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Contender World Championship at Kerteminde Sejlklub, Denmark

by Ed Presley & Stephanie Mah 21 Jul 2023 08:31 PDT 1-8 July 2023

The 2023 Contenders World Championship was recently hosted by the Kerteminde Sailing Club, in Kerteminde, Denmark - a quaint little Danish holiday town with cobblestone roads and ice cream shops. This was the return to a multi-nation competition that keeps the Contender class so strong in the face of global pressures, and the introduction of hordes of boats you need to actually sit on. Weird.

Strong Australian and British teams and visitors from North America added to the best sailors in Europe to create a 115 boat fleet that would take over Kerteminde for the course of a week, a fact that became more apparent as the support crew, safety crews, galley, bar, race team, shore manager, camp management and cleaning turned out to be the same six people who were either very fast moving or clones of some kind. Either way impressive efforts from the volunteer team.

The Foreplay

First, the pre-event of the Danish Nationals was to be settled and it would provide a chance for all to inspect the racecourse. First impressions were that it was flat and gusty but could also be breezy with chop. A 70-odd fleet got to know the conditions in the eight races held over two days, leaving them exhausted and wishing they hadn't gotten so familiar. In the end, GBR newcomer (but just to the Contender fleet, as he's been whipping other fleets for years), Graeme Wilcox showed his mastery of mixed and tricky conditions, and he was joined on the podium by Current World Champion Mark Bulka of Australia and returning hero Christoph Homeier of Germany. These three would be obvious bets for the big prize.

Between the Danish Nationals and the Worlds, the fleet indulged in its favourite pastime of scrutinising every piece of kit for legality, and to add to the fun, it chose to do so during a storm. Luckily, the organisation was good that the measurers were able to complete the task without incident, so we could all focus on the main event.

The Main Act

The forecast for the week was beautifully mixed, with strong conditions to start slowly lightening into a zephyr on the last day. But the forecast was wrong (sort of). Instead, there would be screaming breeze inducing various fear levels for three days, and then a switch to almost nothing (inducing a different kind of fear). This meant the World Champ would have to be good in all types to be victorious.

Day 1

It was the Manhattan Project on the Danish sea - with absolute nuclear conditions, 30 knots easy, making it hard to tack from reach to reach, and gybing wasn't on anyone's agenda. Those were brave (or stupid) enough to venture out were still surprised when the PRO, Andreas Kuchler, put up his orange flag. As this was Andreas' third time overseeing the World Champion fleet, he obviously felt we were faking the fear and needed some tough love. After another 10 knot increase in wind strength, either Andreas' softer side came through or he began to fear for his own safety, and he abandoned the racing and we all surfed home smelling strongly of pee. No more racing was possible, but the stories of our little trip out had already begun to be exaggerated beyond plausibility, so it was worth it for that.

Day 2

Yet another windy day, and with 25 knots with gusts, and driving rain in the morning, the PRO wisely postponed for two hours and then released the fleet as the wind settled into a single direction. And the pressure was on as the radar showed another intense system due in the late afternoon. Racing happened on a sea that that appeared to be livid at us, with confusing chop and a frothing top surface. The only way to sail was with maximum attack. With the size of the fleet, the start of racing would be heats followed by racing in the gold and silver fleets. For the heats, the fleet were allocated into four coloured groups of Blue, Green, Red, and Yellow (also demonstrating our woke inclusivity).

In the R v. G group, Soren Dulong Andreasen (DEN) aggressively defended the pin end, while Ed Presley (GBR) peeled off to find a better option and was able to find a port hand gap about halfway down the line. The midline starters appeared to get the wind bend favour, and Ed led by 100m when he tacked back to Starboard and more by the top mark. Both Geoff Fisher (AUS) and Graeme Wilcox (GBR) benefited from the shifts to follow, with Soren the best of those who went to the left. Ed was able to maintain the horizon job to the end of the race, with Geoff and Soren happy that Wilcox had decided to capsize.

The B v. Y fleet had the big boys (in talent and girth), so great things were expected. The spread along the line was pretty even, as was the early split between left and right, and this may have encouraged more starboard tackers to flip over early. This seemed to work as the lead of these was Christoph Homier (GER) who rounded first followed by Mark Bulka (AUS) and Jesper Armbrust (DEN). Homeier used his typical zeal at rowing downwind to create a handy gap by the 2nd round. Bulka made a move upwind and these two looked nailed on up the last leg as they selected the right side to finish. However, out of nowhere, Simon Mussell (GBR) rolled the dice on the hard left and came surfing into the finish with his CSF (classic smug face). Almost as smug was Paul Ross (GBR) in second who had pulled the same cat out of the same bag. Bulka and Homeier had to be content with 3rd and 4th, whilst avoiding eye contact with the two well fed Brits.

