Given unlimited time and budget, I’d have gladly returned to Sweden to cover last weekend’s Smedjebacken Poker Run. The waterways and surrounding countryside are beautiful, the people are warm and wonderful and the boating is a blast. I made dozens of friends, many of whom will be lifelong, when I covered the event last year.
The 2019 Smedjebacken Poker Run in Sweden was a hit with participants and spectators (click image to enlarge). Photos courtesy/copyright Helmich Hillen/Speedonthewater.com.
But my time and speedonthewater.com’s budget are not unlimited, so I had to rely on my Dutch friend Helmich Hillen, the guy who challenged and persuaded me to cover the 2018 Smedjebacken event, to handle it for me.
Hillen is an avid poker-run enthusiast who owns a 27-foot Checkmate V-bottom. He was more than happy to send a several images and some notes via Facebook messenger.
Smedjebacken’s own Mikael Hedberg (center) organized yet another successful poker run in his hometown.
“This year was the most crowded and roughest (Smedjebacken Poker Run) I have seen in years,” Hillen wrote. “There were people from Norway, Finland and Holland and, of course, Sweden. There were 17,000 people standing on the bridges. The spectators were amazing.
“The cancer auction after the run raised more than $15,000 dollars in five minutes and is still being counted up,” he continued. “This event is really taking off to a higher level— glädje to the next level.” (Glädje is Swedish for “joy.”)
Check out the slideshow above to enjoy more images from the 2019 Smedjebacken Poker Run.
As I learned covering last year’s Smedjebacken event, the Swedes take poker-run captain sobriety seriously. This year, the organizers added a required breathalyzer test for all captains in the morning before the run. And it weeded out a few drivers who had no business behind the wheel, according to Hillen, as it doesn’t take much to put a person above Sweden’s .04-percent blood-alcohol limit for boat and automobile operators.
“There were a few captain changes,” he wrote.
Having just spent a few fine hours at the inaugural Outerlimits Factory Fun Run with Carl-fredrik Söderberg and Asa Wahlström—who took me on a daylong tour of the Stockholm Archipelago in Söderberg’s Outerlimit SL 44 sportboat while I was in Sweden last August to cover the Smedjebacken event—I am particularly eager to return to Scandinavia. The joyful high-performance boating scene there is thriving. I don’t know if it will happen, but it’s on my rather long wish-list.
I do know several of the excellent friends I made in Sweden including Smedjebacken Poker Run organizers Mikael Hedberg and Vuokko Lahnalampi, Ulrica Persson and Hillen are planning on coming to Key West, Fla., in November for the Race World Offshore World Championships and Florida Powerboat Club Key West Poker Run.
And I’m sure they’ll work on convincing me to return to Smedjebacken next year. They might not have to work all that hard.
Some Swedes take their high-performance boating hobby more seriously than others (click image for full frame).