ÖTILLÖ World Championship Race: Records Smashed On A Glorious Day

The night was cold and dark as 318 bleary eyed participants shuffled their way down through pine trees illuminated by candles to the harbour. The silence of so many people gathered in an orderly line to board the ferry was eerie, many with only a few hours of sleep.

There was also a sense of great expectation, for this would be the day of shattered course records and stellar performances from all who completed the World Championship Race. But back to the harbour of uncertainty, things seemed calm enough but the Stockholm Archipelago can be a cruel and unpredictable mistress with surging currents and winds which change on a dime.

Athletes onboard the 445am ferry to the start of the race in Sandhamn.

Race Briefing ‘The ÖTILLÖ Bubble’

The night before, almost 500 people crammed in a sleek auditorium for the race briefing. Together race participants, boat drivers, land marshals, and staff would undertake a journey from Sandhamn to Utö. In doing so, all would enter the world of ÖTILLÖ where nothing matters apart from the here and the now.

Athletes and the Event Team gather for the race briefing.

Co-Race Director Michael Lemmel delivered a stark warning ‘you will all suffer’. Caveating it with the fact that ‘we are here to give you pleasure in your pain’. A thrilling race video sets the tone for the next 30 hours. It is these moments of reflections when athletes consider their journey to the World Championship. Some have qualified by making the podium in the World Series, others have carefully accrued ranking points at different races and some are accepted on other merits.

History Created

This was a day of herculean efforts. Behind the top mens, womens and mixed teams, the field of athletes surged through the course with many outstanding performances. Full results here.

Hugo Tormento and Max Andersson who have been the form men’s team of the year, blitzed around the course in 7:00:59. A whopping 38 minutes quicker than the previous best setting a stunning record.

Hugo and Max.

Desirée Andersson and Alexander Berggren were the first mixed team across the line and the first ever to finish sub eight hours in a thrilling time of 7:49:54. Beating the previous record by 25 minutes.

Desirée and Alexander.

The Swedish team of Helena Sivertsson and Ulrika Eriksson took a compelling victory in  with a time of 8:35:56. Beating the previous course record by 21 minutes.

Helena and Ulrika.

How did Hugo and Max do it?

They averaged a remarkable 5:53 per km pace throughout the race. For Hugo Tormento, ‘The race was unbelievable. We had a tactical plan to make a gap on the first swim, manage a good pace on Ornö (almost 20km of running) and take no risks on the slippery islands. Actually our attitude towards risk is not to take too much where it doesn’t matter’.

The first swim at dawn.

His partner, Max Andersson reflects on his most enjoyable moment from the record breaking race ‘My favourite moment from yesterday was the first swim. I was so happy to get started and felt so confident and calm in our race plan for the day. The first swim is usually stressful and chaotic. Yesterday I enjoyed it and didn’t want it to end. It was such a beautiful morning seeing all the boats around us and when I looked back I saw the whole pack of teams chasing us and it was just such a cool moment that I forever will remember’

And for Hugo, becoming World Champion has mixed emotions. ‘I’m still on a cloud, it feels like dreaming alive. It’s hard to answer how I feel, there are so many emotions – we were crying, smiling and with such a good feeling between us’.

Hugo and Max ‘game face’ on.

The Weather God Smiled

Njord, norse god of the wind and sea was in a good mood. The wind generally blowing from the North and against the backs of athletes and the side currents and lumpy conditions often seen in the 1.4km ‘Pig Swim’ and other swims, almost non-existent. As a string of islands, the Archipelago is subject to the full force of the Baltic Sea squeezing through island channels; today the currents behaved. Conditions were some of the best the race has seen and set a wonderful stage for racing.  

A Race Of Three Parts

Broadly speaking the World Championship course can be divided into three parts. The first section has swims, islands and more swims culminating in the infamous Pig Swim. It is physically demanding.

The second sees the long traverse down Ornö, a 18km run down the Archipelago’s second largest island. This has to be done after almost a marathon distance of racing.

The final third which takes in one of the most technical stages of the course on tired bodies before climbing the hill to the finish at Utö Värdshus. Suffice to say, it’s a course which has constant challenges both physical and mental.

Challenging and varied terrain.

Fuelling For Success

Nutrition is key for these sorts of races. Some teams carried the own nutrition for the entirety of the day, others made use of the well-stocked aid stations featuring nutrition from Maurten. The first full British pair home, Team Precision Fuel & Hydration of Ant Gritton and James Philips had military grade planning, with 60 grams of carbohydrate taken on per hour and a careful mix of electrolyte and salts. For James ‘it was an uneventful day (good thing) in beautiful conditions’. James who has now raced done the course twice, would be thrilled to see the return of the mighty Twix Bar for future editions.  

Well stocked and picturesque aid stations.

Reflections

This is one of the best one-day endurance races in the world. Relationships are forged and a unique bond of sharing a tough and emotional experience with others on a remote string of islands in the Baltic Sea. Races like this matter, they tap into what it really means to be human; overcoming adversity and sharing friendship, and that is why swimrun rocks!

Team Toulouse of Sandrine and Jessy share an emotional finish.