Classic turn-out for Rolex Baltic Week

Metre classes to do battle in Kiel at the end of June

Wednesday March 3rd 2010, Author: Andres Kling, Location: Germany

Highlight of the seventh Rolex Baltic Week, running from 30 June to 4 July, will be the 8-Metre fleet racing for their Euro Cup, in exactly the same waters where this class sailed their last ever Olympic competitions.

The traditional 8 Metre class will see both classic yachts and modern boats fighting for the European title off Kiel. Among the fleet will be a number of the legendary boats which raced for Olympic medals off Duesternbrook 74 years ago. The Kieler Yacht-Club (KYC), in cooperation with the Flensburger Segel-Club, will also welcome the majestic 12mR and 6mR yachts for the Robbe & Berking Sterling Cup. All yachts will berth in the former Olympic marina, right in front of the recently renovated KYC clubhouse on the Hindenburgufer shore.

Among the classic marine beauties, the 8-Metre Germania III will draw great attention, as few boats are as closely associated with the sailing history of Schleswig-Holstein and its capital city Kiel as the six Germania yachts, which were built for the Krupp family in the 20th century. 1936 was one of the most important years for Germania III, when she won the Olympic bronze medal in her home waters. In the top Olympic class of the time, the yacht - which was built by the traditional boatyard Abeking & Rasmussen (A&R) - had been on course for gold until the final race. Her crew, including high-standing personalities like Hans Howaldt, Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach and Felix Scheder-Bieschin, however, not only lost the lead, but in the final jump-off also gave away the silver medal.

Now racing in Kiel is turning full circle once again, for Germania III in particular, with the Euro Cup this summer offer her a chance to redeem that Olympic Games result. For this, the 15-metre long yacht will be equipped just like she was originally. In 1990, construction entrepreneur Bernhard Kolbe from Duisburg found Germania III on Lake Constance and had the boat laboriously restored to her 1935 condition. The 8-Metre has never lost her speed and in 1998 her owner, who usually sails the boat on the river Elbe and the Baltic Sea, took her to a World Championship win. "Since then, however, some of her competitors have geared up, so racing for the European title should be quite tight. But we are going to fight with high ambitions to get to one of the top ranks," says Kolbe, who is much looking forward to the 2010 Rolex Baltic Week, to which the FSC will send a race committee team before they themselves will host next year's event for the Metre classes.

Another boat which will attract plenty of attention within the Europeans fleet will be Elfe II. Also built by A&R, in 1912, she is the only 8-Metre yacht with two masts. On top of that, the two-master has a very rare wishbone rig. "Back in the old days, Elfe had the usual cutter rigging, which was changed in 1935 by her owner at the time. Despite a break to her main mast nine years ago, we decided to stick to her special rigging, because it makes for very comfortable sailing," reports owner Andi Lochbrunner. He will take his yacht all the way up to the Baltic from Lindau on Lake Constance, and promote the Rolex Baltic Week among the strong 8-Metre fleet in the Alpine countries. "After all, the Kiel sailing area has a strong historic appeal to this class," he adds.

While the Eights will be ranked in the three separate divisions: 'First Rule' (for all launching years from 1907, when the class was constructed, until 1919); 'Classic' (1920 to 1966); and 'Modern' (1967 to date), they will nevertheless all start at the same time. 15 to 20 yachts are expected to race, including current title holder Hollandia from the Netherlands. She won her title off Flensburg as long ago as five years back. Since then, the World Championships have taken place in European waters, thus preventing a Euro Cup. The title of 2009 World Champion was won by the modern British 8-Metre Lafayette (launched in 1986) off Hy貥s, France.

The 6mR and 12mR classes will race for the traditional Sterling Cup of Robbe & Berking. Both classes once held Olympic status - the Sixes until 1952, and the Twelves until 1920. From 1958 until 1987, the 12-Metre class was of course the America's Cup class. Names like Sphinx, the former Ostwind of the German Navy and current holder of the Sterling Cup, and Anitra, both extensively restored and now based in Flensburg will compete, but also Thea and Vanity V of the Royal Danish Yacht Club, and Erna Signe from Norway, which celebrates her 99th anniversary this year. From Kiel, Evaine and Trivia will be at the start. All of these yachts will race in the classic divisions, Vintage and Antique.

Rolex, the leader in the Swiss watch-making industry and title sponsor, as well as the silverware manufacturer Robbe & Berking, who have been closely associated with these classic boats for years, will offer an exceptional social programme on top of the racing. The Kieler Yacht-Club Hotel and Restaurant with the KYC headquarters will provide an excellent ambience. The Alfried Krupp House was extensively restored and renovated only last year, and will be the site of the race headquarters on shore. From the opening ceremony on 30 June through all race days from 1-4 July, up to the final prize-giving, the ideally suited premises will lend themselves to the elegant but competitive atmosphere of the Metre classes.

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