Formula One on the bumpy Baltic sea

Day three of the Olympic classes at Kieler Woche offered sailors and spectators a thrilling spectacle. While traditional sailors and recreational skippers cruised out of the inner fjord for the windjammer parade, the catamaran, skiff and dinghy sailors fought for victory on the windward-leeward courses of the outer fjord in shifting winds, strong gusts and rough waves.

"It started moderately, then became very challenging with gusts of over 30 knots. But we managed to complete almost all the races according to plan," reported regatta organizer Dirk Ramhorst. A challenge for the race organizers was the sail-past of the windjammer parade. "Some ships went through the regatta course and found out for themselves just how fast a 49er or Nacra17 can be in these conditions. Fortunately nothing happened. But this has to be communicated better in future,” said Ramhorst. For the final day he expects a sunny day with even more wind, which will probably keep some participants from starting.

The 2016 Olympic champion and reigning world champion Marit Bouwmeester leads in the Laser Radial before the final day and is almost impossible to catch for overall victory. Photo:

Bumpy as a potato field, the course on the inshore track for the 49erFX was challenging to say the least. In changeable winds with short waves, the skiff women delivered a Formula One show at high speed, including plenty of capsizes. Good scores were hard to come by, with only a few teams showing consistent top results. Above all were the local team of Tina Lutz and Susann Beucke. Racing on their home turf, they have not had a single slip in the entire series of eleven races. Victory in the last race catapulted the Germans into first place overall. So they can go into the final day with complete peace of mind, with the champagne on ice. In terms of qualifying for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, they can no longer be caught up by the twelfth-placed competitors Victoria Jurczok/Anika Lorenz. "We are lost for words,” said an elated Susann Beucke. “We are super happy with the day, we have exceeded our possibilities. From the outside it looked easy. But from the inside, it didn’t feel like that at all. We have been quivering with nerves. We have been under tension for months. Tonight we are celebrating something special in our circle of friends and family.” Tina Lutz added: "I am completely exhausted. After fulfilling the Olympic criteria, a Kieler Woche victory would be the icing on the cake.” Their pursuers Stephanie Roble/Maggie Shea (USA) are, however, only one point behind, ready to pounce on any error. On the other hand, the points cushion on the third-placed British team of Charlotte Dobson/Saskia Tidey is already quite comfortable.

Tension in the 49er FX: The Americans Stephanie Roble/Maggie Shea are only one point behind in second place and fight for the Kieler-Woche title on the final day. Photo:

The longer the day lasted, the more violent the conditions became. The skiff men experienced the full fury of the Baltic weather as starters of the late shift. Nevertheless the gold fleet with the 26 best teams completed four races. The German World Championship second-place finishers, Erik Heil/Thomas Plößel, showed that they know how to deal with strong winds despite a lack of training time. With two wins, but also a 16th and a 13th place, they climbed to fifth place overall. While the previous runners-up, the Poles Lukasz Przybytek/Pawel Kolodzinski, were hit hard and washed back to tenth place, the Danes Jonas Warrer/Jakob Precht Jensen remain in first place despite moderate results - now followed by Bart Lambriex/Pim van Vugt (Netherlands) and Lucas Rual/Emile Amoros (France).

After the early start disqualification of the Swiss Nils Theuninck in the first day’s race, Nicholas Heiner (Netherlands) is heading for a seemingly certain Kieler Woche victory. The Finn World Championship bronze medallist of 2017 and former Laser World Champion (2014) completed his top series by finishing in 2nd, 1st, 1st place and now only has to finish a solid race in the two remaining races on the final day to keep Nils Theuninck and the Argentinean Facundo Olezza at a distance.

Nicholas Heiner dominates the small Finn fleet at Kiel. With five race wins, the Dutchman is in first place. Photo: Robert Deaves

Laser Radial:
The young Hungarian Maria Erdi found herself struggling in the difficult conditions of Saturday, but held on to her podium place going into the final day. Marit Bouwmeester (Netherlands) seems to be unchallenged in the top position, because the second placed Danish Anne-Marie Rindom is already 12 points behind. Further back in the Radial fleet, the best Germans will be competing for important points in the Olympic qualification process. Tomorrow’s racing will be critical before they go to the European Championship in Poland in October, which will finally decide on the German nomination for Tokyo. Now in 7th place, Hannah Anderssohn (Warnemünde) has almost caught up in the qualification battle with Svenja Weger (Kiel) in 13th place.

