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Star Class World Championship at Kiel Week

by Andreas Kling 3 Sep 13:08 BST 4-12 September 2021
Markus Koy sails aboard Jörgen Schönherr under the Danish flag. The Hamburg native has already won three Star European Championship titles with three different helmsmen. © Hrvoje Duvancic / www.regate.com.hr

Defending champions Mateusz Kusznierewicz/Bruno Prada (Poland/Brazil), three-time runner-up Diego Negri (Italy) with Frithjof Kleen (Berlin), reigning European champions and two-time Olympic participants Enrico Chieffi/Ferdinando Colaninno (Italy).

The list of favourites at the 99th Star Class World Championships is endless. The Who's Who of the Stars will be at the start in Kiel from 4 to 11 September.

Will the favourites determine the medals as usual and as expected, or will a new star perhaps be born? The class is not only taking care of the necessary new blood in Germany and is currently receiving an influx, especially from the Finn, in which the reigning star world champion and defending champion Mateusz Kusznierewicz once hoarded Olympic medals and Kiel Week victories. The official part of the World Championships begins with the opening ceremony on Sunday at 18.30 hrs. after the registration and the weighing of the crews, before the first starting signal sounds on Monday after the skippers' meeting at 13.00 hrs. Six races (one race per day) are on the programme before the medals are awarded on Saturday, 11 September.

"Our goal has to be to attract new blood to the class," says Helge Spehr, head of the Kiel Star fleet, defining the biggest challenge for the two-man keelboat, which was an Olympic boat until 2012. "This is where we are committed, and this is what we will have to do in the future," says Star Class World President Hubert Merkelbach (Überlingen), echoing the same sentiment.

For the Finn sailors, the commitment of the Star fleet falls on fertile ground. After the Olympic elimination of the one-man dinghy, the heavyweight men are looking for alternatives. Among them is Phillip Kasüske from Berlin. The grinder of the "Einstein" (Imoca of Offshore Team Germany/owner Jens Kuphal) with skipper Robert Stanjek (2012 Starboat Olympic sixth in London) won the Ocean Race Europe from Lorient/France via Cascais/Portugal and Alicante/Spain to Genoa/Italy in this summer, and is now competing in the Star World Championships with experienced crew Michael Schulz. Kasüske/Schulz have already shown at the Star IDM in June, when they finished sixth, that they can definitely keep up with the class.

"We gained our first regatta experience last September at the European Championships on Lake Garda. Our joint project is initially focused on the World Championships in Kiel. Then we'll see," says Kasüske, who won Kiel Week in the Finn in 2016 and 2019.

After the Olympic elimination for the Finn, the Berliner is looking around for a new boat class, just like his Finn colleague Max Kohlhoff (Strande). "I always wanted to sail the Starboat, it's physically a cool challenge and technically very demanding," says Kasüske.

The contact to Michael Schulz came up through Robert Stanjek. "Michi and I really hit it off right from the start and were on the same page," says Kasüske, who also has bigboat sailing on his agenda this year. After the ORC World Championship in Estonia on board the "Intermezzo" (Jens Kuphal/WM fifth), the IDM in Olpenitz (24 to 28 September) is now on the regatta calendar.

After that, it will probably be decided what status the Star will have in Kasüskes' regatta schedule. The 100th Star World Championship from 10 to 17 September 2022, organised by the Eastern Yacht Club Marblehead in Massachusetts (USA), should be quite attractive.

But first, they have to compete against the world's best in the Star Class in Kiel. And besides the favourites, the usual suspects for the podium places, other very big names are represented such as Juan Kouyoumdijan/Fernando Rivero (Argentina). Kouyoumdjian (born 1971) is a worldwide successful sailor and designer of racing and cruising yachts. The Argentinean gained his first America's Cup experience with the French team Le Défi in 1995 and was a member of the design team for BMW ORACLE Racing in the 32nd edition of the America's Cup. In 2020, he switched to the Italian team Prada.

However, Kouyoumdjian's greatest achievements to date have been his designs for the Volvo Ocean Race. He designed the winning yacht for three editions of this race:

"ABN AMRO 1", winning yacht in the Volvo Ocean Race 2005 - 2006, "Ericsson 4", winning yacht in the Volvo Ocean Race 2008 - 2009, and "Groupama 4", winning yacht in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011 - 2012.

At the same time, he himself always remained faithful to the star boat. At this year's European Championships in Croatia, Kouyoumdijan/Rivero came fourth. In Kiel, the competition is even tougher.

The German crew Markus Koy and Frithjof Kleen (on board the three-time runner-up Diego Negri/Italy) are also aiming for the podium. Markus Koy is sailing with Jörgen Schönherr (Denmark). The Hamburg native has already had a taste of America's Cup racing and was a crew member of the United Internet Team Germany at the Louis Vuitton Cup in 2007. After that, the North Sails consultant concentrated on the star boat and won three European Championship titles with three different helmsmen - in 2008 with Robert Stanjek, in 2010 with Johannes Polgar and in 2014 with Hubert Merkelbach.

"I won the European Championship title, and the one with Johannes was probably in the biggest star boat field ever. We prevailed against 130 competitors in a field worthy of a World Championship," says Koy. But a World Championship title is still missing.

"Top ten is our goal in Kiel. Our speed is good. Everything else depends on our form on the day," the 47-year-old defines his ambition for Kiel. The Star Class Championships are always a meeting of the big names.

"If you go through the entry list, you meet many well-known sailors. It's always been like that," explains the Hamburg native, who sails in many different boat classes but has always remained true to the Star.

"I also sail other boats, but the Star is something special. It is technical, versatile and demanding," says the sailor, describing his favourite boat. An injury can knock you off your stride, he says, but otherwise he would like to stick to the Star boat for a few more years.

"I train a lot, try to stay fit and I'm still physically fit for a starboat," explains Koy, who already notices that the athletes in the class are slowly getting older: "But that's the case in many classes. Today, young people have a lot more to offer in the way of entertainment. And you have to want to sail." And Markus Koy wants to sail. With Jörgen Schönherr, a lot is possible in Kiel.

Whether a new star will be born, title dreams will come true or the favourites will win the medals again - on Saturday, 11 September, we will know for sure.

The Star Worlds Championship will be officially opened on Sunday, 5 September, on the stage at the Olympic Sailing Centre in Kiel-Schilksee. The opening ceremony will start at 18.30 hrs. with the march of the participants with their 18 national flags from the Heineken Star Class Lounge through the harbour to the stage.

The Star Class World Championships are supported by the state capital Kiel, the state of Schleswig-Holstein as well as the partners Helly Hansen and Heineken and the sponsors Heinz Nixdorf-Verein, Tikal and Voigt-Logistik.

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