September 26, 2019 - The first leg of 7th Thousand Islands Race that started at noon on Sunday from the Rijeka Harbour on a 278 NM long course to the finish line at the marina Porto Montenegro in Tivat could, in short, be described as: „from lull to lull“. However, between two calms at the start and the finish, there was everything that makes offshore racing interesting and demonstrates why this is one of the most beautiful race courses nature designed. Fleet not numerous but profoundly international consisting of crews from Austria, Croatia, Great Britain, Hungary, Montenegro, Slovakia and Slovenia.
The hope that many sailors wanted the bura (NE) in Rijeka before the regatta to stay proved to be wishful thinking and tradition of starting in light wind prevailed.
Optimistic was the prognosis calling for jugo (SE) over almost the entire course the first two days into the race, meaning a lot of close-hauled sailing and longer routes. However, as long as there is wind, the sailors are happy. The boat speeds that could be traced on the Internet in real-time more significantly increased only after passing island Rab.
The forecasted jugo reached 15 knots with gusting 20 knots. In the first part of the race, three teams retired. The first one was due to the mast falling down of the Austrian Sayg I, the only multihull competing, with luckily no injured crew members. This meant that the end of the race for them was Punat.
A crew member of Austrian Abracadabra required medical assistance, forcing her to stop in Biograd. The bad news continued and Croatian Mowgli lost its mast at Žirje island and forced them to retire. Mowgli, luckily without any injury to the crew, first called at Kapri island and next morning continued to Tribunj.
Last year's winner Slovakian Lucia X with a Croatian crew ripped their foresail that required the crew to climb up the mast and needed to detour to find shelter to complete the repairs. This caused the loss of valuable time and the chance of good result on the first leg. The rest of the fleet was sailing SE avoiding several local thunderstorms before jugo (SE) gave way in the middle Adriatic to forecasted tramontana (N) and northwesterly winds.
Four boats - Slovenian Macropus, Austrian Vento Cadela, Slovakian Lucia X and British Atame with an Italian crew on board were exchanging the lead. Hungarian Sunday Morning, the biggest in the fleet, was the only one choosing the course close to the shore through the Zadar channel and north of Korcula and Mljet islands. Weather conditions almost ideal until Dubrovnik and Cavtat turned into a lull from the beginning of the story. Nearly all night from Tuesday to Wednesday before and after entry to the Bay of Boka Kotorska, the boats were crawling at a speed of 1-2 knots.
The first boats came close to finishing around six o'clock on Wednesday morning, but they needed more than three hours for the last few bouts of NM. Slovenian Macropus and Austrian Vento Cadela were match racing using every breath of the wind available. At the end, Macropus crossed the finish line first at 09:34:13 after more than 69 hours of racing, making this the slowest first leg in the history of the Thousand Islands Race. Austrian Vento Cadela with Christian Pfann at the helm crossed the line 12 minutes later, and that was enough to win the race under corrected time. It very soon became apparent that no other boat still racing could endanger their overall lead.
The long-lasting first leg caused the cancellation of Thousand Islands Race + 2 planned in Bay of Boka Kotorska for the layover between two legs. There will be almost no rest for Montenegrin Sofia that finished last because the start of the second leg follows soon – at noon on Thursday 26th September 2019.