First edition of Saimaa Raid was sailed on the breathtaking Saimaa lake
The race started on Friday 7th of August 2020 at Holiday Center Saimaanranta, Taipalsaari where the teams had already arrived in the previous evening. On Friday morning everything was set and teams were ready for the Raid adventure! After rounding the first checkpoint 22 at the western tip of Kyläniemi, the fleet continued to east parallel to the southern side of Kyläniemi in light downwind. The finish line located on the south side of Lamposaari. After the first leg the fleet was towed to Huuhaanniemi beach for a break. The second leg consisted of upwind sailing through the Kutvele canal to north towards Puumala. The canal, combined with shifty winds and current, caused problems for some of the teams losing their position in the top. FIN-42 (helm Valtteri Rahkonen, crew Antti Laukkanen) managed to get through the canal safely and got the right upwind groove on the leg, and eventually, took their second bullet in the race after first day. The fleet was towed to the base camp located on Rokansaari island which is a unique esker island. Teams stayed in the cabins provided by Keep the Archipelago Tidy Association (Pidä Saaristo Siistinä ry), a Finnish environmental organization for boaters and all those travelling in and around Finnish waterways. After sauna, swim and a nice dinner some of the teams headed to Puumala for the festival “Siltakemmakat” (English translation “Bridge party”). The line-up for Friday night was like a trip down the memory lane to the 90’s with front artists such as Pandora, Solid base etc.
On Saturday, the leg nr 3 head to Lietvesi area, in northern part of Saimaa, in very light downwind conditions. Race committee made the decision of shortening the leg due to the light conditions. The finish line was set up at checkpoint nr 3 on the north side of Petäikkösaari. Although the leg was shortened the race was super tight as the teams had to focus on the tactics and finding the wind gusts. Two new young guns (helm Kaarlo Forsman, crew Oskari Alho) succeeded in their routing and lead the leg for long time but in the end some boats managed to pass them with a western shift. In the afternoon the fleet had the pleasure of giving an introduction of F18 sailing to the young sailors from the local sailing club Ristiinan Pursiseura. It was great to see young sailors enjoying catamaran sailing with a smile on their face. Hopefully we will see some of them joining the fleet in the future!
Sunday morning dawned bright and warm but there was finally more wind! The route of leg nr 4 started on the north side of Rokansaari, went through the strait of Vetojako to checkpoint nr 9 and to the checkpoint nr 10 Selkänenänsaari where the finish line located. The whole leg was tight upwind racing all the way in which tactical decisions played the central role. In the strait FIN-11 (helm Ilkka Saura, crew Lauri Myllyvirta) managed to find the correct wind shifts and almost won the leg after a fierce duel against FIN-42 which, nevertheless, was able to maintain it’s leading position. The wind died after the leg and the fleet was towed to the next stop Hietasaari. Luckily, the wind got up during the break and the fleet was sent for the final fifth leg towards checkpoint nr 28 – Ilkonsaaret. The leg consisted of the hoped-for reaching with the kite at maximum boat speed of 15-20 knots along the east side of Suuri Jänkäsalo island. FIN-11 won the leg after another tight duel against FIN-42.
Photo credits: Team Sillisatama
As we are reflecting the race it could be summarized that the event was successful in many ways. It turned out that lake Saimaa is a perfect spot for F18 Raid racing. Being the 4th largest fresh water lake in Europe there are wide open areas but also narrow channels and little islands which bring their own challenges to the navigating and tactics. There are also plenty of sandy beaches for stops and good places to stay overnight. Big thanks go to the volunteers from the local sailing club Ristiinan Pursiseura Juha Muikku, Markus Muikku and Arttu Asikainen in helping out with media, logistics and other arrangements, Race committee and safety team Mika Lilja, Nora Eskola and Peter Flinkman for top-tier race organizing and safety, Lars Linder from Swedish F18 Association for helping with the planning of the race and all F18 sailors that attended. This was the first time in long time for the Finnish F18 Association to arrange a multi-day Raid in Finland as the fleet has focused on the course racing. It seems that the Raid sailing has been kicked off and there’s no turning back. We are already looking forward to the next year’s edition of Saimaa Raid and welcome all F18 sailors from other countries to lake Saimaa!
Photos can be found on our Facebook page