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Sparkling finale a fitting end to Kiel Week 2023

by Andreas Kling 25 Jun 2023 19:22 BST 17-25 June 2023

Germany's giant Kieler Woche 2023 was blessed with sparkling conditions for its concluding races on an outer fjord which shimmered in the strong summer sunshine more reminiscent of the Mediterranean than the Baltic.

It was entirely fitting that the best racing of the nine days of competition were Wednesday's Olympic classes finale and today, Sunday's, showdowns for the eight international dinghy and keelboat fleets.

Close racing in the 29er class on the last day of Kiel Week. Photo: Kiel Week/Sascha Klahn While several of the leading title contenders struggled to deliver top ten or 15 results across the highly competitive 29er Eurocup's three deciding races, Denmark's Nicklas Holt and Katja Visby Svendsen stayed cool and kept it simple to open their final charge with a 12th and an eighth. But it was a big, confident final race win which gave the duo from Aarhus the overall Kiel title, topping a field of 168 crews.

The duo have been together just six months and already have commitments to other future partnerships but today they were almost bemused when they came ashore as winners. Although helm Holt has previous form in the class, taking 17th at the 2021 worlds in Valencia, his young crew was almost dumbfounded to have stolen the Kiel title.

"It is just amazing, laugh" Laughed Svendson, "we sailed stable and consistent. We had good starts and sailed simple. I only hoped to get into the gold fleet. We trained a lot in Aarhus but have only been together for six months. We felt no pressure and kept it simple. It is incredible to win."

Top performing crew across all three races today in the awkward 7-10 kts sea breeze were the young French duo Jocelyn Le Goff and Jules Vidor from Nantes. Their 3,5,4 was a significant improvement on their first finals races the day before but it gave them the runners up spot, six points behind the victorious Danes.

"We made good starts, had good speed and just focused on being good at each windward mark." Said Le Goff, helm for the partners who have been together a year.

British series champions Charlie Gran and Sam Webb dropped from an overnight second to third after an 11,13,19 in the difficult, mostly marginal trapezing conditions. There was always a big advantage to be in the top ten round the windward mark, whilst getting trapped in the high traffic zones round the mark was terminal. After 32nd at the Europeans and 33rd at the Worlds, the young Brit duo have made a jump after a winter's training with their squad on England's south coast.

"We came hoping for a top ten but dropped from second overnight but in the end we are delighted as it was so unpredictable and shifty, gusty patchy. All the time you are trying to spot what is coming to you." Said helm Gran.

Irish sister brother pairing Clementine and Nathan van Steenberge, overnight leaders, did not start well enough to impose themselves early in their races and then found it hard to make up places in the modest breeze. But even during a nail biting final race the National YC pair were still in the title mix until a spinnaker block cracked on the final run, putting paid to their remaining hopes. Already having a RTD due to a broken spinnaker pole on Saturday they end up having to count that last race 36th.

"We struggled off the starts, we could not hold our lanes off the line, maybe out accele ration was a bit off, our timing. The chop did not help. But we are really disappointed" said Nathan van Steenberge.

In the giant ILCA 6 Open fleet Germany's Paul Ulrich sealed the class Kiel title with a flourish, taking a second and first to win over Holland's Hidde Scharffordt by ten points. Hong Kong's Olympian Stephanie Norton took third, continuing into the Open fleet racing after competing in the Women's Olympic singlehander in phase 1 of Kiel Week.

Ulrich from Oldenburg was able to defend his top position in a commanding manner. "I saved myself well for the last day," said the 16 year old, smiling, "My first Kiel Week victory: that's a huge success at the biggest regatta in the world. I'm enjoying that now."

But with Warnemünde Week and the Euro pean Championships in Poland following shortly afterwards, the regatta calendar for the young sailors continues at a brisk pace. Ulrich cites the German former world champion Philipp Buhl as his role model.

The J/70 German championships were marred by a penultimate day protest over crews who were racing without a valid Group 1 categorization and Germany's Olympic squad sailor Malte Winkel steering whilst not being owner of the boat. Winkel was disqualified and 41 teams had 1pt penalties added to each of their scores. Switzerland's Stefan Seger and his crew won the International German title by four points.

Germany's 2019 World Champion Max Billerbeck closed out the Kiel Contender class win after leading all the way through the week whilst the Flying Dutchman title went to stalwarts Kay Uwe Lüdtke and Kai Schäfer (Berlin/ Hanover), winning with a race to spare. The J/24s were an all German affair topped by Fritz Meyer from Hamburg Germany's Levian Büscher won a competitive ILCA 4 class ahead of Thailand's former Opti world champion Weka Bhanubandh.

France's Europe class winner Cyril Richard, from the beautiful Arcachon basin, had a clear plan when he went afloat on Sunday and executed, "Upwind you had to take the right side, downwind the left. I had a clear lane to get there and was able to implement it after the good starts. I am bit of a specialist in light winds and this was a nice training for the World Championships in Denmark." After a fifth place in the World Championships last year, he now wants to climb to a worlds podium. Marisa Roch from Kiel knew how to take advantage of her competitor Tania Tammling's slip-ups and secured second place.

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