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Keil Week 2024: Reunion from AFG to ZIM with a bye-bye to the Olympic team

by Andreas Kling 17 Jun 07:13 PDT 22-30 June 2024
Looking forward to Kiel Week 2024 from left: Nik Aaron Willim (ILCA 7), Dirk Ramhorst (regatta organisation) and Alexander Schlonski (ILCA 7 national coach) © Christian Beeck

Internationality and inclusive diversity are and will remain an outstanding hallmark of Kiel Week.

Even in the 2024 Olympic year, five days before the first starting signal of the main organiser Kieler Yacht-Club, athletes from 53 nations have already announced their participation in the state capital of Schleswig-Holstein. The strongest Olympic class (22 to 26 June) is the ILCA 7 with former world champion Philipp Buhl from Sonthofen and 120 opponents in the one-man dinghy, including his strong international training group. In the (gender-) open, identical ILCA 6 in the second, international part (27 to 30 June), there are 175 boats. This is only topped by the traditional Aalregatta for sea-going boats. 194 boats want to race from the inner fjord to Eckernförde right at the start on the first Saturday.

"Kiel Week is a welcome home match and remains a fixture for us," says ILCA-7 national coach Alexander Schlonski, "even shortly before the Olympics, a top competition is more valuable than training on the water." After all, there is no material to test in the identical one-man dinghy. After a high-class Olympic elimination, which was won by two-time Olympian Buhl against the best successor Nik Aaron Willim, Schlonski leads a broad squad along with contenders, "which should secure the national level in the class for the next ten years in Germany."

Willim, who lost out in the qualifiers in Schleswig and has long been at home at the DSV National Training Centre in Schilksee, is already looking ahead to Los Angeles 2028. "I thought long and hard about whether I should continue for another four years," says the 27-year-old, "but quitting now, when I'm knocking on the door of the world's top ten, is out of the question." After his bachelor's thesis, he wants to spend ten months in Belgium studying for a master's degree in sustainable innovation. But "first I want to enjoy Kiel Week, which is always a great highlight."

Medal aspirant Philipp Buhl sees it the same way: "The final phase of preparation gives me a very good feeling. I'm gaining new motivation every week for the big goal in Marseille and also want to savour Kiel Week." In Kiel, he will also meet his sparring partners Herrmann Tomasgaard from Norway, who stood on the Olympic podium in Enoshima three years ago, and Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Bernaz, world champion two years ago.

Rather exotic national abbreviations from AFG to ESA, LCA and SAM to ZIM will have the rigging masters reaching deep into the archives of the national flags that will adorn the Schilksee Olympic Centre for nine days. Led in alphabetical order by Afghanistan, individual entries were received from El Salvador (ESA) and St Lucia (LCA) as well as Guatemala, India, Luxembourg, Morocco, Mexico, Malta, Singapore, Slovenia, Tunisia and Zimbabwe (ZIM). There are even two from the Samoa Islands north of New Zealand - with Vaimo'Oi'a Ripley from the Apia Yacht Club competing twice in the ILCA 6, first in the Olympic and then the international event. This makes the long journey worthwhile.

Unsurprisingly, the strongest line-up with well over half of all watercraft comes from the host country, traditionally followed by Denmark (85) just ahead of Sweden (82). However, the cancellation of the iQFOiL competition as well as the Nacra 17 and the Europe was unavoidable. "The tight schedule around a month before the Olympic sailing competitions is also a challenge for us, but we are able to stand up to it with a very impressive number of entries," says regatta organisation manager Dirk Ramhorst.

A number of names prove that Kiel Week remains a magnet for top-class sailing. Even if the start of the reigning world champion and Olympic champion Anne-Marie Rindom (Denmark) is still in doubt, the Swiss runner-up from 2023, Maud Jayet, has also entered, as has Berlin's Julia Büsselberg, who is still hoping for an Olympic starting place via a hardship decision after successfully qualifying for the nations. The field in the inclusive 2.4mR class will be decorated with world champions by title holder Heiko Kröger from Ammersbek and his runner-up Meagan Pascoe (Great Britain), who are likely to have more than a duel for the new world championship honours in August, also off Schilksee.

One of the favourites in the 29er Eurocup, for which 140 crews are listed, is the Polish girls' youth world champion, Ewa Lewandowska, who is now sailing with foreskipper Krzysztof Królik. The Youth World Championship bronze medallists Boróka and Szonja Fehér from Hungary also want to be there. Their compatriots, the FD record world champions and reigning vice world champions Szabolcs Majthenyi/Andras Domokos are also on the entry list, as are last year's winners, reigning and 2022 world champions Kay-Uwe Lüdtke/Kai Schäfers (Berlin/Hanover).

KielerWoche.TV will be broadcasting live from the media track every day, starting with the 49er FX women to kick things off. This will be followed by the 49er (Sunday), ILCA 7 (Mon), ILCA 6 (Tue) and Medal Races. From Thursday, the OK dinghies will be shown with more than 80 at the start, followed by ILCA 6 (open) and J/70. The races of the wingfoil coaching and demo event are planned to conclude on the second Sunday. The broadcasts will not only be shown on the big screen behind the stage of the Audi Sailing Arena and on the video screens throughout the harbour area, but also on the Internet.

Because Kiel is not only the much-described Mecca of sailing, but Schilksee is also the Olympic base of the German Sailing Association (DSV), the association is planning a half-time presentation and farewell ceremony for its Olympic team for the Paris Games. Before the 2024 Kiel Week champions are honoured on Wednesday afternoon after the medal races, the German athletes for Marseille will be on stage in the Audi Sailing Arena from 4 p.m. and will be available for autographs and selfies afterwards. In eight out of ten disciplines, nominations by the DOSB are considered certain, including tickets for local heroes and bronze medallists from Japan, Paul Kohlhoff and Alica Stuhlemmer (Nacra 17 cat).

Susann Beucke from Strande will be underlining her strong ties to her homeland on Saturday (22 June). "Sanni" also earned her Olympic laurels three years ago with "silver" in the 49erFX and then dedicated herself to offshore sailing. Between two Figaro regattas, she will give an autograph session in the Helly Hansen tent in the morning, sign her new autobiography "Against the Wind" and give a talk for the next generation of sailors.

In the afternoon, the 33-year-old will take to the water as patron of the inclusive BAT Sailing Team. The latter will once again be competing with visually impaired and hearing-impaired crews in the international J/70 class. Non-disabled people can scarcely appreciate the success of just being there. Integration has long been more than just an important facet of Kiel Week. Just as its origin, the naval cutter regatta with more than 1,400 sailors and guests, is a sparkling mosaic stone of the most beautiful and longest week of the year in the land between the seas.

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