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ÅF Offshore Race: A unique racing experience

by Fabian Bengtsson 27 May 2018 04:45 PDT 1 July 2018
ÅF Offshore Race 2017 © Oskar Kihlborg

ÅF Offshore Race, a regatta around the island of Gotland off the east coast of Sweden, has a long tradition. But there is much more than prestige that makes Northern Europe's biggest offshore race a unique experience for both competitors and spectators.

ÅF Offshore Race was first raced in 1937 and the event has over the years grown in to a classic part of the season for the organizers, the Swedish Royal Yacht Club. The route has always started in the Stockholm archipelago to go around Gotland but, as ÅF stepped in as title sponsors in 2011, the start was moved to Central Stockholm.

An inshore regatta was also added to the schedule to create a dynamic sailing event for competitors and spectators in the heart of the city. The new start area also created a challenge for the teams as they found their way out between the beautiful islands and rocks to reach open water and set course for Gotland. The finish line is in the picturesque island of Sandhamn.

Now we are looking forward to the next edition of the race which includes festivities in the Race Village on Skeppsholmen in Stockholm from June 28th-July1st. The ÅF Inshore Race is decided on June 30th and the Race around Gotland starts on Sunday July 1st.

Plenty of big names have entered the regatta over the years. Last year, legendary skipper Chris Dickson (NZL) helmed the 100-footer CQS to a new course record in ÅF Offshore Race. With experiences from the America's Cup, the Olympics and the Volvo Ocean Race, he still thinks the event offers a unique racing experience.

"Without a doubt, my best memory from the event is sailing out of Stockholm, which feels like an ancient yet modern city, through narrow passage ways and into the archipelago leaves me with fantastic mental images that will last forever", says Dickson.

The event has been attracting amateur teams as well as professional sailors for many decades and usually has over 250 boats on the starting line. Many competitors say that this mix is a big part of the charm of the race and Chris Dickson agrees.

"The race caters for ALL yachts which is great and the 'reverse order" start means we all see each other even if for a short time only. It makes the race more inclusive", he says and adds that even if he was a part of beating the time record in 2017, the race is far from an easy ride.

For CQS last year, he says, the hardest part was about 20 miles from a ighthouse, which serves as the last turning mark before the finish. With 40 miles to go to the finish they were sailing fast under gennaker when a large black cloud developed directly in front of them.

"It was late afternoon so maybe there was wind in it? Maybe not? Could we pass in front of it? Could we pass thru it? There were no good options but we went behind it, which we thought was the best option. But we stopped – no wind, no speed, no record and no win. We battled, we swore, we cried but then we got a small puff, we got thru, we smiled again and beat the record by minutes. The lesson we already knew –.give it your best and never give up".

So would he recommend entering ÅF Offhsore Race before the registration closes on June1st?

"Absolutely! Stockholm is a great city to start in and the event has a picturesque finish with a fantastic archipelago, a tough and exciting ocean race and great people", says Chris Dickson.

For more information about entering ÅF Offshore Race -

Chris Dickson is currently setting to cross the Pacific Ocean with a 16 metre yacht from Los Angeles to New Zealand On the away the crew will be doing scientific research to measure plastics in the ocean to provide hard data to some charitable research groups. Read more here.

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