Mikael Ryking is a professional sailor from Stockholm, Sweden. He sails around the world and two years ago discovered Portland during the Atlantic Cup. He can’t wait to return.

“We received a very warm welcome,” he said Wednesday in a phone interview. “It felt a lot like home.”

Ryking will be making his second appearance aboard the Talanta in the Atlantic Cup, a biennial sailing race that starts in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 26, makes a stop in New York City and ends in Portland on the weekend of June 9-10. The boats will arrive at Maine Wharf on June 4. The race covers over 1,000 nautical miles, making it the longest offshore race in the western Atlantic Ocean.

“It’s really a special race,” said Ryking, whose crew was voted the Atlantic Cup kids favorite team in 2016. “Now that we know the boat better, we can aim for better results.”

This will be the sixth running of the Atlantic Cup, which features Class 40 boats with two-person crews. The race is broken into three legs, the first two offshore (from Charleston to New York City, then from New York City to Portland), the third a series of five in-shore races over two days in Casco Bay on June 9-10. Fans can watch the races from Fort Allen Park on Portland’s Eastern Promenade. The awards ceremony will be on Maine Wharf on June 10.

Race director Hugh Piggin said there will be 12 boats in the race, with two local sailors figuring to be among the leaders. Micah Davis of Harpswell will skipper the Amhas, with Rob Windsor of Portland as his co-skipper. Windsor is one of two people who have sailed in every Atlantic Cup race.

Nine boats participated in 2016 and Piggin said the larger field is an indication that Class 40s are catching on in the United States. Class 40 racing is more popular in Europe, he said.

“Part of putting this event on and what’s driving the event is to provide the Class 40s with a platform in the U.S. and give them something to race for,” he said. “Since we started, the fleet has grown from seven to 13. It’s getting more popular in the states. Two new boats coming in this year are from American owners.”

Piggin said Class 40 racing is “just starting to catch on” in the United States.

When the boats arrive in Portland for the two days of in-shore racing, they can add four crew members to help navigate the tight Casco Bay course.

Two years ago, Ryking said he and his co-skipper did not expect to sail the two days in Casco Bay. It’s not easy, or cheap, to bring a crew over from Sweden. But on the morning of the first race, all that changed.

“Early morning someone’s knocking on the boat,” said Ryking. “It was some local guys. They said, ‘We heard you needed a crew.’ We told them we were going to skip it, they’re smiling and said, ‘We’re here, what can we do?’ So, we said, ‘Let’s go.’

“I think we had a half-hour training before we started the first race. But it was nice, everyone was contributing.”

And that, said Piggin, is one of the reasons the Atlantic Cup is returning to Portland.

“The community was very welcoming, the hospitality was great,” he said. “Sailing around the harbor was perfect.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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