One of the benefits of being semi-retired is the ability to jump at opportunities, work and leisure, as they present themselves.
I subscribe to an online forum for builders of Jim Michalak's boats and saw Norm Wolfe's (of Normsboat fame) last-minute invitation to make up the crew on his boat in Raid Finland, 2014, a Sunday to Sunday event, commencing on 6th July.
I'd seen write-ups of this and other Raids and they looked very attractive, but the logistics of taking a boat to one seemed insurmountable.
I had also seen that Norm had commissioned Jim to design a boat for Raids, resulting in Raider and was keen to see and sail on this long, open, sail/oar design.
So I applied straight away and, happily, was accepted.
Getting to the Raid
The rendezvous with Norm from the U.S. and crew member Andres Krigul from Estonia, outside Helsinki airport, was rather easier than looking for someone wearing a red carnation: a car towing a 24 ft long green boat!
This duly swung into the car park, having come over from Estonia that morning on the Tallin-Helsinki ferry.
Andres and Norm then commenced a tussle with the satnav over the best route to an overnight stop at Kirjakkalan Ruukkikylid – short of Dalsbruk, our launch point, as the latter was hosting a Baltic jazz festival and there was no room in the inn.
It was my first visit to Finland and the rolling wooded scenery and red-painted wooden houses was peacefully attractive. I learned that the traditional red paint had actually been the cheapest available - a by-product of the Swedish copper industry.
We were joined at the overnight stop by Russian father and son, Mikhail and Greg Markov, towing their beautiful, Iain Oughtred-designed, double-ender, White Fang, a stretched Wee Seal.
This set the scene for two of the most appealing aspects of the Raid, the diversity of nationalities: two Russians, several Finns, an Australian, two Americans, a Swiss, two Estonians, three English and two Germans, and the diversity of boats, both making for a very entertaining and instructive week.
Another aspect worth noting is that this Raid, organised for the last several years by Australian Peter Lord, now living in Sweden, was not designed to move on, each day, nor be competitive. Instead, it was a sail-in-company, from two bases.
By removing the competitive element, a layer of complexity and cost was removed and the organisation during the week was collaborative and relaxed. Perhaps as a result, many of the boats had been participating for several years, with the crews often knowing each other well.
Launching at Dalsbruk
Dalsbruk, a small town, two and a half hours drive west of Helsinki, has a compact harbour and several launch ramps and, when we arrived, several Raid boats were in the water or preparing to launch.
After happy greetings and a pizza lunch, we set sail for Biskopsö, an island in the Hitis Skärgård (Archipelago), just 8km away - an easy shake-down cruise to our first base. This is an area frequented by the Vikings, sometimes in raider mode, so the historical antecedents for Raid Finland were impeccable!
There were eight boats participating, all interesting:
As well as Mikhail's White Fang, his second Oughtred design, the fleet comprised:
- Mats Vuorenjuuri's 14 ft Herreshoff Coquina lug-rigged cat boat. Mats and his son, Verneri, comprised one of three Finnish crews. He is a Herreshoff fan and, amazingly, acquired his beautiful unusual boat from a retired farmer in central Finland.
- Fredrik Koivusalo and Kristina's clinker gaff sloop Gna, a school-built replica of a traditional Enklinge julle. Enklinge is an island in the Eastern Åland archipelago. Fredrik told me that Gna is named, tongue in cheek, after Gna of Nordic mythology - the goddess of fullness and a fast harbinger for the other gods. Gna has slot-in splashboards to increase freeboard either side of the rowlocks.
- Jan-Dirk and Nina Seiler-Hausmann's Ida, also a replica of a traditional open workboat, the Gotland Snipa a two-masted, sprit-rigged-without-booms, clinker double-ender. Two masted boats are always lovely to see and Ida, in full rig, sports sprit-rigged topsails. Sadly, they had been left at home. The boomless sails, able to be furled round the masts, makes this a very practical small boat rig.
- Peter Lord's Vips, a 16 ft Apple design by Tom Dunderdale, a modern lug-rigged ply boat, with an optional mizzen mast not used on this trip. Peter was crewed by Terry Newell from the UK, on his first raid.
- Seppo Narinen's Penni, a spacious, strip-planked Haven 12 ½, designed by Joel White - a centreboard gaff sloop, inspired by the Herreshoff 12 ½. It was just as well it was spacious, as Seppo had his extended family as crew - five in total!
- Yves Paternot's Ellinor, a beautiful, recently-built, varnished clinker dinghy, with bermudan rig, derived from a Hanko Centerboard Boat designed in 1883 for local regattas. Yves had the lines computer-analysed by the people working on the America's Cup Swiss challenger and was advised that it was a great hull but that its 5m length should be increased slightly to 5.5m Yves' crew was his grandson, Kaylum, already a proficient helmsman at twelve.
- Norm Wolfe's Raider, the 24 ft Jim Michalak-designed raid boat, with leeboards and balanced lug rig. Raider's self-supporting mast is held in a high tabernacle so it can be lowered to reduce wind resistance without interfering with the crew manning up to three banks of oars, below. She is designed to be built in the 'instant boat' spirit of Dynamite Payson, and, with her length, was easily able to accommodate our crew of 3 or 4, comprising Norm, Andres, Andres's son Ott for part of the raid, and me.
And, last but not least, Rainbow, our cabin cruiser support ship, skillfully skippered by Ville Lindfors. Rainbow, with a low-level stern platform, ably combined Safety Boat duties with the transportation of our luggage. She also acted as tow boat when required, so was a great help and ensured the Raid was well-supported should difficulties arise. Happily, this year, they didn't.
This was my first experience of sailing in the Finnish Archipelago. All boats had a set of good-quality charts covering the area of the Raid and Norm also carried a hand-held Garmin satnav, but without the detailed maps loaded. It therefore provided a schematic, with some of the larger islands named.
By associating the position on the Garmin schematic with our charts, we could derive an accurate fix of our position and plan our course. This was invaluable, as the multitude of small islands often overlapped, so many passages were, at first, invisible. Norm had also entered our destinations as waypoints, which was useful as we approached, though the direct route often traversed an island.
While getting to grips with the navigation, we followed the dark-tanned sails of Fredrik's Gna, in the lead by some distance. The weather was good and the wind ideal. Sailing in company, in the Finnish Archipelago was clearly going to be very enjoyable!
Our first base, on the island of Biskopsö
We stayed on Biskopsö at the Gästgiveri Andrea (Andrea's Inn), where the Raid had stayed before. This was a large house surrounded by countryside and had previously been an elementary school - with some desks still kept as souvenirs. It had a couple of jetties and a beach where we could moor. As we stepped onto the jetty, Fredrik offered everyone a home-brewed licquer, presented on a silver tray in proper glasses. Quite a greeting!
We were the only guests at Gästgiveri Andrea, which was a perfect base, providing homely, high-quality meals and clean, airy, accommodation - including outdoor earth privies. In the grounds was a level grassy area for those camping, a traditional sauna in a cabin near the shore and three very friendly dogs.