The second starts of the day heralded another increase in wind, fear and laxative effect, if that were possible! The breeze now steady above 30 kts. In the R v. B fleet, Andreasen perched on the pin and lead the fleet off, with the majority heading left. Bulka took a punt and switched right early but checked back again allowing Mussell to lead the small charge to the right. It all looked even allowing boat speed to become the biggest factor, so Simon led off downwind with Ross and Andrea Bonezzi (ITA) in tow. Mussell extended, but Andreasen was able to jump up to 2nd and Presley into 3rd, both using vigorous gym work to good effect. Andreasen got onto Mussell's transom at the end of the run and a forced split tack that allowed him to take the lead and the win.

The G v. Y start once again saw a very uniform start across the line with Jorg Schlienkamp (GER) popping out early on the midline. A few, including Wilcox, banged right and looked golden, but the port tackers had a last minute lift into the mark, including Schlienkamp and Antonio Lambertini (ITA). An unfortunate early bath dropped Schlienkamp out of the running, and Lambertini also decided he needed a wash, which left Armbrust trailing Wilcox who was back in front with Paul Verhallen (NED) for company. A classic Armbrust hitch got him back to the front to battle with Wilcox on the run. It was now Wilcox's turn to piss it in, allowing Armbrust a short lead over Verhallen, but Verhallen used his upwind speed to just get the win with Armbrust and a recovering Wilcox in the next slots.

A massive day on the water ended with condition suitable for action photographs and not much else, and we will remember big Wednesday for years to come.

Day 3

The forecast promised more mellow conditions and the need to catch up on races, and all looked serene on the sail out. This was, however a cruel deception for another body breaking gale, but now with 3 races to complete! The breeze started at 18 knots and increased to 25 by the end of splash and dash number 3. Luckily the Contender sailboat, if not the actual Contender sailor, is specifically suited to this sort of abuse.

The first race of R v Y was led off to the left by Tom Hooton (GBR) and Schlienkamp, and with Andreasen choosing to break right early, the big winners were left, with Andreasen buried but able to make use of rhythmic sail fanning downwind to get back to the front. Much shouting was heard which was impressive given the screaming breeze. On the next rounds, the hard left again proved fruitful and this shuffled the pack with Bulka and Mussell making gains. Mussell deployed unworldly upwind speed to just pip Bulka at the end with Schlienkamp coming back for 3rd. In the second start of G v. B, it was a much more varied affair, as the left again paid although less so making the front pack a bit bulky and requiring more elbow grease to make the gains on the reach. It wasn't just racing for big lumps, as the more agile sailors were mixing it up too, with the front pack consisting of Verhallen, Marco Ferrari (ITA in a red boat, obviously), Thomas Wieting (GER), and Jacob Kristensen (DEN). It was ultimately Ferrari who forged the lead from Verhallen and Kristensen at the line.

With the wind piping up throughout the day, the second races were held with tad more starboard bias, and the PRO was forced into moving the pitch about. Making gains by banging left would be increasingly difficult and getting a balance midline start became the premium, which was good news for perennial stuffers. In the G v. R fleet, Jacob Kristensen made this tactic work with Richard (GBR/AUS) in pursuit. Throughout the race, the Christophs, Homeier and Engels (GER) pushed hard to catch Kristensen. Verhallen managed to overcome an average start to get back to 3rd with Homeier and Kristensen ahead. In B v. Y, the same start pattern emerged with the middle paying. Bonezzi, looking like his former self, led with Wilcox and Schlienkamp taking lessons from close behind. Andreasen worked hard to get up to 2nd after the reaches, and those four battled until the end, with Schlienkamp's upwind speed in the increasingly blistering wind allowing him to take the win.

The final starts of the day were held in now lunatic winds, but the terrifying nature of the last two days had dulled the fleet's senses to danger to the point that it scarcely registered. Plus, contenders seem to galvanise under this sort of harassment. In the R v. B fleet, Max Billerbeck (GER) used the shift back to the left to gun the pin and set off, with Mussell closely hunting him. The fleet uniformly tacked back right like a shoal of fish, and this allowed Mussell to take the lead ahead of Ross and Armbrust. Armbrust powered to front during the off wind, but there was no resisting Mussell upwind, and this pattern repeated itself again on the run, but because of the upwind finish, Mussell got his way. In the G v. Y fleet, Joey Randall (AUS) was out in front at the top mark, with the chasing pack thinned down to Bulka, Lambertini, and Andreasen. Andreasen broke through up with Bulka pushing hard. They finished in this order with the top ten close all the way.

