Some of the greatest race management in the world and this year something (very) special to apply it to...
Two major events in Kiel this summer will vault the city forward into being once again a centre stage for high-level international sailing: the more than 140 years young and unique Kiel Week from 17-25 June and the 2023 edition of the ORC World Championship being held over 4-12 August. The first will focus on competition among a huge variety of classes, from dinghies and Olympic aspirants to big boats, and the latter will bring together on the Kiel Fjord the best of the best in big boat inshore and offshore racing in search of World Champion titles.
Being one year before the 2024 Olympic Games, Kiel Week 2023 promises to be at the top level of the sport and as such is being recognised by World Sailing as a World Cup regatta. If this was not sufficient itself to draw hundreds of entries to the event, organisers from the Kieler Yacht-Club (KYC) made a decision to fight inflation for 4,000 expected participants by reducing this year’s registration fees for early bookers by up to 20 per cent.
Sustainability in the sport is also an important theme, especially for events of this size and scale, so Kiel Week this year is doing more to support this claim of sustainability by enacting policies and practices to minimise the CO2 footprint of the sailing competitions. This was confirmed at the world’s largest water sports exhibition, Kiel Week’s premium partner Duesseldorf boot.
Dirk Ramhorst is the head of organisation for the event and speaks about the battle against inflation. ‘Of course, the enormous price increases in many areas do not leave Kiel Week unscathed,’ he acknowledges, ‘but we do not want to pass them on one-to-one to our most important asset, the participants. On the contrary. With this year’s reduction of the entry fee, which applies to all competitions, the regatta should remain attractive and affordable for everyone.’
This year Kiel Week will once again demonstrate this is one of the world’s largest sailing events: race organisers expect more than 1,500 entries from about 50 nations sailing on nine racecourses. After around a month since the open of registration the strongest fleets so far are the 29er Euro Cup followed by ILCA 6 Open and the Olympic ILCA 7, and the fleet is very international: 33 nations are already being represented, ranging from Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand and Ukraine to the USA, the UK and more than a dozen European nations.
Among the earliest teams to register were five current World Champions led by Dane Anne-Marie Rindom (ILCA 6) and Germans Luise Wanser/Philipp Autenrieth (470). An ongoing push is expected until the end of the early entry deadline in late April, a change from years past when the trend was typically to enter in the very last moment possible.
After Kiel Week begins with the Aalregatta where over 100 big boats race to Eckernfoerde, this year all 10 Olympic disciplines will also compete in the first part of the event. For them it’s also about earning decisive points at the final event of the Sailing World Cup 2023, which celebrates its climax on Wednesday with the medal races. In addition to these classes, 11 other international classes are scheduled to race, including the offshore races for the Kiel Cup, Silbernes Band and Senatspreis trophies.
With the development of a digital platform (cloud computing) for recording the carbon footprint, in Duesseldorf Ramhorst presented the next step of the sustainability strategy for Kiel Week. An ESG module from ServiceNow will be adapted to the needs of Kiel Week for the areas of environment, social and corporate responsibility with the consulting firm Accenture as partner and sponsor. ‘Active participants can then record their individual carbon footprint via an app,’ says Ramhorst, ‘which can be linked to local compensation measures.’
In addition to the event’s premium partners Duesseldorf boot and REWE (supermarkets), AUDI AG had already extended its contract before Christmas as mobility partner for two years. ‘Sport and performance are firmly anchored in our DNA, and the topic of sustainability also connects us with Kiel Week,’ emphasises Nina Neumann, who is responsible for brand communication and events at Audi. This year, she said, VIP transport in Kiel will once again be by purely electric vehicles. ‘We will revive the Audi Sailing Arena,’ says Neumann, ‘which will show not only the live broadcasts of Kiel Week TV on its large LED wall, but will serve as a stage for the award ceremonies and a lot more infotainment.’
New to the partners family is Sebamed. This German medical skin cleansing and care brand will focus on its sun protection products and is dedicated to promoting young talent at Kiel Week. ‘We are planning a kids camp with various hands-on activities and our own children’s regatta,’ says Daniel Rothoeft, deputy chairman of the management board.
After Yamaha Motor Europe signed on at the end of 2022, the Swiss-based global company KWC has also become a sponsor. KWC has produced high-quality bathroom and kitchen faucets for more than 150 years. Water is the connecting element for Kiel Week, where there will be at least five tapping points at the sailing venue in Schilksee where active participants and guests can obtain fresh drinking water at any time.
Another record ORC World Championship?
This is on everyone’s mind as the momentum has been building for the 2023 ORC World Championship held in August: will the event reach or surpass the 151 entries from 15 nations that participated in Kiel at the 2014 edition of this annual event? In early March there were 95 entries from 14 nations, so this is certainly possible by the final entry deadline in July.
At ORC World Championships there are three competitions within one event since the entries are divided into three classes – Class A, B and C – each to be scored to determine World Champions within each. There is no overall winner determined because each class competes on its own courses of specific lengths. And at Kiel there will be a Class D for smaller, slower boats who are welcome to race and be part of the fun but will not be eligible for World Champion trophies.
This year the format will be an interesting and innovative departure from the usual structure at previous Worlds events: after the competition opens with a 36-hour offshore race held in open waters among the islands of southern Denmark, there will be three days consisting of one to three inshore windward/leeward races followed by a short coastal race of 10-30 miles in length, depending on the weather. The final day of racing is the same with two races planned. The significance of this new format is to give greater recognition to the skill sets each team has in navigation, strategy, boat handling, seamanship and selection and change in sails. This is also a recognition that big boat racing is trending more towards this style of racing rather than the windward/leeward format.
Besides the usual recognition of the top three all-amateur crews in a Corinthian Division for each class, the 2023 Worlds will also award trophies to the top teams who have 50 per cent or more female crew onboard in what’s termed the Female Division in each class.
A team to watch in this division will be the Tutima team, a legend in the German offshore sailing scene and whose skipper Kirsten Harmstorf-Schönwitz has gathered her former crew mates together for a reunion of her all-female team. For over a decade the black DK 46 with 16 crew clad in pink were a regular feature of ORC championships throughout the Baltic region, known as much for their uniforms as for their tenacious performance on the race course as well.
‘The World Championship on our own doorstep is a good occasion to reactivate the Tutima racing yacht,’ says Jörg Delecate, managing director of the watch manufacturer Tutima. The family-owned company has been associated with sailing and Kiel for many years as the official timekeeper of the Kiel Week regattas. ‘The response to our idea has been extremely positive. The internationally-experienced girls’ crew organised by Kirsten is highly motivated and everyone is looking forward to seeing them again on the regatta course.’
There are several recent gold, silver and bronze ORC World and European champions facing the offshore challenge at the 2023 ORC Worlds, who are bringing all they have to be on the podium again. Are you good enough to be there too?
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