4 August 2019
July has been all about Tall Ships Races 2019, which brings together a fleet of international tall and small ships for a four-week sailing festival.
We left Shetland at the end of June, with a full complement of Sail Training Shetland trainees for the trip to Aalborg, Denmark, the first host port. The wind for this trip was great with fantastic sailing through the Skagerrak, hitting 9.5 knots at some points! Even with the exciting wet and wild conditions, the trainees all settled into life on board over the 3 days and 18 hours it took for the 520 miles. Swan was one of the first boats to arrive, and it was great to watch the other ships arriving and the river filling with the masts and dressing flags of all the boats flying in the wind. We had a fair bit of rain in Denmark, and for the crew parade, where we stood out with our orange oilskins and Shetland flags in the colourful mix of nationalities walking through town!
The weather since has been generally good, with mainly light winds, allowing us to use the topsail regularly. This was great in the race leg from Aalborg to Fredrikstad, Norway where the topsail was flown for the whole race and, as the sail really added to our speed, for the first time we managed to overtake vessels in such light wind conditions! We had close sailing particularly with Atyla, Standardt and Lord Nelson. After two and a half days of racing we were 11th in class and 32nd overall. However, due to the limited light upwind capabilities of the Swan and the nature of the race course, we decided to retire from the race at this time, as we wanted to make sure the time at sea and in port was balanced for the trainees. Following festivities and the crew party in port, the trainees disembarked in Fredrikstad, heading home with lots of new experiences and stories to tell of their time on board.
We welcomed new passengers for the 10 day Cruise in Company leg to Bergen, Norway. All boats can choose where they stop on this leg, to make the best of the conditions and ports for their vessel. We had a short sail the first day to a picturesque place called Dypendal, where we tied alongside the Swedish vessel Atene and had the Danish vessel Betty outside us. All crews sat outside and socialised, waiting for the nicer south easterly wind to kick in early next morning for a good sail around the South Coast of Norway.
Other ports of call included Arendal, Kristansand, Utsira and, what was our favourite Cruise in Company stop, Strausshamn - it’s a traditional kysten (Norwegian traditional boat association) club just four miles from Bergen on the Island of Askoy. There were over a dozen ships visiting that night and the local folk made sure we were warmly welcomed, providing stages for music and open mic, meat for the barbecues and opening their boating club for all the crews to socialise and have a good time. We played a few tunes, with other crews dancing and joining in. This is what Tall Ships is all about, good sailing and meeting new friends.
The next day all ships made their way to Bergen on a driech and misty day but with just enough wind to fill all the sails. The crowds still came out in the masses to welcome and see the spectacular sight of 70 ships sailing into the harbour! Swan had a brilliant berth right in the heart of the old town Bryggen.
There was the usual hype in port including the crew parades, open ship, captain’s dinner, crew party as well as the provisioning, cleaning and ongoing maintenance for the next trip so the 4 days went very fast and it was time to welcome our new group for the journey back to Shetland.
The sun was shining for the “parade of sail” out of Bergen and we were in the first half of boats to leave, sailing through the fleet and out under the bridges. The wind was unfortunately on the nose but we hoisted the main sail and went through a combination of head sails to try and make the best of it for our sail south through the fjord. There was an amazing amount of people out, both on the pier and in their own smaller sailing and motor boats. There were a few support boats flying Shetland flags too, which was nice to see.
Our last night in Norway was spent in Glasvaer on the Island of Sotra, right at the entrance to the North Sea so it was just a short hop to the open water the next morning. The wind was mainly south easterly between a force 3-6 which meant for lovely sailing and one of the most comfortable North Sea crossings where we flew all sails. The sun shone and even the skipper (Thorben) wore shorts and t-shirt, unheard-of at 60 north!
We are currently preparing for our next youth sail training trip with the One Step Beyond group from Unst, heading back to Norway. Following this we will be returning to Shetland to restock and pick up passengers for the Cod Hunters’ Trail to Faroe.