Peter Gustafsson’s J/111 BLUR.SE sailed through the 8,000 island Bohus Archipelago in Sweden, taking on the best sailors in Scandinavia, to win the Bohusracet—reputed to be the world’s largest offshore double-handed race. Here is Peter’s report: "There are some sailing venues that are more magical than others, and some races that you really want to come back and do again and again. And even compared to some exotic places and iconic races, I think that Bohusracet tops my list. Why? The recipe is easy:
1/3 Bohuslän. With over 8,000 islands, CNN Travel ranks this archipelago the seventh most beautiful natural wilderness area in the world. It’s easy to spend five weeks of vacation (or a lifetime) and never visit the same spot twice. And a race course that takes you through most of it in 24 hours is bound to have both beautiful scenery and navigational challenges.
1/3 Midsummer nights. When the sun sets at 10.30PM and rises at 04:00AM, it's never really dark. And as the wind often drops, you tend to get close racing with other boats hunting for wind at 02:00AM. Unreal seeing the silhouettes of the crews whispering on the other boats.
1/3 Intense racing (or just an adventure). With over 150 boats, a 170 nm course and seven checkpoints, it tends to be an intense fight for the serious racers. And with just two on board, there’s not much time for food or sleep. Others do the race to test their limits and to share the experience with a significant other or one of the youngsters in the family.
We hadn’t been able to do the race for a few years. Last year, we did the ÅF Offshore Race (Around Gotland double handed), and the year before that we focused on the Fastnet Race. So now we were eager to get another chance. In the past, we’ve won our class several times and finished second overall twice. But this year we might get lucky in the weather lottery, with six hours separating the small boats starting Friday morning and us, in the fastest class, starting at 3PM. The forecasts were unanimous: a big low over southeast Sweden would render a fast race with a puffy 20-30 knots from NE pushing all the boats out from the start in Uddevalla to Marstrand and the rounding to go north Friday evening. The big talk before the start was to use downwind sails or not, but that proved to be a non-issue at the starting area as it was blowing a solid 30 knots gusting 50. Mmmm... We went with a full main and our shorthanded jib (a J3.5 with more shape and a reef) for the first short downwind leg, with plans for a deep reef after the first rounding. But we managed to keep it together by heading of in the gusts, easily doing 12-15 knots, and heading up in the lulls. This worked out nicely except for one occasions when we were supposed to go upwind for 500 meters to fetch a "sprint prize" (not ideal in 52 knots of wind), but miraculously everything stayed in one piece. Others weren’t so lucky, and masts and sails were coming down all around. So a great "shakeout" with 150 nm to go. It couldn’t get worse? And it didn’t. We extended the lead in our class, and after a few hours we managed to get the A5 up. Then managed to work through the downwind inventory before rounding the Hätteberget lighthouse with a healthy 15-minute lead on corrected before our main competitor—Norwegian "short-handed rock star" Elling Rishoff in a fine-tuned First 40 Godevenner. Close hauled, continuously changing between jib and J0 (big jib/small code set on a furler on the sprit), we sailed north into the sunset. As forecasted, we were headed just north of Smögen, and the long beat toward Norway began. We were catching up with many of the smaller boats, and it was pretty magical passing just meters away in a serene archipelago. We managed pretty OK, but we lost a few minutes here and there to First 40 Godevenner that had passed us just north of Smögen. On corrected time, we were ok, but they seemed to have a slight advantage. In the morning, the conditions became trickier. Several weather systems were fighting, and a NW breeze was filling in from the west. We got caught in the transition just before Strömstad and lost even more. Now we were 20 minutes behind on corrected, and couldn’t wait to get to the Tresteinerne lighthouse in Norway to get the chute up and go south again. We rounded in a light northerly, but we stayed west and the new breeze filled in nicely. We tried to as hard as possible and hunted pressure when possible. We slowly caught up with Godevenner, keeping track of them both on AIS and on the rounding reports. At some point, we thought it was impossible to catch them, but at the last mark it became clear; we were just 1.5 minutes behind on corrected with 35 minutes to go... We went for it and took every shortcut we could find, and kept the big A2 up as long as humanly possible (did the best takedown of the season at the exactly the right moment). And we managed to beat them by 30 seconds. After 23 hours and 40 minutes, that was a huge relief. The smaller boats had managed to get around the course without any upwind work, and were favored by more wind during the day Friday. So they dominated the overall list. I guess we'll have to come back and try again..." For more J/111 BLUR.SE information, visit http://www.blur.se/2017/07/04/pantaenius-bohusracet-2017/.