Kiel Week – A sailing festival with all facets

The Kiel Week Regatta 2024 came to an end on Sunday (30 June) after 285 extremely varied sailing races between light winds and stormy gusts. Denmark was also narrowly defeated by the hosts in the nations’ ranking in sailing like in football. The skies wept at the end of the eight international boat classes after nine days of predominantly warm summery, sometimes Caribbean conditions. “That was the new Kiel Week weather,” beamed Dirk Ramhorst after two decades in the KiWo team, ten of them as head of organisation, “and the best promotion for 2025.” For the coming years, the head of organisation wants to inspire the Olympic foiling disciplines, which were missing this time, and improve the appeal of the international classes. Principal Race Officer Fabian Bach agreed: “If the level of service on the courses and on shore is and remains first-class, the athletes from home and abroad will honour this with their entries.”

The best examples of the attractiveness of Kiel Week were the more than one hundred ILCA7 in the first half, with Germany’s Olympic medal candidate Philipp Buhl coming second. And in the second half, 71 international OK dinghies started; victory went to the Swede Niklas Edler. “In both classes, we met the participants’ wishes in terms of the number of races and the location of the regatta course,” said Bach, who has been attending in Kiel for 15 years and also at the Olympic sailing competitions in Marseille. This is not always successful, but should be continuously optimised. Sailing into the evening hours on Saturday, when the last J/70 race of the day finished at 8.21 pm, was also “a service to customers, because many people love the Kiel Week festival, but primarily celebrate the competitive sailing.”

The event on the “Meile” in the Schilksee harbour apron was a great success, both with the public from near and far and with the sailors. “The conversion of the area with the large stage of the Audi Sailing Arena in the centre has established itself,” summed up Sven Christensen from the event and marketing agency Point of Sailing, which markets the Kiel Week regatta for the Kieler Yacht-Club. KielerWoche.TV showed races live from the media track every day on the stage, partners and sponsors entertained and informed the guests in the afternoon and there was live music in the evening, which was enjoyed by active participants and fans alike. Many thousands of people voted with their feet, and not just for the sailing fireworks on Wednesday and the cover band United Four the following day.

11 different countries reflected international diversity in the list of medallists in the eight international classes of the second part. Germany won the nations’ ranking over all nine days, just ahead of Denmark. With four gold, four silver and five bronze medals, the greater breadth across all 16 boat classes tipped the scales in favour of the hosts. The Danes also won four titles over the course of the week, but “only” achieved a total of ten podium places. But it wasn’t just the home nation and its neighbouring country that dominated the action. There were medallists from all over Europe – and even the well-travelled athletes from Thailand, Australia and New Zealand were represented in the medal table with a top-three finish each.

In the largest onedesign dinghy class of Kiel Week, in the mixed field of men and women in ILCA 6, Monika Mikkola from Finland showed what Olympic standard is all about. She had already won the series one race before the end, but she stayed on the water and sailed the final race as well. This meant that she had competed in 20 races over the past nine days, as she had already taken part in the Olympic part.

Her wish list for the days afterwards was quickly explained: “Two days of just eating and sleeping.” Kiel Week serves as her preparation for the Olympic Games and challenged her in many ways: “The Olympic part was tough and the international part was especially mentally challenging.” The 28-year-old’s fighting spirit was impressive. Even after a weak start, she kept working her way up into a top position and eventually won ahead of New Zealander Zach Stibbe and former Opti World Champion Weka Bhanubandh from Thailand. The best German was Morten Ben Borchardt from the Kieler Yacht-Club in fifth place.

In the ILCA 4 Switzerland’s Jean Glauser achieved a start-to-finish victory. He started the series in first place and finished it with a win, relegating his compatriot Tristan Schnitzer and Norway’s Henrik Birkeland Westby to the following places.

In the trapeze dinghy classes, other guests from European countries made their mark. In the Flying Dutchman, record world champions Szabolcs Majthenyi/Andras Domokos fended off the attacks of reigning world champions Kay-Uwe Lüdtke/Kai Schäfers (Berlin/Hanover) and world championship bronze medallists Kilian König/Johannes Brack (Hanover). “Many thanks to the German teams who put us under pressure with their teamwork. That pushed us on,” said Majthenyi. He was sure of success before the final race. The German chasers therefore decided not to take part in the final race. König/Brack thus won Kiel Week silver ahead of Lüdtke/Schäfers.

In the Contender, however, the situation was still confusing even when they arrived on land. “I’ve won? Is that sure?” asked Jesper Armbrust, regardless of the congratulations. Max Billerbeck (Kollmar) had put him under pressure again on the final day. But in the end, the victory went to Denmark. And third place also went to a Dane, Sören Dulong Andreasen. “I love Kiel Week,” said Armburst, “the party and the action on the water.”

The Swede Niklas Eder could only agree with this. He has been competing at Kiel Week for 25 years – first in the Laser, now in the OK dinghy. He has never stood on the podium. Now he’s done it – and at the very top. “It was a great Kiel Week with very different conditions. Consistency was the key to success. I always tried to race safely at a good level. I managed to do that.” Behind him were Steen Christensen (Denmark) and Benjamin Hammerö (Sweden).

There was a double podium for Denmark in the J/70 category, with Kim Christensen taking the Kiel Week gold despite a discard in the last race. He and his crew won ahead of compatriot Frederik Hvalsö and Kai-Uwe Hollweg from Bremen.

The J/24 and the 2.4mR were responsible for the German successes on the final Sunday. There was even an all-German podium in the J/24. Fritz Meyer won ahead of Stefan Karsunke and Manfred König. All three crews come from Hamburg, where the once largest keelboat class in the world is strongly represented.

The victory in the 2.4mR for Heiko Kröger (Hamburg) shows how perfectly prepared the 15-time Kiel Week winner is for the World Championship in four weeks’ time at the same venue. Last year, the 58-year-old won the World Championship gold, and now he wants to repeat his triumph in August off Kiel. There will be no way around him. Proof of this thesis? With nine victories in eleven races and two second places, Kröger ensured the clearest victory during the entire Kiel Week. He triumphed over Megan Pascoe (Great Britain) and Davide di Maria (Italy) and also earned the Kiel Week Kommodore Schale. Kröger: “I gave it my all and even bruised a rib at the end when I tried to repair the wobbly steering gear. After 25 years, I have found the fastest setup. The boat doesn’t just run, it races.”

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