The thinking behind a modern sailing event – SE challenge's roots

Challenge your comfort zone

It was almost dark when I stepped from the ever-balancing hull of my Seascape 18 onto the dock in Svendborg. To my surprise, the familiar cocktail of relief, elation, sadness, joy, and overwhelming sensation of accomplishment started to kick in.

It was the same sensation that I got so used to when stepping off my Mini650 after another Fastnet or Minitransatrace. The surprise came from the fact that this was not a 20-day offshore race on an extreme ocean racer but a "mere" 36-hour, 134-mile race around the island of Fyn in Denmark. Truth be told, the boat I sailed on the second edition of the Silverudder race was even a meter shorter than a Mini 650, plus there was no autopilot. But I believe the sensation woke me up because of something else: I was not an ocean racer anymore, just another member of the workforce sailing for fun in my free time.

You might wonder what a race on the other end of Europe has to do with the Challenge. The short answer is—almost everything. During most of the 1600 km drive back south to Slovenia, I kept thinking about how to transplant the idea of Silverrudder—the brainchild of Morten Brand—into the Mediterranean.

It turned out the task was all but simple. The easy-going culture of the Adriatic has little to do with the Ironmen I encountered in the Baltic. Luckily, at about the same time, we started exploring the potential of service design. We invited two service designers, Jurka and Primož, to join our team and started creating customer journeys, personas, dramatic arcs, blueprints, and other planning tools. At the end of the process, it turned out that designing an event was just as satisfying as designing a sailboat.

What I really love about the Challenge is that we were able to build it around lots of small ideas that we picked up through ocean racing, cruising, or even other sports and recognized as special and in line with our values. One that really stuck with me was about prizes.


Tome Bašič and I were lucky to have finished third on an extremely competitive Mini Fastnetrace. The 600-mile-long course took almost 100 doublehanded teams and their state-of-the-art Mini 650 ocean racers from France to Fastnet Rock and back. Some big names of ocean racing were on the start line, and the race itself was the second most important race in the Classemini calendar after the Minitransat. All this is important in order to understand my surprise when we were called to the stage to receive our hard-earned prize. The prize consisted of a bone-breaking hug from the race director and a plastic bag with a few cans of sardines. The next year, I participated in the Mini Fastnet with Phil Sharp, and we ended up in third place again. And sure enough, there came the hug and the sardines again. After a few beers, I ended up in a conversation with the race director, and I couldn't help but ask about the prizes. He looked at me and asked: "Will you honestly ever forget that you were the third in the Mini Fastnet?" to which I had to admit that the answer was no. "Then why do you need the bloody trophy?" concluded the big Breton.

This and many other details are embedded into the core of the Challenge. But don’t worry – we moved past the sardines in olive oil. We went a step further and awarded the challengers with pure olive oil.

But what is actually the Challenge? Technically speaking, it means that the First 18 SE crews sail the 100-mile course, while the 24s and 27s can choose between the 100- or 150-mile race. The start and finish are set in the tiny village of Jezera on the island of Murter in Croatia. We designed the courses the night before the race according to the predicted weather in order to give the crews the best possible sailing and racing experience. But more importantly, the Challenge is the first big gathering of the Seascape and First community after the winter. It is also an amazing relationship that we share with Barbara, Ivan, and everybody from the local Freespirit sailing center. Through them, the whole village becomes a part of the race, which provides a cozy and inclusive atmosphere for everybody lucky enough to be in Jezera at that time of the year.

Essentially, The Challenge is a way to strengthen your relationships. Being exposed to the day and night scenery of one of the most beautiful archipelagos in the world clears the dust from your brain. Sharing it with your friend or family member builds a very special bond that can only be forged outside of your comfort zone. And the friendships that are born between sailors, organizers, and even locals are colorful and incredibly resilient.


The 2022 Challenge is around the corner, and we hope to see you there. If you don't want to sail it (or didn't make the cut in the usually sold-out starting places), I would suggest that joining it as a spectator is an excellent way to put your toe in the water and start looking towards the horizon.

Published on 19.01.2023