Three races in the bag was a huge success but the toll on the boats and bodies was pretty telling by the amount of rectification activity in the boat park as the athletes took care of themselves and their kit. The forecast for the following two days was to be light winds which would not only give the sailors a chance to recover, but would also bring a good balance to the competition as new names would make it to the front. At this point the fleet were arranged into the gold and silver for the final races.

Day 4

The PRO forced an early start with the forecast showing the best wind in the morning, with a pause for lunch, and its return in the early afternoon. The fleet launched with the taste of toothpaste still lingering into very light winds that didn't look sailable at first glance. Light winds are a problem for all PRO's, but ours obviously had watched the footage from the Quiberon Worlds and realised that this was a comparative roaring gale. The early start was to be worth it as the PRO managed to get a race away in 5-6 knots. Big gains were available as long you stayed away from the right, which many did (and some did not), and the wind died on the 2nd half of the beat. Storming from the left was Billerbeck, who had a strong lead Andreasen and Daniel Chiesa (ITA) in chase. Billerbeck was unstoppable and was able to keep a loose cover on his rivals until the end. Andreasen popped in another banker in 2nd, Christoph Homeier proving that larger humans should also be able get results in light winds with a 3rd. In the Silver fleet, Pete Snowden (GBR) proved that he had been keeping his powder dry with a hard-fought win.

In dying breeze which followed the PRO's predictions, the fleet was sent ashore rather than bake in rubber, like some terrible roast chicken recipe written by a hipster. All hope seemed lost, but it was not to be as the call to get back out came just after enough time to eat a volume of food that could affect performance. The last race was in very light wind, and the first beat favoured the right and it was once again Andreasen, Billerbeck, and two Aussies, Lachlan Imeneo and Randall, that made the running, Billerbeck could not be touched but the young Australians managed to pass Andresen, who by now was building another decent result in 4th as other rivals counted big numbers. The last beat made huge changes down the fleet as the pressure became patchy, and one poor competitor dropped from 4th to 36th with one ill-advised trip to the far right. Some say that this was ex-world champion Stuart Jones (GBR), but it can't be confirmed as the TracTrac records have been mysteriously deleted.

After a long day on the water, the flag went up to go home once again, and this time there would be no return. As always at European based Contender events, the penultimate evening was reserved for the Championship dinner (and Gary Langdown's Birthday). The six event runners once again multiplied to provide a beautiful meal and traditional beverages served as shots.

Day 5

The last day started at the standard time which indicated the PRO had little hope of enough breeze, but after a small wait we went out to see if a sea breeze could develop in the warm weather. Alas, it could not, and racing for the day was cancelled.

The Pillow Talk

The last days of light winds could not detract from the overall excellence of the event which required consistency in two vastly different sets of conditions. Several sailors stood out in this respect. Max Billerbeck finished in fifth, and although he is outstanding in light winds, his skill in all conditions allowed him to outperform his weight in the big breeze. Jesper Armbrust, who finished fourth, demonstrated obvious strength in medium wind and an ability to turn poor starts into results in strong and light breeze. Mark Bulka, who finished third, demonstrated laser like focus and tactical knowledge that make him difficult to beat in all conditions, capped off by strong starts. Christoph Homeier, who was second overall, is unquestionably the fastest sailor downwind in the fleet in breeze, is strong upwind, and now has even become good in the light air which was previously a challenge. And the 2023 World Champ (who also takes the Masters title) - Soren Dulong Andreasen of Denmark- did not count a race outside of the top five. Andreasen is light but agile in the breeze, able to work the boat to stay in touch with the front, makes massive gains downwind, makes the right moves in the light stuff, and has great boat speed. Congratulations to Soren! Also congrats to Stuart Jones, who may or may not have taken a flyer, who took the Grand Master title, James Daniels (GBR) who took the Youth title, and Wiebke Siemsen (GER), who took the Women's title.

Full TracTrac information from the event here.

The events concluded with the prize-giving in the sun and an acknowledgement of the boats in the top ten: five epoxy Bonezzis, two wooden Bonezzis, one new boat by Max Billerbeck, and two epoxy Hartley's. The high number of plastic boats bodes well for the success of the builders in Germany, Italy, UK, and Australia. Finally, a big thank you to the Danish fleet and Morten Groves and his team of volunteers for successfully pulling off a miracle to run an event of this scale. The Contender fleet are forever grateful for the outstanding efforts.

