“POGO” – The name might sound inconspicuous or even funny, but among sailors, the word “POGO” is instantly associated with very fast, high performance offshore sailing. In fact, the French shipyard Pogo Structures is famous for its fast sailing boats, which are present in numerous offshore races worldwide – not to forget the notorious Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
The Pantaenius Round Skagen – a race around Denmark – is another one with Pogo 40s at the start line and during the 2016 edition, it was time to “feel” the Pogo’s performance, praised in all sailing magazines, by myself. In conclusion, add a nice boat together with a great sailing spot and you get an unforgettable sailing experience – that’s the world’s best mathematical equation!
This year again, the Pantaenius Round Skagen has lived up to its reputation of being a race of extremes. A nice opportunity to get a “practical feeling” of almost the entire Beaufort-scale, as during 9 days we experienced basically all of the possible weather and wind conditions: From storm force winds gusting 43 knots, high swells and hail, to complete flat calm and sun. That’s what this sailing event is all about! So, the race’s safety regulations are quite strict as well: Before the start, all boats have to hoist their storm sails – orange colored, small-sized sails used in bad weather – to make sure that every participant knows how to set them up… just in case it gets rough.
The starting signal sounds. Perfectly timed by the skipper, our “Pogo 2” glides over the start line and the race is on. For the following two days the compass reads between 350° and 010°: Heading North and sailing as fast as possible to Denmark’s Northern end – Cape Skagen – that’s our mission. Sailing fast on a Pogo means at times getting wet: A higher wave on the bow doesn’t impress the boat, she just sails more or less through it sending “a bit of water” into the cockpit.
Nonetheless, some of the waves were quite impressive. It’s always great to look at the back of the boat to get a sensation of the speed based on the water track, and to see the foam of the last wave, the boat just cut through…
Steering this “racing machine”, particularly on downwind courses, is absolutely great fun. No one of the crew wanted to hand that job over to the electronic autopilot! Manual steering via the tiller becomes daily fare: The helmsman spends his time scanning the water to find the best course through the waves, and from the corner of his eye, makes always sure that other race competitors stay well behind 😉
Approaching Cape Skagen in the early morning, surfing down the waves at 19 knots boat speed was another highlight: An unforgettable atmosphere with the sun rising, an incredibly coloured sky and the sound of the wind and waves…
Passing Skagen meant saying ‘goodbye’ to the North Sea/ Skagerrak and ‘hello’ to the Baltic Sea. This second half of the race turned out to be very tricky with variable winds, a lot of shipping, and many decisions to make: Staying close to the Danish coast or further offshore… Always searching for the best route. Eventually, the entire race fleet parked up in a dead calm. That’s also part of the race: Staying several hours in the same spot or even drift in the wrong direction due to the current and lack of wind…
After 92 hours and 552nm (~1000km) sailing, “POGO 2” crossed the finish line! The end of a great sailing trip, but the experience remains unforgettable. ‘Actually, what day of the week is it?’ – Such a question shows that spending time at sea is just fantastic: Let the hectic pace of the cities behind, forget about days of the week and appointments. Embark on such an outdoors adventure and discover new places!
Yannick is a sailor and a journalist from Germany who was at this legendary race at the end of the Nordseewoche, renowned as one of the toughest offshore regattas in Europe – PANTAENIUS RUND SKAGEN – is boat was the POGO 2.