Brilliant Thursday opens Olympic part of Kiel Week
At the belated start of the second part of Kiel Week, the leading positions in the eight Olympic disciplines are internationally mixed. After a fantastic sailing Thursday (June 23) with an easterly summer sea breeze, three Germans as well as crews from Australia, Italy, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland are wearing the yellow jerseys of the leaders. The South African flag flies at the top of the 11th ACO Musto Skiff World Championship, with Irish, Polish and Germans ahead in three international classes.
Summer over Kiel fired up the wind engine and compensated the athletes in the Olympic disciplines for the unwanted rest day on Wednesday. With a full program, one race extra each, the race committee sent their classes over the course on the courses. They were able to rely entirely on the increasing breeze that Kiel Week weather chief Dr Meeno Schrader had forecast: “The sun can attack fully, and it does. This will generate a sea breeze that will increase steadily from three knots in the morning to 15 knots in the evening. Friday will be another cracker day with 13 hours of sun and even more wind.”
Even Olympic and World Championship gold glory isn’t enough to take the top spot in the 49er. Croatian Sime Fantela won gold in the 470 off Rio in 2016, then switched classes and became world champion in the 49er with his brother Mihovil in 2018. For Kiel Week, he started with two wins but then slipped and is now fourth behind Ireland’s Robert Dickson/Sean Waddilove, Lukasz Przybytek/Jacek Pisecki (Poland) and Lucas Raul/Emile Amoros (France).
Tina Lutz/Susann Beucke (Germany) started their final regatta in a way they could hardly have dreamed of. The Tokyo Olympic silver medallists, who will end their joint career in Kiel, started the action with a win. “Good start, right side,” Tina Lutz revealed the simple recipe for success. However, the duo, who did not sail the skiff again after the Olympics until Kiel Week, could not continue at this level. “The manoeuvres weren’t quite as zippy anymore. I’m pretty exhausted now,” Lutz said. The list after four races is headed by the Swedes Vilma Bobeck/Rebecca Netzler. Behind them follows a mixed team. Sophie Steinlein took two-time Olympic bronze medallist Thomas Plößel on board. Although the 49erFX is the Olympic women’s class, mixed and male junior teams are also allowed to sail at Kiel Week. “My crew has fallen ill, so I took the chance to gain experience with Thomas. I’m learning an incredible amount. You can’t learn more from anyone than from such a professional,” said Steinlein, who thus displaced Aleksandra Melzacka/Sandra Jankowiak (Poland) in third place.
The Nacra 17 catamarans are constantly making new evolutionary pushes in Olympic cycles. Having evolved into a foiling class after the 2016 Games for Tokyo, this year the configuration has been changed so that the cats stand out of the water not only under gennaker but also on the upwind courses. This is made possible by the individually adjustable rudder foils, which can be used to create a stable flight mode. For the athletes, however, this also means getting to know a completely different class. “It’s learning all over again,” says Santiago Lange from Argentina, Olympic champion in 2016. He didn’t dare make a prediction about who will succeed best in the learning process by Marseille 2024: “Kiel Week is a first step into the new Olympic phase. The level in the field is very high.”
After the first races, it seems that the Italians did their homework best. Early on they got on the foils and showed stable flight phases. As a result, reigning Olympic champions Ruggero Tita/Caterina Banti lead ahead of 2019 World Champions Vittorio Bissaro/Maelle Frascari and Britain’s double 2020 and 2021 World Champions John Gimson/Anna Burnet. “We tried to do everything the same as before. However, we have only been back in training for about a week because Caterina was injured for a long time,” reported Ruggero Tita.