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Kiel Week Regatta: On your marks, get set, off to the eel!

by Andreas Kling 21 Jun 16:51 BST 22-30 June 2024
50 national flags fly in Schilksee for all countries participating in Kiel Week 2024 © Christian Beeck

198 offshore yachts open the Kiel Week Regatta on Saturday morning (22 June) in front of the Kieler Yacht-Club in the inner fjord with their "hunt for smoked eel".

Every crew will receive this as a reward at the finish of the traditional Aalregatta to Eckernförde. The first starting shot in five Olympic disciplines, the Euro Cup for the 29ers and the 420s will be fired off Schilksee at midday. KielerWoche.TV will also be focussing on the ILCA 7 class on the first day with former world champion Philipp Buhl from Sonthofen, who wants to "enjoy his dress rehearsal for the Olympic Games in France to the full".

The meteorological omens for the 130th edition of the world-famous regatta week are favourable. Just in time for the start of summer, temperatures in the Schleswig-Holstein state capital are expected to rise to over 20 degrees and "increasing easterly winds will prevail by the start of the week at the latest", predicts Meeno Schrader, Kiel Week meteorologist on behalf of boot. Only the first weekend still appears unstable with moderate to fresh westerly breezes for the 27.5 nautical mile Aalregatta.

At 9.05 a.m. on the dot, race director Ralf Paulsen wants to send the first starting group of the largest monohull yachts, ORC I, on their way. Three multihulls will close the largest field of participants at Kiel Week at 10.55 am. Included, but not at the start and without a rating: the M32 catamaran "NTT DATA" of Helge and Christian Sach from Zarnekau. One of the rule pedants had criticised the lack of a place to stay, and there was also no sea fence on board the racing boat, which is why it was not eligible to take part. "We won't let spoilsports like this spoil our enjoyment of Kiel Week," said twelve-time overall winner Christian Sach, "and will watch the race from the water with a proper distance."

ILCA 7 sailor Nik Aaron Willim will also have to miss out. The Schilksee native has been suffering from severe headaches for a long time. "The doctor has strongly advised me not to continue sailing with painkillers," says the 27-year-old, "that's particularly difficult for me at the home event, but health comes first for now." Willim had offered Philipp Buhl a thrilling national Olympic elimination. Buhl is now likely to battle it out with his international sparring partners Herrmann Tomasgaard, Norwegian bronze medallist at Enoshima 2021, and former world champion Jean-Baptiste Bernaz from France for the Kiel Week victory.

Kiel Week fever is particularly pronounced among the 29ers, who are bringing a huge field to the start of the Euro Cup series with almost 140 entries. Cheryl Yong and Febe Wong arrived in Kiel from Singapore on Thursday, took delivery of their charter boat and are now well packed and wide-eyed in the Schilksee harbour.

"It's pretty windy here. We've never sailed in these conditions before. But it's good training for Kiel Week and the next regattas," says 13-year-old Febe, who joined her two-year-old helm in February this year. "This will be our first big regatta. We're excited to see how it will go, we still need to familiarise ourselves. But Febe is a quick learner," says Cheryl.

The Bavarian twin brothers Lucas and Moritz Hamm are entering the 29er race with a very different outlook. The two 16-year-olds were already among the top German sailors in their Opti days, know the Kiel area inside out and are looking forward to their appearance on the outer fjord.

"We want to have fun, but of course we also want to perform. Our main focus is on the U17 classification," says crew Moritz. The fact that Kiel Week is integrated into the Euro Cup classification for the 29ers has a special appeal for the brother duo. "Kiel Week is the most important regatta for us after the WorldChampionships and the European Championships. We are in a very good position in the Euro Cup ranking after four regattas so far and naturally want to confirm that here."

At the end of the overall series, they want to be at the top of the U17 rankings and also occupy a top ten position overall. They have also set themselves big goals for the international championships. They are aiming for victory in the U17 classification at the European Championships, a place on the podium overall and a place in the top 20 at the World Championships. After that, they are already looking ahead to the next class. The twins from Chiemsee want to move up to the Olympic 49er. "The other pairs of brothers from the 29er, such as the Schwalls (FX) and the Sachs, have already arrived there."

Kiel Week is always a fun event for Lucas and Moritz Hamm. "Last year was mega," enthuses Moritz Hamm about the Caribbean conditions in 2023. But they don't really care about the weather. "We tend to like more wind, but we can also deal with light wind conditions. If you want to sail at the front, you have to be able to cope with any wind."

From a German perspective, the Hamms are among the favourites in the 29er class, but Hanno Rix/Maximilian Reuner from Kiel are also highly rated on their home turf, as are the recently strong Moritz Wagner/Leo Gradel from Lake Starnberg. They finished second behind Niclas Holt/Mats Wegener at the last Euro Cup off Aarhus/Denmark at the beginning of June. The Danes are therefore hot contenders for victory. For them, Kiel Week is an important stopover on the way to the World Championship, which will be held on their home turf in Aarhus at the beginning of August.

The official opening of the regatta part of Kiel Week will take place on Saturday at 1 pm on the stage in the Audi Sailing Arena. Organising Director Dirk Ramhorst and Kiel's Lord Mayor Ulf Kämpfer will be joined by Magdalena Finke, State Secretary in the State Ministry of internal affairs, Wolfram N. Diener, Chairman of the Board of Messe Düsseldorf for the premium partner boot, and 2.4mR World Champion Heiko Kröger, who wants to use Kiel Week as a dress rehearsal for the World Championships in August at the same venue and win.

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