After two predominantly upwind legs battling with hard breeze and big seas, the final offshore leg of the Nord Stream Race looks set for a fast ride with the wind behind the fleet from Helsinki to St Petersburg...
Helsinki, 04 July 2018 – Sweden won the start of Leg 4 of the Nord Stream Race as the fleet of five ClubSwan 50s headed out on the final stage of this 1,000-mile adventure through the Baltic Sea.
Lord of the Sail - Asia will be hard to beat. The Russians have led the offshore race since winning Leg 1 from Kiel to Copenhagen. Skipper Sergey Musikhin warned of more to come from his crew: "The closer we get to Russian waters, the stronger our motivation to do well."
However, the other crews have been learning the subtleties of the ClubSwan 50 throughout the race. The Russians had to settle for third place in the previous offshore leg from Stockholm to Helsinki when they were beaten by just two minutes by the crew from Finland representing Åländska Segelsällskapet. The winner of the last leg was Frederikshavn Sejlklub from Denmark, skippered by Kris Houmann. "It's a different feeling to last year's race, winning the leg into Helsinki," smiled the Dane. "Last year we were fourth here and we had damage to the mast track during the inshore races, which meant we were forced to retire from the final leg to St Petersburg."
Houmann and his crew never made it to the finish last year, forced to divert towards Tallinn in Estonia. So despite being a veteran of the Nord Stream Race, Houmann is looking forward to reaching the city that many consider to be one of the most beautiful in the world. There is the added incentive that Russia is in the grip of football fever, so St Petersburg will be buzzing with the excitement of hosting the World Cup along with tens of thousands of visitors from the around the world.
After a lot of upwind sailing on the past two legs, the weather forecast suggests westerly breezes will drive the fleet at a good pace towards the finish at the eastern end of the Baltic Sea. The 150 miles could fly by if the crews get to hoist the huge gennakers. "Gennaker? What's a gennaker?" asked Staffan Lindberg with a twinkle in his eye. The Finnish skipper's dry sense of humour keeps his crew and the other sailors entertained. It's such a long time since the teams hoisted the biggest and most powerful sail on the boat, they might have to learn how to use it all over again.
Actually, the three inshore races on Tuesday afternoon did help the crews reacquaint themselves with the gennaker. Although the wind was quite soft and not too testing, the competition was fierce. Three races yielded three different winners: Russia, Germany and Finland. However, once again it was Lord of the Sail - Asia that proved the most consistent. Victory in the Helsinki inshore series gave Russia victory in the overall inshore series. While Norddeutscher Regatta Verein dominated in home waters at Kieler Woche with seven wins from seven races, Russia won the next three inshores at Copenhagen, Stockholm and now Helsinki.
The Russians also lead in the offshore challenge with a two-point advantage over the Danes in second place. A point further behind is Germany in third overall, a point in front of Sweden in fourth and a three-point gap back to Finland in fifth place after paying a high price for retiring from windy, wavy Leg 2 from Copenhagen to Stockholm. So the Nord Stream Race 2018 is Russia's to lose, although a downwind leg to St Petersburg will be a hard leg to sail defensively. There are plenty of opportunities remaining for the chasing pack to attack and overtake Lord of the Sail - Asia.