Time flies and it’s already four weeks since I was standing on the rocks at the northern end of Utö waiting for the youngest son and his team-mate to make or break in the Ö till Ö challenge.
Ö till Ö or Island to Island is an annual Swedish competition taking place the first Monday in September, a swim-run (aquathlon) race across and between 26 different islands from Sandhamn to Utö in the Stockholm archipelago. The competition ranks as one of the world’s toughest endurance races over one day and involves 65 km running and 10 km swimming where the athletes compete in teams of two.
This year 114 teams dived into the 12-14 degree water at 6 am and 8.5 hours later, the winning team crossed the finish line.
This is not a race that attracts a whole of spectators. Unless you have a boat, these windy rocks at the northern end of Utö is the only place where you can actually watch these heroic (or just foolhardy) athletes and cheer them up with happy exclamations like “the beer is waiting in just another 3 km”.
The final swim leg is short, just about 100 meters across the narrow strait to Utö, but is still a struggle against winds, waves and hard currents.
Teams from 16 different nations participated and here is a young GB-guy waiting for his dad to step ashore on the last island.
While staring across the strait waiting for “my boys” to turn up among the trees my biggest concern was “Had they managed to reach the crucial point at southern Orno in time, before the gate was closed at 6 pm. Or had they been taken off the race and had I been standing here in vain?”
Yes! With 20 minutes to spare they passed the gate and about an hour later they could finally crawl ashore on the slippery rocks of Utö; all that remained now was a 3 km jog to the finish line.
Thanks to Nadja Odenhage for allowing me to use her pictures from the finsh line.