Kieler Woche 2020 – Day 1: A spectacular start

by Hermann Hell 5 Sep 17:09 UTC 5-13 September 2020 The Dutch racer “van Uden” broaching crossed the starting line in front of the fleet of participants for the German Offshore Sailing Championship on day 1 of Kiel Week 2020 © Tweet

The date is different, the spectacle on the water remains. Even after the Corona-related transfer from June to September, Kiel Week is not short of exciting sailing moments.

Sailors and spectators at the Kiellinie surfed on an adrenaline wave right from the start. 130 yachts were sent out on the middle distance in front of the harbour Düsternbrook, the Danish professionals around Nicolai Sehestedt tried to attack the record time Kiel-Eckernförde on their flying catamaran, and the Dutch racer “van Uden” crashed across the starting line and broached in front of the fleet of participants for the Offshore Sailing Championship.

But one after the other: Wind from west, a grey sky with blue spots and a few showers formed the scenario for the first day of Kiel Week. No problem for the sailors, as this weather has been considered typical for the Kiel Week for years. With the first start it became immediately quite exciting. The multihulls were sent on their way to Eckernförde – with a clear announcement from the Danish Rockwool team. The catamaran experts are part of the highly professional SailGP-Circuit since this year. But since the Formula One of sailing sport is paused, helmsman Nicolai Sehestedt and his crew have made it their business to hunt for records in the Baltic Sea. The start of the Kiel Week with the Kiel-Eckernförde regatta was also the focus of the red-and-white team, which brought their foiling GC32 onto the course for this purpose.

The “Rockwool” team (Denmark) around helmsman Nicolai Sehestedt missed the speed record from Kiel to Eckernförde by five minutes at Kiel Week 2020 – photo ©

Since 2014, the reference time on the almost 30-mile course between Kiel and Eckernförde has been set at one hour, 47 minutes and 22 seconds by the 70-foot trimaran Musandam-Oman Sail. Although the “Rockwool” is only half as big, it switches to flight mode with its foils. And with the start the Danes took off right away. Right on the spot with the starting signal they rolled out the gennaker and pulled close to the Kiellinie. Too close to be able to survive this course for a long time. In shore cover the hulls hit the water. Sehestedt had to call two early jibes and crossed the course behind the Sach-team on the non-foiling M32 catamaran “itelligence”. Until shortly before Friedrichsort the Danes needed to work their way back past the Zarnekauern. Afterwards they flew towards the finish line, but the wind was not strong enough to keep the record. The “Rockwool” team was five minutes short of the 2014 record.

In the meantime, the yachts of the Welcome Races and the Aalregatta had also set off, which will naturally take much longer to reach Eckernförde. Until the evening, the fleets of the ORC and Yardstick classification are expected in the nearby Baltic Sea port, where they can enjoy a freshly smoked eel in a package from the Eckernförde port and experience an award ceremony under corona conditions. Only by VHF call and sorted according to crews the winners are allowed to march up to receive their trophies.

The 28 crews of the German Offshore Championship concluded the starting sequence off Kiel. However, they were sent to a different course by the race directors Eckart Reinke and Ralf Paulsen. Since the championship sailors will already be going to the up-and-down races on the outer fjord on Sunday, they are expected back in Schilksee on Saturday evening. Until then, however, they will have a considerable amount of work to do. Until off the coast of Schleimünde, the course for the big yachts is according to ORCi measurements. Reinke has mapped out about 65 nautical miles, the classes of the medium and small ships have to sail 45 nautical miles after all. “This year’s Kiel Week cannot offer as much on land as usual. That’s why we can sail until late in the evening. We will continue to do so in the coming days”, Reinke explains.

Before the long course there was a moment of shock at the start for the fast “van Uden”. The junior project has been trimmed for performance by skipper Gertjan Poortman over the past weeks. And now the young crew really wanted to show what they were made of. With high speed and exact timing, the Ker 46 rushed to the line, the gennaker opened – everything looked perfect. But the gennaker was not at the very top, a gust pressed into it, the “van Uden” got out of control and touched the water in a double broach. The distance to the following boats was enough to get the yacht upright again in time, but the fast lead was gone.

Thus the “Halbtrocken 4.5” by Michael Berghorn took the lead. The Mills 45, freshly imported from Australia, had already presented itself at the BlueribbonCup two weeks ago as the fastest yacht in the German Baltic Offshore regatta scene and is now expected back in Schilksee in the evening as First Ship Home. Whether it will be enough for a top ranking remains to be seen, because the competition is strong. With the “Sportsfreund” around helmsman Gordon Nickel and the “Intermezzo” by Jens Kuphal, the reigning European and German champions are among the participants. And in the medium and small category yachts, the bet on the overall victory is on the “Immac Fram” around skipper Kai Mares, even if she held back a little at the start of Kiel Week, before rolling up the field.

After the Offshore sailors, the ten classes also started to sail on the triangular courses off Schilksee at 1 pm. Three races are planned for the dinghy sailors.

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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