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Kiel Week: Girls steer their way to top of 420 and 29er Eurocup podiums

by Andy Rice 25 Jun 11:18 PDT 22-30 June 2024
Perfect beautiful sailing conditions for the finish of the 29er Euro Cup regatta at Kiel Week 2024 © Sascha Klahn

Denmark's Frederik Rask and Jakob Precht Jensen have a good grasp of the gold medal after winning the final two 49er gold fleet races on a sunny Tuesday afternoon (25 June) at Kiel Week in northern Germany.

The Danes will go into Wednesday's double-points, 10 boat medal race with a 17-point advantage over their closest rivals, the Maltese team of Richard Schultheis and Youenn Bertin. Overall Kiel Week victories in the 29er Eurocup and 420 went to Poland and host country Germany.

One of the most successful strategies on the start line was to start on port tack behind the starboard tackers at the committee boat and break out into clear air on the right-hand side of the first upwind leg.

49er crew Jensen commented: "Sailing in a clear lane was very powerful today, not being caught up with other people. Starting on port tack meant we were able to sail fast and free and that really helped us."

With the Maltese being the only threat for the gold medal, the Danes might be tempted to take the fight to Schultheis and Bertin with a close-quarters match race on Wednesday morning. But Jensen said they'd more likely take a softer and more defensive approach to securing gold.

"Of course we can't rest on our laurels," he said. "We have a job to do tomorrow but I think we'll try to stay in their vicinity [of the Maltese] and we should be pretty fine."Germany's Inga-Marie Hoffman and Jill Paland also hold a 17-point lead in the women's 49erFX fleet. Similar to the Danes, Hoffman sees little reason in getting too aggressive in the medal race. "I think the points are tight between second, third and fourth," she said. "So they will have a fight between them." It has been a good week for Hoffman and Paland who only teamed up for the first time for this regatta, in the absence of their usual sailing partners who were taken away by other priorities.

Pia Dahl Andersen and Nora Edland must be wondering what might have been if only they had managed to avoid those two costly UFD disqualifications for starting too early. Instead the Norwegians go into the medal race in silver medal position and will be keen to fend off the chasing teams from Germany just a few points behind.

In the ILCA 6 women's singlehander fleet, the names of the medallists are pretty much decided. The medal race will be to see who ends up with what colour. At the moment Agata Barwinska from Poland holds a 13.3 point lead over Denmark's Anna Munch who in turn sits 10.7 points in front of Mara Stransky from Australia.

In the ILCA 7 men's fleet, Jean Baptiste Bernaz can breathe a small sigh of relief that he has extended his points advantage to 10 points ahead of the rest. After a great day's racing by Zac Littlewood, the Australian has lifted himself into second place overall, but just three points ahead of Norway's Hermann Tomasgaard. Any of the players down to Willem Wiersema (NED) in eighth could yet grab the silver or bronze, so expect a real scrap for the medals on Wednesday. And Bernaz can't afford to cruise as he could yet slip out of the medals if he's not careful.

That said, the 36-year-old is meticulous with his approach, and the Frenchman has really enjoyed his trip to Kiel Week just a month before the Olympic Games on home waters in Marseille. "My goal for coming here was to have a proper regatta where the choice [about when we go out] is not in our hands and we have to follow the schedule."

"We have really good guys to race against here, and it's nice to be 'just another person' here in Germany. In France everything is super-tight, everyone wants to be part of the game, so it's nice to be able to escape, to breathe a bit more easily. So I think to come here has been a good choice, but of course we will find out if that was the case in a few weeks from now!"

The medal race in the 470 Mixed fleet is perfectly poised, with teams from Sweden and Ukraine holding equal top spot with 16 points each. However, it can't turn into a straight match race between Hedvig & Hugo Liljegren (SWE) versus Yehor Semarin/ Yelvzaveta Vasylenko (UKR), as just five points back in third place is a Polish team, Zofia Korsak/ Mikolaj Bazyli. So it's going to be a thrilling showdown in this fleet where men and women compete on such equal terms.

Boys and girls also race on very level terms in the 'junior 470', the 420 class. Competition concluded today with Esther Rodenhausen and Luisa Becker finishing top of the fleet, an all-female crew coming first ahead of an all-male team from the Ukraine, Sviatoslav Madonich/Dmytro Karabadzhak.

"We were a bit nervous today," grinned Becker, "but we sailed really nice, kept it simple, and got two bullets. This was our fourth Kiel Week and it's nice to win one now. It's amazing! Now we get ready for the European Championship, we want to try and win that, and next year we plan to be back at Kiel in the 49erFX."

In the 29er Eurocup, the girl/boy team from Poland, Ewa Lewandowska and Krysztof Królik, have sailed magnificently all week. The British team James Crossley and Sam Webb managed to close the gap on the Poles by the end of the penultimate race and it would all come down to who could perform best in the final heat.

Lewandowska admitted she was feeling the nerves: "I think it was a bit of pressure. I needed to tell myself that it doesn't matter and I think it worked. But yes, I think I was the most stressed." Królik, on the other hand, said he felt "pretty chill". The Poles kept their nerve and won their first Kiel Week. "It's a great feeling, it's a big deal," grinned Lewandowska. Królik said they enjoyed the conditions in Kiel, which felt similar to their home waters in Gdynia. "I like the conditions from the shore, Ewa likes more the conditions from the sea, so we kind of complete each other."Bartosz Zmudzinski and August Sobczak made it a double podium for Poland in the 29er fleet, as they took the bronze medal after a strong final day.Wednesday's medal races will be live broadcast from 1100 hours, starting with the 49er men's skiff followed by the four other Olympic fleets.

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