DN Regatta Estonia 2016, Journey And Day 1
In my anger I hit the steering wheel and shout profanities. For what is I guess the seventh time my mobile with the navigation app falls from the wheel to the floor. I don’t dare take my eyes from the view through the windscreen. Outside it is a snowy hell, and slippery. In the utter snowbound darkness almost nothing can be seen. I have been going for 21 hours now and still not there. Why didn’t I stay home?
Yes, I really was feeling that desperate at the end of my long journey to the Estonian town of Viljandi and Lake Võrtsjärv. The navigation system installed in my otherwise perfect Superbu doesn’t include any of the Baltic republics. So I used a mobile perched on the mount for the steering wheel. After a hectic working day on Wednesday I still managed the first 800 km pretty well. I slept in the car after Warsaw for some 6 hours and carried on. All the next day it rained. Rather heavily. After six hours I am becoming allergic to the sound of the wipers. After eight hours I got fed up with all the music on my mobile. I’ve gone through Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. In Estonia the rain is replaced by heavy snow. I’m ready for a heart attack. Where am I going? Why am I doing this?
And I had the chance to go to Sweden for the Swedish Championship. Why didn’t I go there instead? Snow is the ice sailor’s greatest enemy. It has been snowing heavily now four 4 hours. I’m on a completely empty road – the shortest route according to the navigation. In the Baltic states however you have to take the biggest road. It’s too late for that; I have to do the last 100 km through some kind of wasteland. I go 40 at most. Well at least there is tarmac under the snow and not mud, which can easily happen here …
On Friday morning on the west bank of the lake I see a number of ice windsurfers, who are finishing a big competition today. They’ve already been here a week. Seeing people moving on the ice raises my spirits. I pull in to the fishing dock and start to build my boat. The wet snow on the ice is quickly turning into water and there is at most only 2 cm of actual snow. The Estonian youngster Heliment Heigo C 73 appears. This lifts my mood a little more. I won’t be on my own. We work on both boats, and Heigo is ready earlier and sets off to study the situation. In the meantime Tomek and Lukasz Zakrzewski, P 55 and P155, appear along with another 3 Polish sailors. It’s going to be great – my mood soars. I did the right thing. It stops snowing and the sun comes out.
Heigo returns exactly at the moment when I head out from the dock with a completely assembled yacht and want to get going. He takes his goggles off and says that a large new crack opened up on the lake ten minutes earlier. The windsurfers have brought their race to a premature close. Together with the Poles we go into a huddle and consider what to do next. Our mood has plummeted. But that’s ice sailing. We need to see it for ourselves, Tomek Zakrzewski has skates and I have an ice scooter. The two of us go to investigate while Heigo loops around the bank looking for other platforms for the ice and checks them out.
I head off with Tomek. We are equipped with spikes for climbing out of water onto ice, and I also have 15 m of rope tied to me. We stop at the first crack and take the first photo. The ice is 23 cm thick. We observe how the remaining windsurfers on the other side of the fresh crack, heading for the bank. The four-wheeler with a trailer on runners has it worse, towing a three-metre inflatable buoy. In the end it goes for it at full-throttle and gets over the crack. No problem. Tomek comments that this is good, testifying to the good quality of the ice.
We go over it in the opposite direction, from the bank and we go east toward the centre of the lake. Tomek switches on the navigation so that we can measure the distance. The sun peeps out from the low cloud and all at once it looks wonderful on the lake. On the way I take out my iPad and film Tomek. Then Tomek gives me his iPhone. I have to make a video for his wife. It isn’t that easy – filming on the go from the ice scooter – but I manage. And then Tomek has to film me with my iPhone, this time for my wife. Tomek goes alongside me and films. I slow down; he goes in front and films me with my iPhone pointing backwards. Done carefully so that the camera does not wobble much. I put on my filming face to be seen at home. From the corner of my eye I see the reflection of the sun on open water. I only shout ‘TOMEEEEEEEEEEEEK’! Without looking he immediately pushes down the back and brakes on it 10 cm from the edge of another crack.
I help him onto his feet and a little way further from the water we both start laughing like idiots. Probably nothing terrible would have happened. Tomek would have got wet and my iPhone would have ended up at the bottom of the lake. The ice is thick so it would have been easy to climb back out. How funny it was that a moment before we had agreed that it was safer to go and investigate in a pair. That is if you don’t do something dumb … what’s more, after checking the iPhone it was clear that Tomek had accidentally switched it of after a couple of seconds, so we didn’t even manage to shoot the whole comedy.
The GPS shows that “Tomek’s crack” is only 400 m from the first. It can’t be overcome. The space is too small to train safely. We return to the dock and together with the local fishermen we remove everything from the ice to our cars. Us our ice yachts and they their fresh catch. Fish caught in the nets are transferred from motor scooters to crates. Tomorrow we will have to find another place from where we can safely get to the ice in the lake’s centre.
We’ll see what tomorrow brings …