Tuesday, 30 June 2009
Silver medalists in the Star class George Szabo, Rick Peters (San Diego, CA, USA). Image copyright Rolex/Dan Nerney.
by Andreas Kling
The world's elite sailors have answered the call of Rolex Baltic Week at its debut event in Kiel, just as they have done over the past five Rolex Baltic Week events held on the Bay of Luebeck. Nearly 100 crews from 27 nations will race in the open 2009 Star Class European Championship from 4 to 11 July on the Outer Kiel Fjord, eleven years since the last continental championship for the Olympic Star Class was held off Schilksee. Among the 98 entries are eleven out of the top twelve teams on the ISAF world ranking list. It is a spectacular record fleet, as Dierk Thomsen of the organizing Kieler Yacht-Club and Vice Commodore of the International Star Class Yacht Racing Association ISCYRA commented: "This is truly World Championship standard."
One might think the post-Olympic year would be a quiet time for the Star Class. On the contrary: the races off Kiel will see Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson from Great Britain face those seeking revenge for their Olympic victory last year. Among the challengers will be Brazilians Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada, 2008 Olympic silver medallists in China and currently top of the world ranking list, and Frederik Loof from Sweden, who came third at the Olympics in Qingdao, now with his new crew Johan Tillander.
These three highly decorated teams will be hunted by an illustrious list of eager crews. One of them is three-time Olympian, 2000 America's Cup winner in his home country of New Zealand, and Star Class World Champion of 2006, Hamish Pepper, who will sail with his new crew Craig Monk. Among the other top favourites are the Swiss team of Flavio Marazzi/Enrico de Maria (fifth at the Olympics and currently ranked second in the world), the former World Champions Xavier Rohart/Pascal Rambeau from France (fourth on the world ranking list), and the Irish sailors Peter O'Leary/Tim Goodby, who won this year's Eastern Hemisphere Championship.
A strong fleet from the United States, the Star Class' home country, will be led by George Szabo and Rick Peters, whose second place at the Rolex Miami OCR in January proved their excellent form. They will be joined by compatriots Mark Mendelblatt and Mark Strube, who won the 2006 Rolex Baltic Week and beat 79 teams to become European Champions.
The German crews, too, will want to prove their worth within this high-class fleet. Despite the fact that the last Olympic medal won by a German team in the Star Class dates back some 25 years, the nearly 100-year-old design has always been something of a German domain. This year's Rolex Baltic Week will take place on the same waters as the Star Class World Championships of 1966, 1977 and 1993.
Multiple former World Champion Alexander Hagen from Hamburg, sailing with Kai Falkenthal, will be racing, as will the current European Champions seeking to defend the title they won on Lake Balaton, Hungary in 2008: Robert Stanjek and Markus Koy (Berlin/Hamburg). When the first starting gun is fired on Monday, 6 July, there will also be a number of newly formed crews from the home nation: Johannes Babendererde from Luebeck has teamed up with big boat sailor Timo Jacobs as crew. Alexander Schlonski from Rostock switched over to the Star from the Laser dinghy, and will race with Frithjof Kleen (Hamburg). Meanwhile former Tornado wizard Johannes Polgar, from Daenisch-Nienhof near Kiel, has enlisted the Hamburg-based round the world sailor and America's Cup veteran Tim Kroeger as crew.
Three female sailors have also entered the event in this notoriously physical class. The next Sports Director of the German Sailor's Federation DSV, Nadine Stegenwalner, will team up with Ulli Daub from Essen, Sybille Merk from Neuried near Munich will race with her husband Michael, and Anne Pasemann will act as crew for the Berlin sailor Robert Niemczewski in the truly world class fleet at the Star Class European Championships of Rolex Baltic Week.
Rolex Baltic Week