The Long and the Short and the Tall

The morning of our departure from Finland we were up early and slipped out of the narrow entrance to Björkö Byvicken to be greeted by 8 knots of NE wind and a clear blue sky.
This southern part of the Finnish archipelago is very open – in fact you might easily think you were at sea if it wasnt for the occaisional rock sticking out , and 15 miles to the South , the islands of Utö heralding the real beginning of open water. The tall ship race was due to start a further 7 miles to the South of this and we had 5 hours to cover the 23 miles – which should be easily done dribbling along under spinnaker.
Here and there various smaller square riggers were anchored behind small skerries, whilst further out more were preceeding south under full sail ( albeit slowly). Further out still we could spot the masts of the biggest ships anchored in the deep water.
There was a gradual sense of excitement building as the little armada sailing and motoring South grew and grew .Then the Finnish warships that were to be at either end of the line came scurrying past and the polyglot VHF chatter increased as the various nationalities tried to sort out ( in fractured English ) what the sailing instructions really meant.
Finally at 1200 BST they were off , a fantastic sight of 30 or 40 big Tall ships and twice as many more moderate sized craft representing 20 or so countries – all pursued by a very small Short English yacht snapping away merrily with a full broadside of two cameras. In fact to begin with we were faster than them , but as the wind built so the fleeter amongst them began to do 9 or 10 knots This, combined with our slightly divergent courses meant that after 6 hours all had sunk below the horizon , leaving us to race along on our own on the edge of being overcanvassed , anchoring in the Stockholm archipelago with 90 miles on the log well before midnight- a very fast passage and a brilliant day.

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