Rolex Baltic Week 2011. It was all change on the Flensburg Fjord for day two.
After a summery opener, conditions turned to strong and very gusty westerly winds, with bursts reaching 28 knots under a grey and overcast sky.
Among the two Metre fleets racing for Robbe & Berking world championship titles consistency proved key, as those that contended best with the challenging conditions remained on top. Hollandia (Ruud van Hilst/Jos Fruytier, NED) scored another win and a second place to hold steady at the head of the 8-Metre table whilst Danish Vanity V, owned and helmed by Patrick Howaldt, defended the 12-Metre lead.
Tim van Rootselaar, helmsman of the 2005 world championship-winning 8-Metre Hollandia, said after racing:
'We chose flatter sails and trimmed differently to solve our former disadvantages in strong winds. This worked out fine, and we are more than happy with the results so far.' The British boat Lafayette owned by Murdoch McKillop scored the second race win of the day to finish runner-up after two days of racing, while in third overall YQuem II (Jean Fabre, SUI) continued their regular top four finishes. Richard Self’s and Mark Decelle’s 73-year-old Raven (CAN) also maintained her fast form in strong winds to finish just three points behind in fourth and continue heading the Sira classic division.
The 12-Metre fleet laid on a true spectacle with their giant sail areas speeding them across the Fjord in the powerful conditions. The first day’s double winner Vanity V could only score two second places on day two, but that remains enough to leave the Danish boat at the head of the Robbe & Berking 12mR World Championship leader board overnight, despite a torn genoa. Skipper Patrick Howaldt enthused afterwards:
'Fantastic races with spectacular conditions! There were a lot of duels, especially downwind with Trivia and Anitra, which also led to protests. We are happy with two seconds because we don’t prefer strong winds as much.'
Instead the wins were shared by the German boats Trivia (Wilfried Beeck) and Sphinx, while Josef Martin’s Anitra took the remaining podium position of a third in race three. Guy Ribadeau Dumas, helmsman onboard Sphinx, summed up their day: 'In the first race we had too much pressure on the rudder flying the large genoa, but then we trimmed better and had a lot of fun on the water.'
Elsewhere not all the Metre yachts – some of which are over 100 years old –survived such testing conditions unscathed. The 1939-built German 8-Metre yacht Svanevit suffered the worst of the damage, breaking her backstay and consequently immediately dismasting at deck level. Karsten Niehaus from Cologne, owner and helm of Svanevit, explained: 'We were running downwind and suddenly broke the backstay. This was too much for the mast... The Rolex Baltic Week is game over for us unfortunately.'
The same fate nearly befell the newer 8-Metre Gefion, although the crew of the 1987 USA design were able to protect the mast from further damage. Helmsman Ronald Palm commented: 'We reacted pretty quick to save the mast but are not sure yet if we can continue racing. The weather forecast looks even worse with more wind to come.'
Elsewhere, sail damage was rife among the fleet, with spinnakers shredding or lost overboard during some challenging hoists and drops for the crews managing huge sail areas on board the 12-Metres: Sphinx and Evaine steered by Georg Kierspel were among those to suffer damage.
Flensburg’s sailmakers and riggers look set for the first of many busy evenings this week, with conditions for Day three forecast to reach 30-plus knot gusts from the west-south-west. On Friday (1 July) racing continues for both 8-Metre and 12-Metre classes at 1200, while competition also opens for the 6-Metre fleet in the Robbe & Berking Sterling Cup.
Results 2011 Rolex Baltic Week Ranking after four races:
Robbe & Berking 12-Metre World Championship
Place Boat name, Owner-Helmsman (origin), R1-R2-R3-R4, points overall
1 Vanity V, Patrick Howaldt (Denmark), 1-1-2-2, 6
2 Trivia, Wilfried Beeck (Germany), 3-2-1-3, 9
3 Sphinx, Gorm Gondesen/Jochen Frank (Germany), 2-3-4-1, 10
4 Anitra, Josef Martin (Germany), 4-4-3-4, 15
5 Vema III, Eric Svenkerud (Norway), 6-5-5-DNF, 27
6 Erna Signe, Einar Sissner (Norway), 7-7-7-6, 27
Robbe & Berking 8-Metre World Championship
1 Hollandia, Ruud van Hilst/Jos Fruytier (The Netherlands), 1-1-1-2, 5
2 Lafayette, Murdoch McKillop (Great Britain), 2-4-2-1, 9
3 YQuem II, Jean Fabre (Switzerland), 3-2-4-3, 12
4 Raven, Richard Self/Mark Decelles (Canada), 5-3-3-4, 15
5 Catina VI, Fred Meyer (Switzerland), 7-7-9-6, 29
6 Sagitta, Timo Saalasti (Finland), 11-12-8-5, 36
7 Feo, Hans-Peter Strepp (Germany), 9-14-7-7, 37
Rolex Baltic Week website