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Kiel Week 2024: Baptiste on fire in the ILCA 7

by Andy Rice 22 Jun 12:38 PDT 22-30 June 2024
Jean Baptiste Bernaz was totally in sync with the challenging conditions to win three races from three in the ILCA7 © Sascha Klahn

Jean Baptiste Bernaz opened his Kiel Week 2024 campaign with a perfect three race wins on day one of the competition in north Germany. The 36-year-old Frenchman, about to represent his country for the fifth time at the Olympic Games just a month from now, barely put a foot wrong on what most found to be a tricky race course. On an afternoon of 13 to 16 knot breezes gusting and shifting off the Schilksee shore, no one else in the 103-boat fleet could get close to Bernaz's level of consistency.

"Amazing, I had three bullets, so everything goes well for me," grinned Bernaz, barely able to believe his own performance. "I had good starts which gave me the chance to tack on the first shift, and I carried on from there with good speed. With the offshore wind it's unpredictable, so I just focused on the first tack and getting that first shift, but I was not expecting it that easy. I had a simple plan and it works today, so really nice. Kiel Week is our last big regatta before the Games, and for me it's a good moment to see if everything works well. We have worked quite hard since the Worlds in January, and now let's see if it goes well until the end."

Philipp Buhl, the local favourite who lives just 10km from the regatta venue, paid respect to his friend and training partner's ability to outsail him on home waters. "That was a bit rude," he laughed. "I think he is a very complete sailor. He showed it today, with great starts, fast downwind, picking good wind shifts. He deserved his three wins."

Buhl, also competing in the yellow qualifying group with Bernaz, scored 3,15,2 from the afternoon. "I think in the middle race the upwind was a bit of a struggle for me and I was maybe too much in the middle of the course and unable to get the first shift. But it's good to be back in Kiel, to get away from the heat and hectic atmosphere in Marseille, to have a bit of a mental reset here. I think maybe it's the same for Jean-Baptiste. There is a lot of pressure on him in his situation [representing France on home waters]."

The third partner in this tight-knit training group is Norway's Olympic representative Hermann Tomasgaard who scored 2,5,9 from the yellow group. Buhl had a good laugh with Tomasgaard about the local cruising yacht that appeared to have the Norwegian in its sights today. "It tacked on your wind, and then when you tacked it tacked on you again," laughed Buhl. Such is the way of competing on an ultra-busy weekend in glorious sunshine on the Kieler Fjord. "They should be tacking on Jean-Baptiste, not me," laughed Tomasgaard in reply. Also doing well in the early stages is Italy's Olympic representative Lorenzo Chiavarini and Malaysia's Khairulnizam Mohd Afendy.

In the women's ILCA 6 singlehanded fleet, a lot of the competitors fell foul of the dreaded black flag in the first start, meaning that they started the competition with a disqualification. Among them was Switzerland's star, Maud Jayet, although she bounced back with scores of 4,1 to take the overall lead after three races. On equal points with the Swiss sailor is Bermuda's Adriana Penruddocke in second, and Casey Imeneo the best of a trio of Australian sailors in third, fourth and fifth overall.

In other Olympic fleets a number of hopefuls for the Los Angeles 2028 Games are taking advantage of Kiel Week for some international competition while the senior sailors are focused on the Olympic build-up in Marseille. Germany's Anna Barth and Emma Kohlhoff are leading the women's 49erFX skiff with two race wins and dropping an 11th, ahead of Norway's Pia Dahl Andersen and Nora Edland. Nothing came easy on such a gusty and shifty day, said Barth. "The key to the day was playing it low risk, not making it too complicated. We tried to do as few manoeuvres as possible, sailing fast and free, and trying to keep your head out of the boat which is not that easy when you are trying to focus on the boat handling. It's very important to stay calm and not rush too much, which unfortunately we failed to do in the last race when we capsized. But overall we're pretty happy with the day."

Tytus Butowski and Borys Podumis of Poland hold the lead in the 49er men's skiff, matched on points with Richard Schultheis and Youenn Bertin from Malta and Denmark's Frederik Rask and Jakob Precht Jensen. Laura Pukropski and Thorben Schlüter hold the lead in the 470 Mixed ahead of Zofia Korsak and Mikolaj Bazyli of Poland.

29er Eurocup

In the 29er Eurocup with 127 teams entered, 2023 youth world champion from Poland, Ewa Lewandowska, has teamed up with Krysztof Królik to take the lead in the early stages, ahead of a team from The Netherlands, Tjebbe Warmerdam and Lars Ganzevles. "It was pretty choppy and bumpy out there," said Ganzevles. "But you could really send the boat downwind and we enjoyed the conditions. This is the first time sailing with my helmsman so we don't have a clear goal, maybe top 10 overall, so today was a good start to the regatta for us."

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