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Kiel Week: First test and highlight of the season

by Hermann Hell 4 Sep 2020 14:59 PDT 5-13 September 2020
In their third attempt, the Olympic ticket is supposed to get in Kiel: Tina Lutz/Susann Beucke lead the 49er FX before the final regatta series, the Kieler Woche, in the internal German Olympic qualification for Tokyo. © Sascha Klahn / Kieler Woche

Finally sailing, finally championships! When the Kiel Week starts its 126th edition in its 139th year tomorrow, Saturday, with the first start at 9 a.m., one of the most unusual editions of the world's largest sailing event since 1882 will begin. But despite all the restrictions and editions caused by Corona, there is enormous enthusiasm among the sailors to finally get back into the mode of a big regatta.

One of the highlights of Kiel Week 2020 will be the International German Championships Offshore ORC who will be sailing from the Kieler Inner Fjord on the middle distance course.

The Olympic harbour of Schilksee has put on an unusual Kiel Week dress. Where otherwise the pagodas of the exhibitors and partners are lined up one after the other, the picture is now dominated by barrier grids. Arrows on the ground point the way, supervisors are ready to answer questions. But both organizers and volunteers as well as participants have come to terms with the unusual situation. With distance and the wearing of a face mask the dinghies are set up, which are sorted according to class in separate areas.

While the dinghies quickly got used to the new setup, the offshore yachts experienced some unexpected problems. Since only a limited contingent of berths is available in the harbour, not all of the planned boxes matched the dimensions of the yachts. But with the appropriate flexibility of all parties involved, these problems were quickly solved.

For the title holders among the yacht crews, intensive boat care was still pending on Friday. Various teams sent divers into the water to trim the underwater hull for high performance. So Nils Reichert also had to go into the water. Together with Knut Freudenberg, he is aiming to defend his title on "Halbtrocken" in the German Championship Doublehand Offshore, but "Halbtrocken", the First 36.7, also wants to intervene in the battle for the medals in the IDM Offshore with full crew in group ORC 3 / 4.

The crew is excited about Kiel Week. It's the first time this year that we can sail in this composition," reports Freudenberg. "In our group the 'Immac Fram' is the most favored. The racing score is good, and the team has obviously trained intensively. Our goal is to finish in the top three. Freudenberg is unsure about the title defense in the double-hander category: "The group is not set up in the same way as last year. And the courses are important for us. We need large percentages of upwind curses to be able to sail out our race score".

A big black box is the Kieler Woche for the crew of "Sportsfreund". Last year's European champions put the boat, an X 41, into the water just two days ago and wanted to do a little training session on Friday to be able to get back on track in the ORC group 1 / 2.

One regatta in the lead in this group is "Intermezzo", which won the BlueribbonCup two weeks ago. However, owner and helmsman Jens Kuphal had to change his crew on the Landmark 43 at short notice. The two-time world circumnavigator Annie Lush had to cancel her coming from Mallorca. "Fortunately we were able to find a good replacement in Phil Blinn," Kuphal is confident that after last year's IDM win he will be able to compete for the title again. The yacht is excellently prepared for this and has received an intensive refit in winter under the direction of trimmer Max Gurgel. The most important points here: The keel has been given a modified profile and the entire yacht has been lightened by 450 kg in weight. "Surprisingly, this was not so difficult at all. Although the former owner Claus Landmark became world champion with the boat twice, he also used the boat for cruising. So we were able to remove some equipment like a ceramic toilet, refrigerator, electronic winches and a large battery for the runner hydraulics," Gurgel reports. "In terms of racing score, the change was not that big. We have to sail one second faster after GpH. That should be possible."

The Offshore Championships also have a great attraction for international crews. For the "Happy Hour" from Poland, an Italia 9.98, the Kiel Week is the first real test. "We bought the boat for this season from Denmark, but so far we have only been able to sail two local regattas," says helmsman Robert Gwózdz. "Now we are happy to be able to sail at such a high level. Our goal is the ORC World Championship next year in Estonia". One week ago the ferry crew started the crossing from Gdynia to be in Kiel in time.

The Kieler Woche is a very first test for the whole crew, also for the Dutch "van Uden". Gerdjan Poortman and Jaap van Rijckevorsel as coaches lead the junior project on the Ker 46, but only take on the position as runners on board to observe and lead the young team with an average age of 21 years. "We started the project with the 'Rotterdam Offshore Racing Team' in winter, but were then slowed down by Corona. We were only able to start training in July. Kiel Week will be our first regatta. We are very happy that the organizers are making this possible," explains Poortman. The retraining of the previous dinghy sailors to sea sailors aims to open the way in professional sailing. "The focus for Kieler Woche is on improving ourselves. Of course we always want to win. But the yacht is rather IRC- than ORC-optimized". Therefore the big goal of the campaign is to participate in the Fastnet Race next year. The participation in the IDM Offshore at Kiel Week 2020 will be the first milestone.

With the first starts on Saturday, the fight for the German titles has begun. The IDM sailors will start at 10.30 am. Before that, the yachts of the regattas Welcome Race and the Aalregatta will start..

Although Kiel Week 2020 is clearly limited in its offer for interested parties and spectators, there are still some possibilities to experience sailing sports.

Sailing plus X with hygiene and distance

In addition to sailing at the highest level, the Kieler Woche has traditionally been characterized by a colorful event area in Schilksee. But this year is different. The focus of the event is exclusively on sailing. Schilksee is becoming a closed society without an event area. As the total number of people in the event venue at the Olympic Sailing Centre is limited, the area must be closed to the public. The participants are among themselves with trainers and organizers. Event tents, the Sponsors' Mile and sales stands will be omitted. The Race Office at the Regattahouse, the boot-Düsseldorf-Club as check-in tent, the Vaasahalle and the area around the Kieler Yacht-Club (KYC) in Düsternbrook are the contact points on land. If necessary the boat hall of the KYC in Strande will be integrated. Participants, organizers and trainers receive accreditations that are only valid for certain areas.

"These are enormous challenges that we are facing to give the sailors the opportunity to sail a regattas this year as well. The health of all participants is clearly in the foreground. Hygiene regulations and the distance rules would have to be observed", says Dirk Ramhorst, Head of Organization of the Kieler Woche regattas. Furthermore, the travel regulations to Germany will influence the final starting lists.

Due to the fact that the analogue Kieler Woche in Schilksee with its colourful programme unfortunately cannot take place this year based on the pandemic and the local viewers are excluded, the organizers are placing even more focus on digital public relations work. The presence in the social media networks is being expanded and the regattas will be made available to sailing fans all over the world via Kieler-Woche-TV. The state capital of Kiel is responsible for the TV and bears the corresponding costs.

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