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Star alarm at the Europeans in the skiffs and cats

by Ralf Abratis on 23 May 2017
Robert Scheidt, Olympic Champion from 1996 and 2004 in the Laser Class, is also a winner of Kiel Week, for example 2004 in Laser Class.
Olympic glamour at the Olympic Centre in Kiel Schilksee: Around a year after the Olympics in Rio, the European Championships of the 49ers, 49erFX as well as the Nacra17 from 27. July until 4. August in Kiel will become a meet-up of the superstars of the sailing sport. First registrations in the classes came in early, and well-known names from overseas are already on the starting lists. They will for sure attract further sailors, so the championships are very likely to become a huge event in the calendar of the city of Kiel.

The Brazilian 49erFX women's team Martine Grael/Kahena Kunde will be traveling to Kiel with the assertiveness of having won at the Olympics in 2016. The daughter of the two-time Olympic winner Torben Grael and her partner did win the gold medal in their home country in a very exciting final match last year. Since 2013 they have won two silver and one gold medal in the World Championships and were world sailors of the year in 2014. So Martine Grael has long been already more than just the daughter of Torben Grael, since she herself is a sailing superstar in her home country already. So she will be an indicator for the German crews - also for the sisters Jule and Lotta Goerge from Kiel, who did look after their studies in the previous year, but will be back in summer.

The Brazilians will also play an important role in the male skiff class. Robert Scheidt, five-time Olympic medal winner in the Laser and Star (two-time gold in the Laser), has changed the boat for this season and now wants to attack in the 49er - together with his crew Gabriel Borges. At the beginning of the year, the duo has worked on the boat handling. But Scheidt is very likely capable of taking not much time to get to know the skiff on a world-class level. And the 44-year old sailor has an experienced skiff sailor at his side. At the Olympics 2016, Borges has sailed with Marco Grael, another child of Torben Grael, and did finish on rank eleven. Grael has also registered for Kiel, and will be sailing with his new partner Carles Robles. This encounter alone will probably bring lots of tension to the races.

The contest with Robert Scheidt is also a special challenge for Justus Schmidt from Kiel. „Scheidt is a legend. The fact, that someone with his background and his age dares to get into this class, is fantastic. We will see, how he performs, because it is very important in the 49er to be well in shape. But Scheidt is an incredibly hard worker. If someone can make it, it is him', says Schmidt, European Champion 2015, who has not sailed any 49er race with his partner Max Boehme since last summer. He was putting more priorities on his studies instead: „We have pretty much sailed the 49er non-stop for the last six years. Now we have opened a second playing field, that is demanding and widening our horizon. We are very happy about that', says Schmidt. The duo wants to start again for the first race of the season at the Kieler Woche. Until then, they have training camps together and also will be sailing solo on the Moth. 'The Moth is so much fun. But it has its justification. The sailors from New Zealand and Australia have shown, how much the Moth sailing does for the 49er.“

Schmidt/Boehme will likely be the German sailors, on whom hopes are pinned at the European Championship, since Olympic sailor Erik Heil (3. in Rio) will be bound in a GC32 project at that time.

Star alarm also in the Nacra17. The silver medal winners of Rio, Jason Waterhouse/Lisa Darmanin, are leading the mixed cat fleet. The Australians will have to deal with the former European Champion Ben Saxton, among others. The British sailor is working on a new team setup after the Olympics, that did not go well for him (rank nine).

It will definitely be exciting in the Nara, how well the move to the new variant of the catamaran works. The Nacra17 becomes a full foiler with the Z-foils, and the Europeans will be the first official event with this new dimension. Since last autumn, the teams have had several times the opportunity to test the catamarans with the new foils. And the first sailing hours promise exciting Europeans in Kiel. 'I am absolutely excited about the boat. These were really intelligent people working on it', states Paul Kohlhoff. The German Olympic sailor has had the chance to test the Nacra17 in the Netherlands and is predicting spectacular sports: 'The cat is lifting up in around seven knots already when going downwind, and on the upwind, it does not need much more. It will be just a matter of technique, how well the boat can be controlled. So far, I have only sailed on flat water. I think, we will soon see some teams foiling through a gybe. On the other hand, also many spectacular manoeuvres will be seen, which might seem daring, since the preparation time was very limited. With a week of training it is not done.' But many teams will not get many more training days, since the new boats or the conversion kits are delivered little by little. And the new duo will not have much time for the preparation together, because Paul Kohlhoff is currently concentrating on the participation at the Red Bull Youth America's Cup.

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