Laser Standard:
In the strong wind and choppy waves of Melbourne, Philipp Buhl crowned his career in February by winning the World Championship title. During Kieler Woche he showed that he is still able to handle strong gusts, even if he does not feel in world championship shape at the moment, according to his own assessment. Scores of 3, 5, 1 lift the German to second place, sandwiched between the British sailors Michael Beckett and Elliot Hanson.

Nacra 17:
The Nacra 17 fleet was pushed to its limits in the challenging conditions of Saturday. But the Italians Ruggero Tita/Caterina Banti seem not to know this limit, and flew to three victories. They showed a consistency that no other team from the leading group could match. And so the Italians can only beat themselves before the final on Sunday. Even the World Champions John Gimson/Anna Burnet (Great Britain) have only a tiny mathematical chance of winning. The German home team, Paul Kohlhoff/ Alica Stuhlemmer, hold third place with a five-point buffer on the Austrian team in fourth.

Formula 18:
Any hope of victory at Kieler Woche was lost for previous winners Helge and Christian Sach (Zarnekau) before the day’s races even started. While sailing out to the course, the gennaker fell into the water and put so much pressure on the gennaker bowsprit that it snapped off. With a lot of effort the brothers managed to get all the equipment back ashore, but finished the day without a result. At the top of the F18 ranking, the catamaran kings, Cedric Bader/Nicolaj Björnholt, are winning race after race. With another three victories, the French-Danish duo has already won Kieler Woche before the two final races. The top contenders for the other podium places are Mikko and Kirsikka Räisänen (Finland) and Robert Schütz/Rea Kühl (Germany).

OK dinghy:
A capsize in the last day’s race does not seem to be able to prevent Mads Bendix from earning his first Kieler Woche victory, although he is on a tight time budget. The Dane has already packed his boat and is on his way back home: "I have to work. That was planned in advance. But from what I heard, the top five all don’t want to go out on the water anymore," said Bendix. The Laser and Finn sailor has put his Olympic ambitions on ice for the time being and is keeping fit in the OK dinghy: "It’s fun and a good level.” The overall result after three days puts him in first place ahead of Andre Budzien (Schwerin) and the Swede Thomas Hansson-Mild.

The Maltese double lead in the junior skiffs is still going strong, and the awarding of gold and silver on the Kiel Fjord will probably become a family affair. Richard Schultheis/Max Körner hold top spot ahead of Antonia Schultheis/Ole Ulrich with the Danes Jens-Christian and Jens-Philip Dehn-Toftehöj in third place.

Everything Schultheis in the 29er: Richard Schultheis/Max Körner are in the lead. Antonia Schultheis/Ole Ulrich the second. The native Germans (Berlin) start for Malta and are in first and second place. Photo: Sascha Klahn/Kieler Woche

Sailing plus X with hygiene and distance

In addition to sailing at the highest level, the Kieler Woche has traditionally been characterized by a colorful event area in Schilksee. But this year is different. The focus of the event is exclusively on sailing. Schilksee is becoming a closed society without an event area. As the total number of people in the event venue at the Olympic Sailing Centre is limited, the area must be closed to the public. The participants are among themselves with trainers and organizers. Event tents, the Sponsors’ Mile and sales stands will be omitted. The Race Office at the Regattahouse, the boot-Düsseldorf-Club as check-in tent, the Vaasahalle and the area around the Kieler Yacht-Club (KYC) in Düsternbrook are the contact points on land. If necessary the boat hall of the KYC in Strande will be integrated. Participants, organizers and trainers receive accreditations that are only valid for certain areas.

“These are enormous challenges that we are facing to give the sailors the opportunity to sail a regattas this year as well. The health of all participants is clearly in the foreground. Hygiene regulations and the distance rules would have to be observed”, says Dirk Ramhorst, Head of Organization of the Kieler Woche regattas. Furthermore, the travel regulations to Germany will influence the final starting lists.

Due to the fact that the analogue Kieler Woche in Schilksee with its colourful programme unfortunately cannot take place this year based on the pandemic and the local viewers are excluded, the organizers are placing even more focus on digital public relations work. The presence in the social media networks is being expanded and the regattas will be made available to sailing fans all over the world via Kieler-Woche-TV. The state capital of Kiel is responsible for the TV and bears the corresponding costs.

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Kerstin Graupner, Pressesprecherin
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Arne Gloy
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