The next event in the international calendar will be the European Championships at Silvaplana in July of 2024. The 2024 World Championships are heading back to Florida, USA, in February 2025, with the regatta hosted by the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, the same club that ran the 2012 Worlds and did a fantastic job. The fleet can expect the same warm weather and hospitality. The pre-worlds/US nationals will be part of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta, a multi fleet event that in February 2023 attracted over 500 boats and 1100 sailors from dozens of classes (including the contenders, of course). This is an amazing opportunity to promote the class in North America as the HHSW Regatta has extensive media coverage. See you there!

Overall Results:

PosSail NoHelmClubR1R2R3R4R5R6R7Pts
1 DEN 1Soren DULONG ANDREASENHellerup Sejlklub31‑11312414
2 GER 2779Christoph HOMEIERSVGO‑BREMEN558233‑2426
3 AUS 2457Mark BULKAYC442829‑1329
4 DEN 2352Jesper ARMBRUSTAabenraa Sejl Club625628BFD29
5 GER 2780Max BILLERBECKWSVK6‑14810101136
6 ITA 45Marco FERRARI411STP12176‑241241
7 NED 9Paul VERHALLENCWVDH171233‑491844
8 DEN 2743Jacob KRISTENSENHellerup Sejlklub‑1663114101044
9 GBR 2787Graeme WILLCOXNetley Sailing club13367146‑1649
10 GBR 2706Stuart JONESDatchet Water SC20546815‑3658
11 GER 2400Thomas WIETINGWVH9‑26720412658
12 GER 2705Jörg SCHLIENKAMPSCW124314‑513559
13 GBR 678Thomas HOOTONBurton Sailing Club11879918‑4962
14 GBR 2572Paul ROSSShotley Sailing Club391949‑441963
15 GBR 2420Simon MUSSELLHighcliffe Sailing Club22191‑505065
16 AUS 2575Joseph RANDALLMcCrae Yacht Club24913107‑55265
17 GBR 2484Gary LANGDOWNHighcliffe5109226STP‑3470.5
18 GER 2788Markus MAISENBACHERWVH2510516513‑2674
19 ITA 11Andrea BONEZZIycd764235‑432276
20 NED 2719Rene HEYNENRRZVMER12131212819‑4176
21 ITA 40Luca BONEZZIcva10820121314‑2777
22 ITA 326Daniel CHIESAcdv Erix19191711‑295778
23 GER 11Andreas VOIGTSLRV11111851225‑4382
24 GER 2366Lars KRUSEBSV1911‑2813772885
25 ITA 2561Antonio LAMBERTINI 91515511‑353287
26 AUS 2323James ELLISGosford Sailing Club1421111110‑222188
27 GER 9Kay‑Hendryk RETHMEIERSVM187121511‑383194
28 GBR 2263Richard BATTENHighcliffe Sailing Club1323681827‑2995
29 GBR 2730Adrian SMITHHSSC‑2617192215111498
30 GER 2689Felix KRAUSEDSC2322321454‑38100
31 AUS 2565John LINDHOLM ‑ MBlairgowrie YS1012142717‑5225105
32 GER 7Christoph ENGELKYC4DNC174194715106
33 DEN 2742Frank HINSCHHellerup Sejlklub2419151813‑4617106
34 AUS 2571Lachlan IMENEOMcCrae Yacht Club‑3425162817203109
35 AUS 2676Grant ROBINSONSandringham yacht club2220222115‑319109
36 GER 8Sebastian VAGTBSC81422BFD28STP5112
37 GER 2390Gernot GOETZ ‑ MSCU82025231234‑40122
38 GER 2501Stuart BROWNLYC151813172440‑54127
39 NED 2497Kees STORMWSVDO28DNC21191828STP127
40 NED 26Enno KRAMERR&ZVG72431132432‑44131
41 NED 2Mark THORBORGKrzv het spaarne2726‑30292516.58131.5
42 GBR 2708Ed PRESLEYCastle Cove SC1310DNCUFD4223138
43 GER 1421Andreas Lutz KÖRNIGSVK162320BFD212342145
44 GBR 2783Chris BOSHIERthorpe bay yacht club15DNF3515192639149
