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16 retired, five finished - The hardest race of German 'Nordseewoche'

by Hans Genthe on 28 May 2013
Scho-Ka-Kola, first boat in Edinburgh U. Lebens
In the history of the Edinburgh Race, there had never been a storm like this. 16 out of 21 yachts retired, five did make it to the finish. 'As if the weather god caught his breath over Whitsun just to blow back onto the Edinburgh participants.' The other races of the North Sea Week were dominated by calm winds and fog.

After the Monday start in dead calm air, winds of 50 knots with waves of up to eight meters and unusual low temperatures for that time of the year decimated the race fleet. Some yachts had to retire short before the finish like the Russian participant 'Brainwash' on early Friday morning. With torn sails, no electricity for the instruments and the crew completely exhausted, they decided to turn on the engine. On Thursday morning the generator on the 12m Winner did fail and thus also the radio communication. They could send a short text when close to shore to report their status.

The small yacht Arrabiata also had to give up on the last 50 miles, short before the Firth of Forth, to go down to Blyth; it reached the harbour at three o'clock in the morning. On board the Sun Fast 3200 all are fine. Damages on the boat forced the crew to give up.


First yacht across the finish line was the Dr. Uwe Lebens race yacht Scho-Ka-Kola. 'It was a race in very light winds right after the start. Occasionally we even drifted backwards, so the Norddeutsche Vermögen could overtake us. In the first night, we could sail with the Code 0 until reaching the Dogger Bank. There we could overtake the Norddeutsche Vermögen again.' Dr. Uwe Lebens sounds happy and a bit relieved. The Tuff Luff (the duct for the foresail) was torn off. Fortunately our J5 (the small jib) is equipped with hanks. But with each sail change the Norddeutsche Vermögen came closer. We had to tie the larger sails onto the forestay using a Dyneema rope (a high-performance rope).

Short behind the grey Reichel Pugh yacht, the blue Andrews 56 'Norddeutsche Vermögen Hamburg' with skipper Georg Christiansen crossed the finish line. On both yachts, the wind conditions caused seasickness in the crew. '30 percent of our crew were seasick!' reports Uwe Lebens, 'but luckily they only puked once and went on. Noone collapsed completely.'

The yacht Norddeutsche Vermögen did win the race on corrected time. Since the participating yachts all have a different speed potential, the sailed times are multiplied with a specific factor to calculate the performance of the yacht.

Yesterday short before midnight, 'Magic' reached the finish as the third yacht. 'That has probably been my hardest trip. The water was as cold as the air. Six degrees. We had waves of around five m. Jumping down a wave, a glas of chocolate spread was hurled through the main cabin and hit Thorsten Eylmann on the head.' Jan Hamester, skipper of the Frers 51 'Magic, owned by the sailing school Wellsailing, is an experienced skipper, 'I taped it, and so everything was OK.' 'The boat went more through the waves than going on top of them. Compared with other boats, I had sailed, that was unusual. But down below, the behaviour of the boat was comfortable, you could well recover.' So far, Hamester has sailed many light-weight boats such as Figaro or Pacer 36, 'I was surprised, how long yachts like the Sun Fast 3200 'Arrabiata' or the Pogo stayed in the race, they are not built for going upwind.'


The only other yacht, that could finish the race until now was the 'Pogo 1', a Pogo 40 from Sailing Island, reaching Edinburgh two and a half hours later. For the yacht, this race was the qualifier for the Fastnet. 'I am glad, they made it to the finish alright.' Markus Seebich, managing director of the sailing school is relieved. 'The crew will sure be fast asleep.'

The sister ship, the 'Pogo 2' went into Newcastle that night. According to the weather forecast, this yacht might have been hit the hardest. Reports from board resemble the course: 'All is under control onboard. The wind is currently over 40 knots with gusts up to 50. Sea state: four - five meters.' 25 miles before reaching the Blyth harbour, skipper Michael Muehlmann informed Markus Seebich at the sailing school centre. 'Three crew members are seasick. One crew member has probably a bruised rib. Pogo 2 is currently making nine knots with a reefed jib.'

The last yacht finished is the Swan 442 Charisma. The yacht, that could escape the worst storm due to an extreme Northern route, came down to Edinburgh under spinnaker with north easterly winds on the backside of the low pressure system and went into Granton Harbour at saturday afternoon.

'Today in the evening, the low pressure system will have reached the sea area around Edinburgh.' Meeno Schrader, yachting weather professional from Wetterwelt and engaged by the boot Duesseldorf for the North Sea Week, provided a precise forecast. 'The wind field has an average wind speed of 35 knots from 340 degrees with possible gusts of more than 50 knots.' On top of the wind, the tidal current made it even worse. Falling tide caused short, breaking waves with possible heights of more than eight meters. The English coast does not offer any shelter with that wind direction. The sea water on deck and the air temperature were between 6 and 8 degrees, exhausting the crews of the smaller boats.

The Edinburgh Race is a real offshore race leading across the North Sea and the Dogger Bank to Edinburgh. The yachts are on their own for three to five days to overcome the 460 nautical miles. This traditional race first started in 1968. As the only German offshore race, this course leads the boats from Helgoland to Edinburgh/Scotland across the open sea and into the Firth of Forth and finishes in Edinburghs yacht harbour Granton. The race is started every two years, always on Monday after Whitsun, alternating with the Pantaenius Round Skagen Race.

'I feel myself confirmed to ask for high safety regulations.' Marcus Boehlich checked the yachts in Helgoland. 'And I am pleased about the good seamanship of the participants.' All registered participants have passed the race committees safety check and were allowed to set off on their way to Scotland in light winds at the start. Furthermore one third of the crew has to have completed a sea safety training and a first aid course.

The finish times for Edinburgh are:

- Do, 23.5.2013, 01:37: 20 - Reichel Pugh 52 'Scho-Ka-Kola', Skipper Dr. Uwe Lebens
- Do, 23.5.2013, 02:30: 30 - Andrews 56 'Norddeutsche Vermögen Hamburg', Skipper George Christiansen
- Do, 23.5.2013, 22:26: 57 - Frèrs 51 'Magic', Skipper Jan Hamester
- Fr, 24.5.2013, 01:07: 27 - Pogo 40 'Pogo 1', Skipper Fabian Kennis

Provisional final results:

Group ORCi 1


1. GER 5500 Norddeutsche Vermögen Hamburg
2. GER 5700 Scho-Ka-Kola
3. GER 6492 Magic

ORCC (ORC club)

1. GER 6002 Pogo 1

No race back to Kiel due to lacking participants, ASV Offshore Challenge 2013 cancelled - All yachts registered for the race back from Edinburgh to Kiel, dropped out. Either due to damages caused by the storm or because they did not reach the finish and new start harbour Edinburgh. Also the flagship of the organising club Aquis Granus IV had to retire from the race on Wednesday evening due to some damage and return to Helgoland.

So the ASV Offshore Challenge will not be carried out. The Academic Sailing Association in Aachen e.V. will in inform in time about a possible new edition of the race in 2015.

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