by Herman Hell
The World Cup is going through a crisis. The International Sailing Federation ISAF had created the series by three years ago to draw athletes and the media to all of the most important events throughout the year.
Paige Railey in action at Kieler Woche 2011
In 2011, the success curve of the concept seems to be on the decline. In this pre-Olympic year, Kiel is the final stage of the World Cup series, and ISAF World President Göran Petersson will be here to honour the winners live on stage and in the focus of public attention. However, only a mere handful of the 30 crews who are currently placed among the top three in the World Cup ranking are at the starting line in Kiel.
The Kieler Woche organizers are much annoyed, especially so with the women’s match racing: 'We had 22 entries, so we arranged to have as many as eight boats, and now, there are just eleven crews,' says Jobst Richter. He thinks that the tight ISAF calender is main cause for the apparent lack of interest: 'Having the World Cup events in Medemblik, Weymouth and Kiel in close succession with the European Championships in Helsinki in July on top is just too much.' Despite the fact that the EHEC virus raging in Germany may be responsible for keeping a few athletes away, the more important reason seems to be that many sailors are strictly focussing on the trials for the 2012 Olympics and therefore see no reason to show up in Kiel. 'By now, a number of countries are already through with their Olympic trials, so athletes are taking a break to back in the race at the Europeans,' reports Star class sailor Alexander Schlonski (Rostock). His rival Joannes Polgar (Hamburg) has no understanding for the ISAF politics:. 'Athletes and regatta organizers are in the same boat, but we seem to be coming up against a brick wall with them.' Dirk Ramhorst, Kieler Woche representative at the ISAF, also shares this feeling of not really being heard by the International Sailing Federation.
It seems unlikely that the relationship between ISAF and Kieler Woche will turn into a closer bond. Next year, Kiel will again stage the World Cup final, which with regard to the Olympics shortly afterwards is bound to create a similarly weak interest. Whether another World Cup event will follow seems questionable. From 2013, the ISAF plans to spread the World Cup stages across all continents, and the time window for the European event is April/May. 'We will not bend our backs for the World Cup, even though ISAF seems to think we could find a new date for Kieler Woche. We will still bid for hosting a World Cup stage, however, as we know that the best athletes are in this circuit,' says Richter.
Kieler Woche website