45 DEN 2557Per H HANSENAarhus Sejlklub33DNC1825332120150
46 GER 2425Ralf MAHNKESGJ1416343225‑5330151
47 GBR 2449Robert SMITH ‑ MCastle Cove SC30DNS1019164537157
48 GER 2327Felix TONNEWVF171326292056DNC161
49 GER 242Julius HÜLSBORSC2616401633‑5433164
50 AUS 2389Geoff FISHERBundaberg Sailing Club279BFDDNF29BFD165
51 GER 448Thomas WASILEWSKISLRV201737182648‑53166
52 AUS 2136Ian BOWMANRQYS352121273136‑47171
53 GER 2392Andreas WIETINGWVH21UFD1426224148172
54 GBR 2733Neil FERGUSONYorkshire Dales SC3018242628‑5752178
55 DEN 2611Thomas HERN diameter ‑ MHellerup Sejlklub25DNC3520313045186
56 GER 2781Stefan HEISINGBSVDNCDNC1614163946190
57 GER 2257Jörg GLÖSCHERCYCM2327333130‑5851195
58 GER 2418Tobias HANKESLRV28DNF38242137BFD207
59 GER 2553Daniel HÄRTELSCU31DNC27352054122
60 BEL 2724Roel PEERLINCKHZCDNCDNC24242347141
61 GER 2608Martin SCHÖTTELNDREYERSC RHE35253628293‑39156
62 NED 2576Winfred WESTERMANWVMDNCDNC362127151159
63 GER 2289Marcus ZANKCDDOU39DNC432334220161
64 GBR 2661Nicholas CURRY 322829BFD301926164
65 NOR 2225Tobias JOKISCHNESO34DNF403935125165
66 GER 2684Tim WECHSLERDSC32282533‑381829165
67 GBR 2718Peter NOBLE ‑ MBroadstairs Sailing Club212741BFD273019165
68 GBR 2710James DANIELSNetley Sailing Club2729‑4230362914.5165.5
69 NED 1Rik THORBORG ‑ GMWSVH36DNC2925234217172
70 GBR 2714Martin JONES ‑ MWilsonian S.C.DNCDNC3117222324176
71 GER 2507Wiebke SIEMSENWUW38244343387DNC193
72 GER 483Martin KAUFHOLDSSCK37DNC2331323341197
73 DEN 2426Søren Winther HANSENEgå SejlklubDNCDNCDNF3734103202
74 AUS 1678Glenn DALTONHYC38DNF4742372612202
75 DEN 2771Jon M diameterGELH diameterJSkovshoved Sejlklub182939DNCDNC3527207
76 GBR 2725Peter SNOWDONScaling Dam SCDNCDNC26DNFDNC19213
77 AUT 1101Martin RIECKHUYCWöDNCDNC45BFD3798217
78 NED 44Vincent KLAPWVWDNCDNC3238263231218
79 DEN 2772Olga HENNEBERGHellerup SejlklubDNCDNC4134DNF2110224
80 CAN 2453G A Neil SMITHCSC39DNC3441364334227
81 DEN 2431Jeppe S diameterRNERSejlklubben Rødvig StevnsDNCDNC3830DNF2723236
82 DEN 2157Peter Mørck THOMSENHellerup SejlklubDNCDNC46DNFDNC86237
83 GER 494Wilfried HUBEZSKDNCDNC39DNCDNC252243
84 GBR 2707John McLEAN ‑ GMDarling point Brisbane Australia29DNC46DNCDNC1634243
85 GBR 2404John GREENHALGHKerteminde SejlklubDNCDNC5032DNF2425249
90 GBR 666Bill HOOTONBurton Sailing ClubDNCDNC42DNFDNC2811258
91 DEN 55Nicholas Per HUFFELDTKongelig Dansk Yachtklub37DNFDNCDNF323840265
92 DEN 2554Torben BJ diameterRNHOLTEgå SejlklubDNCDNC27DNCDNC4418266
93 DEN 2604Solvej WAAGEPETERSEN ‑ FAarhus Sejlklub33DNC44BFDDNC3637268
94 GBR 712Rodger WHITEKing George SCDNCDNCDNFDNCDNC1122269
96 DEN 56Claus LITZINGERKaløvig BådelaugDNCDNC3344DNC22DNC276
99 DEN 2215Christoffer Zahle ASTRUPEgå SejlklubDNCDNCDNFDNFDNF3921296
102 CAN 2525Stephanie MAHOuter Harbour Centreboard ClubDNCDNCDNFDNCDNC3133300
105 GBR 696Tony COOK ‑ GMdowns scDNCDNCDNFDNCDNC13DNC308
109 DEN 2526Lars Bo RASMUSSENJyllinge SejlklubDNCDNC30DNCDNCDNCDNC325
110 DEN 22Riccardo CUGINISail Sand PointDNCDNCDNCDNCDNC46DNF341
111 GBR 2683Stephen EMBY ‑ Mbroadstair scDNCDNCDNCDNCDNCDNCDNC354

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