Raid Finland
by Christer Byström

The raid phenomena is gaining more and more popularity in Europe. There are currently four different raids being organized in Scotland, France, Finland and Sweden. But what are the main characteristics of a raid? Well, you could say it is a long-distance race in open boats powered by Sail & Oar, usually lasting one week and (only in the case of Raid Finland) with food, camping and facilities included in the fee, and lodging (rooms) provided for a modest extra sum.

Since the boats are all very different, the competition atmosphere is usually quite relaxed, the main purpose being to have fun. Much of the attraction is the incredible variation in boat types, all beautiful and from many different parts of Europe.

The fleet tied up in the afternoon

Raid Finland was held for the second year the last week in June 2003. As usual the weather was fine, the water was warm and the spirit of the participants was great. During the week we sailed (and rowed) a total of almost 100 NM through the beautiful Finnish archipelago (more than 25000 islands) that lies between Turkku and Åland.

It is arranged by Mike Hanyi, an American who used to work a number of years as a professional sailor on big private classic yachts but surrendered to the charm of a Finnish woman who became his wife, and moved to her home country.

Mike Hanyi's "Coquina II"

Almost 50 % of the participants returned from last year and we all very much enjoyed seeing each other again. The starting site was the “Airisto Sea Safety Training Center” so it was only natural that before the start were offered the opportunity of participating in a rescue boat drop from some 5-6 meters. Some of us (me included) choose to stay beside to take pictures.

This year 14 boats participated:

  • Woge, a J-jolle from Germany, built in 1922 and yet fastest in the fleet.
  • SUS, a Swedish cold-molded dinghy designed by John Hedberg.
  • Olivia, a Finnish open double-ender designed by the owners grandfather for a design competition in 1932 but never built until now.
  • Kleiner Kerl, a Norwegian “Arendals sjekte” with German owners. Ended up as overall winner in the raid.
  • Le Seil, a French lugger manufactured by Canotage-de-France with the design inspired by Scandinavian prams, came in second this year and won in 2002
  • Pirmil, a traditional French design also manufactured by Canotage-de-France.
  • Anna, a beautifully built wooden Drascombe Lugger with extended foredeck, entered by its Dutch owner.
  • Bunny, a 15´ canoe yawl built by David Moss in the UK.
  • Meander, an old 1970’s Swedish fibreglass dinghy, re-rigged with a wooden gaff rig more then 50% larger than the original bermuda rig.
  • LindaMari, a home-built and sprit-rigged wooden boat from the northern part of Finland.
  • De Griffoen, a Dutch pram-shaped canal boat from the 1930’s.
  • Coquina 2, the organizer Mike Hanyi’s replica of Nat Herreshoff’s dayboat.
  • Freja, a Danish Stor-Megin designed by Peer Bruun.
  • Penni, a beautiful Finnish-built Haven 12 ½

Olivia from Finland and Woge from Germany

The first year we suffered from very feeble winds due to a stable high-pressure during all week but this year the sailing conditions were more variable. The first half of the week we had rain and thunderstorms at a distance giving wind, albeit a bit unpredictable and gusty, as we gradually sailed further and further from the mainland.

On the third day we crossed “Skiftet”, the border to the self-governing island of Åland. Then we turned north for two days and then east for the last two days to the finish line in Naantali.

On that second half a high pressure established itself and the sun was always present, with more stable winds and rumours of record temperatures recorded in various places in southern Finland. That meant swimming at least twice a day and of course a lot of sauna, too (this IS Finland!).

an aerial photo of the finnish archipelago; you have to see it to fully understand why it is considered as the worlds finest

The last day towards the finish we had a wonderful and steady force 4 giving the opportunity to really fine-tune the riggings. The day after the raid some of the boats participated in the Naantali yearly traditional boat race that was sailed in a force 7 with some broken masts and swamped boats as a result.

All the food provided was of excellent quality, prepared by various local proprietors along the way and back by popular demand, the staff of an ecological farm in southern Finland. The lodging consisted of simple but nice rooms on the different islands we visited, and everything worked well in a very relaxed atmosphere. The atmosphere between the contestants was also relaxed, in fact one leg (in weak and steady wind) ended with some of the crews jumping overboard and being towed behind the boats, still competing!!

Finland has an abundance of archipelago and the possibilities for unique routes every year are endless. For 2004, the route will start at the south-western tip of the country and head in a westerly direction towards the capital Helsinki.

(click to enlarge)

The route is described more in detail on the Raid Finland home-page:

Picture galleries from the two previous raids can be found on the link page or: