Kieler Woche - Aussie Mathew Belcher to lead the charge
by Herman Hell on 21 Jun 2014
Kieler Woche - Australian multi-talent and World Sailor of the Year 2013 Mathew Belcher, will lead a fleet of highly skilled sailors in the Olympic classes to the first start of this years' Kiel Week (21.-29. June) at noon tomorrow (Saturday).
Belcher and Page on their way to another race win at Kieler Woche 2011 © Victor Kovalenko
The Olympic and Paralympic aspirants are starting in ten classes and will attract the attention until Wednesday (25. June) at the 132nd edition of the event - as well as the offshore sailors, starting with the Welcome Race (Saturday, 9:30am) into the German Championship. Title races are also decided on Wednesday. For the One Design classes of the yachts, races are scheduled from Saturday until Tuesday. 14 international classes will then start their races in the middle of next week, with the 29ers being the biggest fleet.
The sailing event is accompanied by huge media effort, even more than the last years'. Ten cameras are presenting the event. Images are transferred via radio link system, WLAN and LTE to the shore and cut in a local studio in Schilksee, supported by 3D graphics and commented with professional knowledge. Kiel Week TV will be presenting the event every day from 10am to 6pm on the big screen in Schilksee, also available on the internet. It sets new standards. The sailors appreciate it.
'The sports highlights this year are the Worlds in Santander and the Olympic test races in Rio. But regarding the media coverage, the Kiel Week is the highlight,' says Susann Beucke (Strande / Germany), crew of Tina Lutz (Chiemsee / Germany) defending their Kiel Week title in the Womens' Skiff 49erFX. It will be a tough job, since it is a high class fleet. Five German Womens' crews have to compete - amongst others - against Olympic silver medalist in the Match Race 2012, Olivia Price (Australia). In total there are six crews from the top ten of the Worlds 2013 at the start line.
The super star of the Kiel Week is sailing in the 470. Mathew Belcher won Olympic gold in 2012. In autumn last year, he was nominated World Sailor of the Year and this spring he became skipper of the Australian America's Cup team. There is no way around him and his crew Will Ryan to the victory in Kiel.
The World Champion from 2010 to 2013 is excited about Kiel Week: 'I love the atmosphere here. Kiel invests a lot into media presence and does a lot for the audience to be able to follow the races. And it is always good sailing here. The Kiel Week already exists for more than 100 years, it is part of sailing history. It is great to come up here.'
Belcher's crew Will Ryan names his ambition with a smile: 'That is always a difficult question. I believe however, that we are competitive. In the end, we just do not want to have someone in front. We should not forget that there are fantastic sailors, especially the local German teams are hard to beat.' Belcher already won the Kiel Week twice (2010 and 2011). But that was still with his former crew Malcom Pade. For Ryan it would be his first Kiel Week success.
Among the strongest competitors in the small selected field of the 470s with 24 starters from twelve nations, are the Swedish team Anton Dahlberg/Frederik Bergstroem (fourth in the world ranking) and the sixth of the world ranking Panagiotis Mantis from Greece.
The other classes are bit overshadowed by Belcher's enormous power. But Germany's Sailor of the Year Philipp Buhl (Kiel / Germany) is sure, that there will be high class competitions in the 470s Women, the mixed Nacra 17, the Finn Men and the Laser (Women and Men). In the Laser he will compete against 91 sailors. It is the biggest Olympic fleet at the Kiel Week. 'My goal is to defend the title of course, but this cannot be taken for granted. Vice World Champion of 2009 Mike Bullot from New Zealand is also at the start line,' says Buhl, who knows about the importance of the Kiel Week for him and all participants. 'Regarding the media coverage, it is the best event in the Olympic area.'
When the Olympic classes will start their races at 12 noon on the outer fjord, the big boats will be already on their way for two and a half hours. The start gun goes off at 9:30am in front of the marina Duesternbrook. Not only the candidates racing for the national title, but also the MOD70 trimaran 'Musandam Oman' is expected, who might be able to break the existing record from Kiel to Eckernfoerde, if the wind conditions allow.
To do so the 21 metre trimaran with skipper Damian Foxall (Ireland) and his multinational crew has to beat the time of the 'SAP Extreme 40' from the previous year. It took the 12 metre cat only two hours, six minutes and 50 seconds for the 28 mile trip. That is an average of almost 14 knots (more than 25km/h).
'Speedwise we can sure make it', states crew member Tim Kroeger,'since the wind seems to be the right strength. However the predicted direction is not the best.' The wind is expected to blow with four beaufort from west / northwest. The America's Cup participant from Hamburg, who has done two circumnavigations is one of two locals on board of the trimaran, the other German crew member being Anna-Maria Renken, who is living in France. The trimaran already showed up in Kiel at the start of the European Circuits in 2012 to thrill the Event website