Midsummer Solo Challenge 2021

It has been a very turbulent last 6 months. First I made the huge decision to make a run for the Olympics, found two great sailing partners to make the Olympic effort with, spent a lot of time on Road To Gold by Hamish Willcox and Andy Rice (absolute masterclass, worth every penny!), invested a lot of time in the gym and on the running trails, prepared thoroughly as hell for the Baltic 500… Only to have the Baltic 500 postponed until October and then Offshore Mixed was not selected for the Olympics after all. Very frustrating to say the least 🙁

Given that frustrating start of the season it felt absolutely awesome to go to the Midsummer Solo Challenge! The atmosphere there is always super friendly, it really feels like a big family. We run event by these simple rules:

  • Colregs are used, not racing rules
  • Boats are divided into different classes based on hull length
  • No handicap system (apart from hull length)
  • No prize giving ceremony, just a finisher t-shirt & beer + bragging rights 😉

This year more than 100 boats signed up but due to Covid-19 restrictions etc we were about 70 boats on the starting line.

On Thursday night we had a skippers dinner in the Marstrand Fortress, and it felt incredible to socialize with almost 100 likeminded people for the first time in over a year, pure joy!

The course

The course is 123 NM and has only 4 marks, all port roundings. It goes through the most beautiful parts of the Swedish archipelago during daytime and when the night comes you’ll be sailing on open water.

The goal

My personal goal for this years event was to reach the finish line in good condition. All previous years I’ve felt absolutely dead when crossing the finish line, but since the big race of this year will be the Baltic 500 I need to find a strategy that allows me to stay fresh for more than 24 hours. Having measured my calorie consumption during offshore sailing I knew I’d burn around 6500 kCal per 24 hours, so my strategy for Midsummer Solo was simple:

  1. Eat as much as I can during the race! As soon as I could theoretically eat anything without feeling sick, I would eat. I’d regard eating just as important as trimming the sails.
  2. Powernap as much as possible! The other years I usually nap 2 x 8 = 16 minutes in total, this year I would try hard to nap much more.
  3. Be a bit cooler with the sail changes. Sit on my hands for 10 minutes to make sure the new wind is persistant and not just a temporary fluke. Phil Sharp once said “When the wind changes and you consider changing sails, first make yourself a cup of tea. If the new wind persists after you finished the tea, then go ahead and make the change“. I think that approach makes a lot of sense for this type of solo adventures.

Start to Mark 1

The start was in foggy conditions and just finding the starting line was a challenge in itself. Contrary to my trademarked very bad starts I actually got off to a decent start this year, being one of the first boats to cross the line.

About 25 minutes after the start, with Per Svanberg in his Fareast 31R chasing me.

It was lightwind conditions and tight reaching so I could use my Code0. Per Svanberg in his Fareast 31R was chasing me and we started to leave the other boats behind. Both of us decided to go outside Hermanö since we feared it would be dead downwind on the inside which would be super slow with asymetrics (it’s a tight canal).

A bit before Hermanö it opened up slightly which allowed Per to change sail. I could have changed to the A4, but since it is fractional just as the Code0 I feared that it would be a lot of work for no gain in the end since it would be a slow change as they use the same halyard, plus I knew I’d have to change to the A2 shortly anyway once it opens up after Måseskär.

Once past Måsteskär it was VMG downwind all the way to Lysekil and Mark 2. I changed to the A2 and started to hunt Per whom was now ahead of me, but I had no chance. The wind was very light which suits the Fareast 31R better, plus Per is a highly skilled sailor. Once rounding Mark 2 I think Per was roughly 10 – 15 minutes ahead of me.

Mark 1 to Mark 2

This leg was mostly uneventfull. Put the Code0 up just outside Lysekil, then changed to the A2 outside Smögen for pure VMG downwind. Still light winds and very tricky to maintain a good speed with the A2.

