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Kiel Week comes alive in gentle sea breezes

by Andreas Kling 18 Jun 2023 14:35 PDT 17-25 June 2023
Simon Diesch and Anna Markfort out alone racing to the first 470 victory of the day - day 1 of Kiel Week © Kiel Week / Sascha Klahn

A light sea breeze brought sleeping giant Kiel Week 2023 to life on Saturday afternoon with competition for the 470, ILCA 7, ILCA 6, Nacra 17 and 49er fleets of the eight Olympic classes due to race, and for the 420, 2.4-metre and OK dinghies of the international fleets.

The main show arena was given over to three close 470 races, chosen to open the regatta by shining the spotlight on the strength and depth of Germany's mixed dinghy squad. Three different German duos won races, but the vice European Champions Simon Diesch and Anna Markfort top the rankings along with Theres Dahnke and Matti Cipra, both adding second places to their race wins.

Diesch - whose father Eckart and uncle Jörg, won FD Olympic in 1976 in Montreal - and Markfort started off the pin end of the line on the first race and built a comfortable lead early. The third race was won by Malte and Anastasia Winkel who will represent Germany at the Olympic test event next month on the strength of their fourth at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia and third in Hyères. World champions Luise Wanser and Philipp Autenrieth had two UFD penalties for starting early.

Leading helm Diesch recalled, "It went to plan but you really had to take account of where the breeze was and use it rather than have a strategy." Crew Markfort adding, "We had the benefit of a good start in the first race and then could sail the shifts as we wanted to."

The Nacra 17 fleet managed two races both won by the young Italians Margherita Porro and Stefano Dezulian. Twentieth overall here last year at their first regatta as a duo, a winter of hard training with their strong squad in Cagliari, Sardinia under national coach Gabriele Bruni has clearly paid off for the 24 year old helm Porro, the 29er Youth Worlds gold medallist in 2017 who was runner up at last year's Nacra 17 Junior World Championships with Dezulian.

"We got two first places which is a great way to start, we are very happy with our speed." reported Porro, "We are just here to learn as we are still very new to the class, looking here to try and get some different conditions and speed testing against a lot of boats as it is easy see if we are on point. Our other Italian Nacra 17s are in Marseille, we did not get a spot there.

"But we will all train together as we build up to the world championships in The Hague. We are lucky to have such a strong Italian Nacra 17 squad and Gabriele 'Ganga' Bruni is doing a great job trying to think of every single element of our squad, keeping improving and help our team qualify for the Olympic games."

The huge ILCA 7 fleet had just one race for the two fleets. Eighteen-year-old Dutch sailor William Zielinski made an auspicious opening, winning the yellow fleet whilst his local Kiel counterpart Ole Schweckendiek, bronze medallist at last year's Youth World Championships, won the blue fleet race. This is the Zielinski's first Kiel Week since he raced here in Optimists. "For me the light winds were in my favour, I think we did one tack on the first upwind and that was it. It was stressful to sail out the race in the lead." He smiled.

In the 49ers it was all about getting a good start and holding maximum momentum in the light airs. Americans Andrew Mollerus and Ian Macdiarmid were pleased to win the blue fleet while the French duo Lucas Rual and Emile Amoros took first gun in the yellow.

Like for many teams and sailors here from the USA, Asia and Australasia, this Kiel week represents a good opportunity to get in decent racing in Northern European waters in preparation for August's Sailing World Championship in The Hague. Helm Mollerus explained, "It was light, but we got the legs stretched out at one point for a couple of minutes, it was good fun. It was all about getting the boat up to speed and keeping it going, the wind was pretty stable, you had to start well. Everything for us is pointing towards the worlds so back in Northern Europe. Here we are shooting for the podium. Last year we were good here until the last day and then had a couple of tough races, so we are looking for this to be our best yet."

Sweden's Hannah Koba leads the ILCA 6 class, in the International OKs Denmark's Thomas Gabs is on top after two races. And Germany's Oliver Thies leads the 2.4m whilst the 420s also have German teams in the top six positions lead by Lysander Winter and Constantin Bösch.

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