New Gotland Rund record
The 60 foot trimaran Nokia stormed home across the finishing line of the 335 mile Gotland Runt shortly after 1400 today to knock more than three hours off the course record. Fists punched the air as the white-hulled boat sped over the line in excess of 15 knots, a speed she had averaged throughout the race.
It gave skipper Stefan Myralf, and five of his six crew, a second record time in a classic ocean race - they already held the best elapsed time for the 630 mile Sydney-Hobart Race in a Volvo Ocean 60, also named Nokia, a record set three years ago.
Myralf was clearly elated at the performance of the boat and crew, although he expressed some disappointment in not having completed the course in less than a day. "That proved to be an impossible objective," he remarked and went on to explain that the first half of the race, to the southernmost tip of Gotland at Hoburgen, was all upwind.
"We were beating into short sharp seas and always trying to get into the flatter water close to the Island. We were constantly changing the sails - one reef or two and either the Solent jib or the staysail. It was a struggle in 28-30 knots of wind," he explained. But once around Hoburgen it all looked to be fast reaching, until there was a loud explosion.
The anchorage pad for the mainsheet traveller control block flew off the crossbeam with a rending of carbon fibre and the fully hoisted mainsail was out of control. "We struggled for a time," said Myralf, "and IPC, who had been a mile astern, passed us." They effected a repair and set off in pursuit, power reaching towards Knolls Grund.
Rounding that buoy together, the two 60 foot trimarans close reached towards the mark off Visby and by then Nokia had a slight advantage. She built on that advantage on the run towards Almagrundet, sailing lower and faster than IPC. "It gave us a distinct advantage," said Myralf with a smile.
Nokia finished at 14:25:32 for an elapsed time of 24:50:32, the new course record. They were followed soon after by IPC, who was being sailed two handed by Fredde Nylöf and Andreas Andersens.
At 22.56 hours Neal McDonald sailed ASSA ABLOY across the finish line first of the nine VO60s taking part in the Accentura Gotland Rund. Repeating her performance in the recent Volvo Ocean Race the boat arrived during the few rare hours of darkness that the night holds in these parts of the world.
After 355 miles of racing around Sweden's biggest Island the happy crew arrived at the dock of the KSSS Yachtclub in Sandhamn ahead of SAP (ex- Swedish Match) skippered by Matt Humphries and third-placed SEB.
Sailing with McDonald was his wife Lisa, navigator Roger Nilson (ex AmerOne) and several of his ASSA ABLOY Volvo team mates including Jason Carrington and Klabbe Nylof. With 93 miles to go McDonald and his co-ed crew were 31 minutes ahead of SEB and catching up on the 100 Super Maxi Next!.
Roger Nilson said, "We were ahead most of the race. The biggest gain we made was when we were power reaching from Knolls Grund to Visby. We were very fast. It was great sailing, sunny conditions, 21 knots of wind from the Southeast and we were flying." In fact Hans Hamel's Atea had led for the first two legs and had lost the lead to SAP before ASSA ABLOY took command.
On elapsed time ASSA ABLOY finished fourth overall behind the two 60ft trimarans and the 100-footer Next! finishing first, but was first in class GR Open ORC on handicap.
Skipper Neal McDonald looked very pleased with his final result on ASSA ABLOY. "We had a good crew and Roger (Nilson) got us in the right shifts going upwind on the eastern side of the island. And once round the southern tip of the island we were smoking. We hoisted the Bitch (reaching code 0) and we were on fire. We hesitated as it was too windy, but we decided that is why we took the sail so we went for it. It was perfect. Beautiful. Great sailing with 26 knot of wind blast reaching in sunny conditions leaving SEB in our wake."
For Jason Carrington it was also the last race on the boat he loving built at Green Marine. "Strange feeling of course. Weird, I am sad and happy. But once again she was the best in the fleet. Has there ever been any doubt?"
Swedish crewman Klabbe Nylof who has sailed almost 20 Round Gotland Races said: "Good close racing. The boats that are set up differently and raced by good various crews and they are so very competitive. I was surprised by that. Look at SAP they beat SEB. It is a great class, we have to keep these boats for the next Volvo Ocean Race. But great to finish a long, successful project like this in style. As a Swede winning the Round Gotland is special, but this one is extra special"
Lisa McDonald described it as being like leg 10 of the Volvo. "It was really good fun. With so many VO 60 boats on the startline. They are so competitive. I did see Neal a lot no. I was assisting on the boat. Keeping my eyes open. I learned a lot again. Everytime you go racing you have to learn. Good to see the different systems on the boat." Neal McDonald added jokingly, "She was not allowed to take a camera."
Unfortunately it was a bad race for McDonald's teammate and Swedish sailing hero Magnus Olsson. Not only did Olsson see his outright record for the course broken, but he was forced to retire from this race when the starboard runner broke, while they were lying in second place. Magnus Olsson was standing with the broken kevlar runner on the deck when he hit the dock in Sandhamn. "It's a good example of putting all your money in the race boat and not in the other. On the race boat we used five sets of runners for 50.000 miles. This set of runners most have been used for at least 20.000 miles. Too long," he said shaking his head
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