Mark 2, Testholmen. The event sponsor Båtagent can be seen in their boat. They are doing a fantastic job following and filming the participants around the course.

The approach to Fjällbacka and Mark 2 was a bit exciting, with the wind shifting all over the place, both in strength and direction. At times I thought I’d have to drop the A2 as the wind angle got very tight, at other times I thought I’d be stuck in a calm for a long time. In the end it all turned out good, I got through the passage fairly OK.

Mark 2 to Mark 3

This leg was uneventfull. A few wind shifts, a few gybes, and a couple of powernaps. Sailing into a sunset is always a fantastic feeling!

Mark 3, Ramskär, can be seen on the horizon.

Mark 3 to Mark 4

This is the long leg, 56 NM all in all. It was light winds and the forecast said that the wind would die off more or less completely during the night and the fill in from the east, and a strong northernly current made it obvious that the right choice was to head for the arcipelago again to seek shelter from the current for now and get the new easterly winds early.

Sailing away from the sunset is also a fantastic feeling 🙂

The forecast was right, the wind died off almost completely for roughly 2 hours. I had 3 – 5 knots of wind, but the strong northly current made the progress south very slow or non existant. For an hour or so I was tacking back and forth without any progress at all, feels a bit wierd to make progress through the water but not relative to land.

Our forecaster had warned us that pretty much anything, except snowstorms and tornados, could be expected for the saturday… He also warned us that there was a risk for thunderstorms. He was right, just look at these two pictures taken by Urban Nilsson:

And this is how it looked from my boat:

I was fortunate enough to have the worst of it on my side, not on top of me. But still… It was scary as fuck! As a safety precaution I decided to sit in the middle of the cockpit so I’d hopefully stay on board in case my boat was hit, and I know other sailors did the same thing. At the most intense period there was a lightning every 15 seconds or so.

Johnny Pettersson in his Seaon trimaran. Multihulls are faaaaast!

The easterly breeze started to fill in and I could fly the Code0 all the way from just north of Smögen to 1 NM south of Mark 4. Just south of Pater Noster the wind died again, plus it was still a strong northernly current.

The forecast said that the wind should fill from the south so I wasn’t too stressed about it, and after 20 minutes or so I was hit by a 15 knots southerly breeze.

Mark 4 to Finish

Since the wind had turned south it was about TWA 90 degress so I could fly the Code 0 again for the final stretch. Lovely way to finish a lovely challenge!

The mess inside after finishing.

Did I reach my goals?

All in all I ate about 5 000 kCal (5 freeze dried meals, 8 bananas, 450 grams of chocolate plus some other stuff) which is roughly double the amount versus what I usually manage to eat. On top of that I got a total of 45 minutes of powernapping (longest nap = 12 minutes) which is three times the usual amount, plus I kept my head cool regarding the sail changes.

Did it work? Yes it worked!!! When crossing the finish line it felt almost like I could have done another lap of the course, I felt strong and clear headed which is the complete opposite to how I’ve felt the other years. When I woke up on Sunday morning I was 100% restored. Sure, I slept well, but still… That has never happened before, usually it takes me a week or two to recover fully after an adventure like this.

Maybe it was a one-off for reasons I don’t understand, but until proven otherwise I will continue this strategy of eating as much as humanly possible, napping as much as the conditions allow, and being a bit cooler with the sailchanges.

Performance wise I’m fairly happy as well. I was 1h28m23s behind Per Svanberg in his Fareast 31R which is expected given the differences of our boats and the conditions we had. So he beat me fair and square, and he did a fantastic performance as always, but I’m also happy with my performance.

However, the true winners of Midsummer Solo are everyone that challenge their comfort zone hard, the ones that socialize and make new friends at the docks, the ones that makes new findings and learnings around the course, the ones that sails with the biggest smiles.

At Midsummer Solo the sailed time is just a small part of the equation, it’s the other stuff that matters most.

Hope to see you at the Midsummer Solo Challenge in 2022!

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