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Kiel Week is open but wind refuses racing

by Andreas Kling 17 Jun 2023 18:45 BST 17-25 June 2023
Almost flat sea state and no wind at the Inner Fjord in Kiel where the race committee first tried to start the traditional Aalregatta (eel race), Kiel Week's opening race © Kieler Woche /

Six loud airhorn blasts made by six different prominent guests officially opened 2023 Kiel Week regatta which has drawn over 1403 entries from more than 50 nations.

Mustering to launch the huge multi class, multi discipline event at just after 1300 hrs on Saturday (17 June) at the Audi Sailing Arena in Kiel's Olympic Center, Schilksee, were Schleswig-Holstein's Interior Minister Dr. Sabine Sütterlin-Waack, the Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, Ulisses Correia e Silva, Ukraine's 2004 Olympic 49er silver medallist now President of the Ukrainian Sailing Association, Rodion Luka, and Germany's Olympic 49er FX silver medallist Susann Beucke all hosted by Kiel's Lord Mayor Dr. Ulf Kämpfer.

But in effect the airhorns almost represented the biggest gust of wind of the day. Because although several fleets were released on to their respective race course - just like at many premier sailing events in Northern Europe right now - there was insufficient stable wind to allow competition.

Only the eel regatta, the traditional 200 boat cruiser race to Eckernförde, was started from 13.35 hrs onwards for what amounted a very shortened drift to the pretty haven where the big fleet enjoy overnight celebrations.

On stage the Minister of the Interior highlighted how important Kiel Week is to the state of Schleswig-Holstein. "We have a tense situation with a budget freeze a few weeks ago. But this has not impact major sporting events. We continue to fight to support major events like Kiel Week," said Dr. Sütterlin-Waack.

Kiel's Lord Mayor Kämpfer responded: "We just had the fly-by of the Ocean Race in Kiel and would like to follow the example of Aarhus which hosted an Ocean Race Fly -by on the last edition and now has gone on to host a stage stopover. To do this we would need the support of the state."

The group on the podium and in the audience listened with concern as Rodion Luka reported on the situation in his Ukrainian homeland: "It's horrific. Any sailing is just out of the question - maybe on some small lakes. But it is forbidden along the entire Black Sea coast."

Luka, who returned to Kiel for the first time in a dozen years, has a long history with the showcase Kiel regatta, first coming to race in the Laser class as a 23-year-old when he camped in the adjacent camping field which is still the choice of many of today's competitors and their families. He recalls:

"First I was sailing Lasers and doing a campaign for the 1996 Olympics. I remember then it was always cold and raining here, now it is tropical! Then we were here every year in the 49er from 1998 to 2007. We were second twice and always in the top ten but never won. It was always a regatta you really wanted to win. It was always a preparation event for Europeans and the Worlds and for the rankings. It was important to be here maybe not just to win. We sailed a lot with Chris Draper and Simon Hiscocks as training partners and they came a lot to Ukraine and sailed with us. There were not many British sailors who came to sail in Kyiv on the Kyiv Sea where Valentin Mankin used to train. Valentin second to Ben Ainslie with four Olympic medals (ed note: and is the only sailor to win medals in three different classes, Finn gold in 1968, Tempest gold in 1972 in Kiel and silver in 1976, and Star gold in 1980 in Moscow, all racing for the URS Soviet Union). It is a great place to train. Now here in Kiel it is great to be back."

Luka is in Kiel to discuss a programme of solidarity and practical support for Ukrainian sailors which is about to be launched at Kiel Week.

The return to Kiel Week is sufficiently important for local Tokyo silver medallist turned solo offshore racer Susann Beucke to bring her Figaro Beneteau 3 offshore one design to Kiel more than 900 miles from Brittany where she now lives and is training for August's La Solitaire Figaro Paprec which she will take on for her second time. In 2028 she would like to take part in the Vendée Globe.

"It was very emotional in 2022 to say goodbye to the Olympic class and regattas and to move on to this new challenge which is a whole different level and type of sailing. But it is great to be back in Kiel which I love." Said Beucke who won here on home waters with Tina Lutz in 2020.

The 2.4-metre, 420, 470 and OK dinghy classes were launched just before 1300hrs. But Kiel Fjord could not raise enough wind to race, gusts measured to just five knots. Sunday looks better and racing is planned from 1100hrs with the aim to make up for lost races.

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