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Spectacular medal races decide Kiel Week titles

by Andreas Kling 21 Jun 2023 23:31 BST 17-25 June 2023
Polish helm Lucasz Przybytek and crew Jacek Piasecki on their way to the Kiel Week title © Kiel Week / Sascha Klahn

The Olympic classes section of Kiel Week were blessed with the best wind conditions of the regatta so far, winds of up to 18 knots and choppy seas produced spectacular Medal Races, a fitting finale after four days of very light winds on Wednesday (21 June). Germany won the Kiel Olympic class titles in the Women's Skiff, 470 Mixed Dinghy and the Men's iQ-Foil. Otherwise, the strong international entry shared the honours. Five different nations grabbed "gold" with Italy, France, Turkey, Denmark and Poland.

The Polish 49er squad showed their strength and depth with four duos qualified for the 10 medal race spots. It was the most experienced helm Lucasz Przybytek and crew Jacek Piasecki who prevailed, leading a 1, 2 for Poland. Przybytek and Piasecki - who have been together for a year - let their winning performance this week represent their own statement against being overlooked for selection to the Marseille test event in favour of Dominik Buksak and Simon Wierzbicki who finished second overall, 14 points behind. They imposed a penalty on the second placed duo on the start line and then just needed to keep a loose cover on them.

Przybytek is determined to ensure that missing out on this Marseille test regatta does not stand in the way of representing Poland at his fourth Olympic games having finished 8th, 9th and 13th in Tokyo, Rio and London. The helm enthused, "We have put together a good week with only one bad result which has not been easy but then did a special job on the last day to manage the other Polish guys, we focused on controlling them. But here we are winning for the first time. The Polish association decided the other guys are going. We are a little surprised as all our regattas have been good, but we look forwards to two training camps in The Hague with the Polish team and then the world championships which is our main goal. We have six 49ers in the squad and we had four in the medal race which is pretty good. We train together, spent two months in Lanzarote and we improved a lot."

Second overall went to Buksak and Wierzbicki while Austria's Benjamin Bildstein and David Hussl took third. France's Julien d'Ortoli and Noé Delpech won the medal race in style after a great pin end start and finished fourth overall whilst the series' early leaders Andrew Mollerus and Ian Macdiarmid of the USA took third in the breezy medal race for fifth.

Germany's Marla Bergmann and Hanna Wille topped the final standings for the 49er FX with a third but only by a single point ahead of their compatriots Maru Scheel and Freya Feilcke, who finished second in the final. Alexandra Stalder and Silvia Speri from Italy won the exciting medal race in great style, pushing themselves to the "bronze medal".

Going into the Medal race with a lead of 17 points, Italy's 24-year-old Margherita Porro and Stefano Dezulian had pretty much wrapped up the Kiel title before Wednesday's medal race. But the pair who won seven races and discarded a second in the light winds were determined to give an equally good account of themselves in the breezy 13-16 knots medal race conditions which were a much more physical test than the light breezes so far.

Local Kiel club aces, Tokyo and world championship bronze medallists Paul Kohlhoff and Alicia Stuhlemmer led the Medal Race from the first upwind leg, but the young Italians closed them down before the leeward gate. The Italians led momentarily but could not quite match the Germans on the upwind and took a close second to win the class by 18 points from Kohlhoff and Stuhlemmer whilst Singapore's Justin Liu and Denise Lim landed third overall.

"We had fun today in the breeze, we had a good tight race with the Germans on the second lap, they are fast in these conditions and so I am really proud of what we have done today and this week. Winning means we are going in the right direction with our work." Said Porro who is one of the few female helms in the class, "We have less power and it is so much more about mindset, it is not easy to find your way in a world of men and you have to prove all the time that you are good enough. But we started only one year ago together so let's see what we can do at the worlds in August." Said Porro.

Predictably the 470 Medal race was dominated by German crews. With the breeze at the strongest it has been all regatta Simon Diesch and Anna Markfort, the vice European champions took third in the medal race to clinch the Kiel title. World Champions Luise Wanser and Philipp Autenrieth finished on a high note, winning the Medal Race.

Diesch said, "When it's going to become really crazy on the race course you need to stay extra calm. This is what we did today and it made the difference. We're four or five German teams all at the top level, training together and we all remain in a good mood despite fighting for the one ticket only. So the aim is that whoever wins the national selection will be a medal candidate at the 2024 Olympics."

France's Alexandre Boite took second place in the ILCA 7 medal race today which was enough to give him the Kiel class title ahead of Italy's Alessio Spadoni by 15 pts. Spadoni tied on points with Germany's Justin Barth who took the bronze medal.

It is the first major regatta win for Boite, from Le Havre in Normandy who trains with the French squad out of La Rochelle. Having world champion Jean Baptiste Bernaz as a training benchmark is a great inspiration to the 23-year-old: "I have trained very hard, we have all trained so hard for the home Olympic games which is a real motivation for all of us. We are in qualification so I still hope I can be there. It is very cool to be having the Games in our home country. I try to be as close as I can and beat 'JB' and that is what motivates me. I know if I could beat him then I could get a good result at the Olympics."

Turkey's double Olympian Nazli Donertas won the ILCA 6 class by a margin of seven points over Poland's Lilly May Niezabitowska while Australia's Evie Saunders took third.

Germany's iQ-Foil world champion Sebastian Koerdel ran away with the men's windsurfing title only being beaten by weed on his foils on Tuesday, when he "scored" two DNCs. The big Roosevelt Cup for the best scoring in all Olympic disciplines went to the Danish female iQ-Foil winner Lærke Buhl-Hansen.

Kiel Week now moves on to the second phase which features eight international classes such as the Contender, ILCA 4, ILCA 6 open Flying Dutchman, Europe, the 29er Eurocup, J/24 and the J/70 International German Championships.

Full results available here.

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