The future starts at Kiel Week

No longer in the Sailing World Cup from 2013, Germany's mega-regatta is forging its own path

Friday November 18th 2011, Author: Hermann Hell, Location: Germany

The World Cup was yesterday: the future starts with the Kieler Woche. During a traditional curry dinner, the organisers of Kieler Woche set the course for the future of the 129 year-old sailing event today in the club’s historic Kaisersaal, with the Kiel Yacht Club inviting sponsors, partners and representatives of the fellow organising clubs from the areas of sports, economy and politics. The focus will be on innovation and the European Sailing Circuit.

The organisers of Kieler Woche have been working on the European Sailing Circuit and the inclusion of the new Olympic sailing disciplines ever since this year’s event. Their aim is to remain innovative and, through the ESC, to offer competitors attractive events with manageable travel expenses.

Not being part of the Sailing World Cup opens up new doors for Kieler Woche. Bending to ISAF's demands in terms of sponsorship (right up to title sponsorship) and adjusting the time periods (including having to change the date of Kieler Woche) is neither possible nor desirable for Kiel. Even in its 130th year, Kieler Woche carves its own path.

“The Sailing World Cup isn’t really suitable for a traditional event such as Kieler Woche," said Chief Race Director Jobst Richter of Kiel Yacht Club regarding the World Cup, which as of 2013 will no longer take place in Kiel. "We would have had to offer six days of competing for the Olympic classes, scaring off other non-Olympic classes. But we really can’t let that happen, therefore we have simply not submitted an application in the first place."

This year has shown how few competitors followed the Sailing World Cup regattas around the world, causing the ISAF to give up holding the award ceremony for the World Cup winners at the end of Kieler Woche, due to a lack of participants attending the regatta.

It is doubtful that the number of participating competitors will rise if the ISAF Sailing World Cup only makes two stops in Europe and wants to visit all five continents from 2013. While the regatta venues in Asia, Africa/Middle East, the Americas and Oceania not yet fixed, the European stops will be Hyères/France and Mallorca/Spain, due to the necessary time frame.

Kiel was not an option. The unique character and timing of Kieler Woche cannot be interfered with. "The International Sailing Federation's demands are in many ways incompatible with Kieler Woche," said Tim Holborn, spokesman for the City of Kiel. "This year, Kieler Woche has become 129 years old. The World Cup has been held three times. The future of Kieler Woche is certainly not dependant on the ISAF World Cup."

The suggestion by Kiel to finish the World Cup in Weymouth in early June 2012, without considering Kieler Woche, was made to the ISAF as early as in August of this year, as Kiel has been focussing on its own event and Europe since this July. The Kieler Woche organisers would like to have the European Sailing Circuit running from 2013.

“We would like to offer athletes the opportunity to sail a major series within Europe," remarked Peter Ramcke, ESC project leader from Kiel. With their European concept, the responsible members of Kiel Yacht Club had already started putting things into motion in June, in order to push forwards with the European Cup and find partners for this idea. The first steps were taken in cooperation with the European Sailing Federation (EUROSAF) in July.

An overall ranking drawn up from up to six major European sailing events is planned. The results must be able to be clearly positioned in relation to the world rankings, in order to offer competitors an athletic incentive, with only existing events being taken into consideration. In any case, Kiel is a definite.

“We want to assist the ISAF, but in any case we will continue to organise Kieler Woche ourselves”, commented Sven Christensen of Kiel Yacht Club and Point of Sailing, the agency marketing Kieler Woche.

The Deutscher Segler-Verband (DSV), who have been privy to the Kieler Woche organisers’ ideas since early on, are sure to approve Kiel’s plans, even if they regret Kiel and Medemblik’s will no longer participate in the ISAF Sailing World Cup. According to DSV Sports Director Nadine Stegenwalner, who is critical of the development, as is the DSV on the whole, the DSV is dependent on good events which can also be reached without great expenditure.

“Kiel has been sensational with its TV tracking. Nowhere else has been able to offer that yet," Stegenwalner stated. The media coverage through Kieler Woche TV, the tracking and 3D animation, as well as the organisation on the whole, are considered by the ISAF to be without equal. Yet the praise for Kieler Woche from ISAF President Göran Petersson was followed by the decision at the ISAF Annual Conference in Puerto Rico only to feature Hyères and Palma in the Sailing World Cup from 2013: “We have evaluated all factors and selected two highly-contended competitions for the first phase, which will push the Sailing World Cup forward."

Olympic sailing had never been more promoted in media coverage than during Kieler Woche 2011. “If I want to show sailing and its representation to a potential sponsor, I would show them Kiel”, Stegenwalner said. All of that would now have to become the standard for the World Cup. Thanks to its Kieler Woche partners and sponsors, Kiel has been outstanding up until now.

“The ISAF policy is incomprehensible," said Robert Stanjek, athlete spokesman for the DSV national team, who also backs Kiel for the promotion of sailing throughout Germany. " On the one hand they want to make sailing more cost-effective, and then they create such an expensive competition."

Simon Grotelüschen also finds the decision preposterous. The German Olympic Laser hopeful also pointed out that Kiel set new standards with its 2011 media coverage. His sparring partner Paul Goodison, who managed to win Kieler Woche four times between 2002 and 2009, explained that Kiel, along with Medemblik and Hyères, ranks among the most important sailing events. The gold-medal winner from Qingdao is training together with Grotelüschen prior to the World Championships in Perth.

These feelings are accompanied by concerns over Kiele Woche not being part of the Sailing World Cup. Although Kiel sees good chances of preserving its status in the sailing world even without being part of the World circuit, a power struggle with the ISAF should, however, be avoided. “If World Cups in other continents are set on the date of Kieler Woche or on a date too close to it, then there would be a cannibalisation effect," explained KYC foreign secretary Dirk Ramhorst.

Alongside the ESC, Kiel also has plans for providing an outlook on future Olympic Games in 2012: “Experience what Rio 2016 has to offer in Kiel, 2012”. It is under this premise that the new Olympic disciplines will find their place at Kieler Woche 2012 (16 to 24 June). From catamaran sailing (only removed from the programme for 2012) and women’s skiff (following the women's Match Race/unique for the 2012 Olympics) right up to surfing disciplines (possibly including kiteboarding), everything that will be sailed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) should be offered in Kiel. The future starts now, in Kiel.

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