was both exhilarating and terrifying. “It is not often that I get really scared on a boat, but last night I did! It was like a mini-Volvo Ocean Race,” admitted Martin Krite. He should know having won the round the world race in 2011-12. “We have so many young talented sailors, but they are all like cowboys, they just send the boat! I was standing at the back, really nervous! But we were fast and we’re here!” Krite has been coaching the Swedes, many of them M32 catamaran sailors, how to race offshore.

Last night, running downwind, the boats were hitting 22 knots top speeds, but there was a price: “Just before we got into the Archipelago, we were on our side for about four minutes,” admitted Krite. Fortunately no one was injured in the broach.

1NSR172420919-4163_1000Victorious on leg 2 – Cape Crow Yacht Club (Team Sweden). Photo: Lars Wehrmann / Nord Stream Race

Patrik Sturesson, the Swedish team’s 25-year-old skipper finished exhausted, but elated. “The boys sailed the boat brilliantly,” he said. “We had really good speed the whole way, now we are getting to know the boat a little better. It has been a good, very fast leg. In one hour we averaged 15 knots. It was fantastic that we managed to do it at night. We were pushing the limit and a little bit beyond sometimes. It was really good fun.”

While on the first night they ran a watch system, last night it was all-hands-on-deck. “We skipped the watch and did a half hour rotation between a couple of helmsmen,” said Sturesson.

Next arrival off Saltsjöbaden, the magnificent location of the KSSS clubhouse, was Frederikshavn Sejlklub (Team Denmark). The best moment for the Danes was on the long starboard gybe across to Gotland yesterday evening when they went from fourth place to almost drawing level with the Swedes.

Of the big final night, Danish skipper Kris Houmann said: “We were easily surfing with a top speed of 22-23 knots. In the dark when you couldn’t see the waves, it was really hard to steer and very easy to broach. We had a lot of fun, although in the night it was a little crazy too. We pushed the boat as much as we could.”

Again, most of the crew was up all night, as Houmann observed: “It is not easy to sleep on a boat doing 20 knots with all the adrenalin pumping. It’s a bit like trying to sleep in a Le Mans car going at 300 km/h.”

The Finnish crew from Nyländska Jaktklubben in Helsinki was next home, skipper Kenneth Thelen in a strangely euphoric place, running on pure adrenalin, stupidly grinning, sunglasses hiding bloodshot sleep deprived eyes, after steering for around 10 hours last night. He had, in one night, relived his Whitbread Round the World Race experience of 28 years ago, one of his crew confided. Even if he had wanted to sleep last night Thelen said it would have been impossible, the carbon hull constantly singing out at the high speed.

If the old seadog was content, so was his young crew. Sole female on board, 22 year old Niki Blassar, said of last night: “It was such fun, incredible, hanging in there. I was winching the spinnaker, but we were switching positions around. It was really cool, a love and hate feeling. There was a lot of noise, but I knew we were safe with the crew. I didn’t get much sleep, but it was worth it to see everything.”

The Russian Lord of the Sail – Europe crew from Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains finished fourth, 1 hour 22 minutes after the Swedes. Skipper Maksim Taranov said the night had been interesting but they had struggled to manoeuvre under genniker: “I would like to have taken some sail down.” He advised: “This boat must go fast. You can go 11 knots, sometimes 19 and sometimes six, but six is hardest because if you stop, you lose control.”

The Russian crew also suffered broaches gybing in the big conditions, but were mastering it as the night wore on. “I was worried about the spinnaker a lot, but it is okay,” Taranov said.

For the leg one winners, Deutscher Touring Yacht-Club (Team Germany), there was disappointment. Having led for the first part of the leg, they were on the ascent, when disaster struck. Skipper Michael Tarabochia explained: “At 01:30 we got hit by a gust – we surfed down a wave and the genniker flapped once and then it broke completely. We brought the kite down in a few minutes. We saw the damage and hoisted the jib. From then on, we tried our best, but there was no chance. We were still doing 20 knots under jib and main, and averaging 13-14 knots, but it was impossible to make gains.”

The genniker is currently being repaired at the local North Sails loft.

Such was the pace of the Nord Stream Race boats on this leg that their arrival into Stockholm was a day earlier than scheduled. This will allow crews recovery time before the Nord Stream Race’s third leg to Helsinki begins on Saturday, 2nd September.

Nord Stream Race 2017 – leg two times:
1. Cape Crow Yacht Club (Team Sweden) – 43h 29m 09s
2. Frederikshavn Sejlklub (Team Denmark) – 44h 18m 34s
3. Nyländska Jaktklubben (Team Finland) – 44h 33m 32s
4. Lord of the Sail – Europe (Team Russia) – 44h 51m 27s
5. Deutscher Touring Yacht-Club (Team Germany) – 46h 13m 06s

Nord Stream Race 2017 – overall results after two offshore legs and two inshore series
1. Cape Crow Yacht Club (Team Sweden) – 5
2. Deutscher Touring Yacht-Club (Team Germany) – 7
3. Nyländska Jaktklubben (Team Finland) – 9
4. Frederikshavn Sejlklub (Team Denmark) – 11
5. Lord of the Sail – Europe (Team Russia) – 13