Metre Classes chomping at the bit
The famous former Olympic basin in Kiel-Duesternbrook is sparkling: the slim hulls of the Metre classes are lined up along Kiel’s finest promenade on the Hindenburgufer shore. Displaying their amber-coloured mahogany fittings and their perfect teak decks, the 6, 8 and 12-Metre classes have arrived in Kiel, ready for the Rolex Baltic Week, the second in Kiel, and the seventh overall on the German Baltic Coast.
On Wednesday evening, the Rolex Baltic Week will open with a festive ceremony at the Kieler Yacht-Club, before the 6-Metre, 8-Metre and 12-Metre classes race over Thursday to Sunday (from 12 noon each day), on courses laid out on the Inner and Outer Kiel Fjord. The eleven entries in the Eight fleets will race for the Euro-Cup, while six magnificent Twelves and the Six class will each fight for the Robbe & Berking Sterling Cup.
It will be a Rolex Baltic Week both steeped in history and with plenty of scope for new stories. The yachts will be sailing on the historic racing areas of the 1936 Olympic Games, and a number of boats are even returning to the place of their most memorable success after 74 years. Bernhard Kolbe from Duisburg will take the 8-Metre Germania III to the starting line, the boat which formerly won an Olympic bronze medal for the German crew skippered by Hans Howaldt. In 1936, the 6-Metre yacht Aida, now owned by Bjoern Storsberg (Arnis), raced off Kiel for Argentina, finishing fifth back then.
The undisputed queens in Kiel will be the Twelves, with their impressive length of 21.5 metres. Among them is Heti, now nearly 100 years old, which was equipped with a gaff rigg in 1912. She is joined by Anitra (from 1928) of the co-organisers Flensburger Segel-Club (FSC), Wilfried Beeck’s Trivia from 1937, and the current defender of the Cup Sphinx, who used to be named Ostwind when she was owned by the German Navy, and who was built in 1939 by the renowned boatyard Abeking & Rasmussen.
The Eights will be a particular focus of interest during the upcoming four days. This class will not only determine their European Champion off Kiel, but also show its full potential with first-generation yachts racing against the most modern Eights. Exactly 90 years of difference lie between the “First Rule” boats Elfe II and Sposa, and the modern Eight YQuem II, which was built in 2002.
Perfectly restored and equipped with eye-catching riggs, the two oldest Eights – both 98-year-old historic ladies – are set for a special duel between themselves. Both the gaff-rigged Sposa and the two-mast wishbone-rigged ketch Elfe II are from the Lindauer Segelclub on Lake Constance. The yachts were brought up from the south of Germany only for the Rolex Baltic Week. “This is no big thing for us, as we take part in many international regattas with our young crew,” reports Sposa’s owner Richard Gervé. His crew became the 2007 Vice World Champions in the First Rule division.
They will compete against a younger boat with an older crew, but less experience in 8-Metre races. The crew of the only recently restored Svanevit see themselves as something of a rookie team. Just six months ago, owner Karsten Niehaus from Cologne acquired the measurement certificate. “We had to make a few changes to the boat,” explains Niehaus. The hatchway and cockpit were down-sized to confrom to the rules, and it took Niehaus two years to restore Svanevit to her original character of 1939. “The boats were originally built as racing yachts, which could at the same time travel from place to place”, explains the owner, and so his yacht has sleeping bunks. Like the best of the fleet, Svanevit will race in the Classic division for all boats built between 1920 and 1966.
A special role among the fleet will be played by YQuem II, just eight years old, which for the past two years has been Vice World Champion. The glass-fibre yacht of owner Jean Fabre comes from the Geneva Club SNG. Fabre began training for the event on the waters off Kiel nearly two weeks ago. His biggest rivals will be Hanns-Georg Klein’s Ann-Sophie (Munich) and Aun, owned by Yutaka Kobayashi (Kobe, Japan). The Japanese crew will race on a yacht which was designed based on historic line drawings but built only a few years ago in Portugal with a home base in Hamburg, where she is kept ready for her team who will fly in from Japan.
When race directors Eckhart Reinke (KYC, 8-Metre) and Claus-Otto Hansen (FSC, 6- and 12-Metre) fire the first starting gun for the yachts racing in the forecasted summery wind and weather conditions, many more stories will be told than just the winners’.