Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Rolex Baltic Week: Star Europeans Day One

Olympic medallists dominate start of Star Europeans at Rolex Baltic Week

Star Class fleet: RYS 7695 (BUDJAKOW and BUDJAKOW), HUN 8166 (MARTIN and BEZERƒTI), POL 8252 (GRABOWSKI and ORNOWSKI) and NZL 8187 (PEPPER and MONK). Image copyright Rolex / Tom Körber.

by Andreas Kling

Just under 90 Stars lined up on Kiel Fjord on Monday (6 July) for the first day of Rolex Baltic Week and the Star Class 2009 European Championships. With 11 out of the top 12 teams on the current ISAF world rankings taking part the competition was always going to be hot, with the Olympic contenders immediately resuming the battle they began in Qingdao last August - and some of them are clearly out for revenge.

The 86 Star keelboats had a tense start to proceedings, with a two-hour delay before the start of racing as committee and competitors waited for the weather to settle. After a cloudy, drizzly morning a new weather front came through at lunchtime as predicted, bringing sun and around 18 knots of west-south-westerlies.

The top quality fleet finally got underway after three postponements due to the shifting winds, and with the startline packed with ultra-competitive teams the Black Flag was brought into force - four helms fell foul of crossing the startline early, including Diego Negri (ITA).

Monday's single race was a two-lap windward-leeward course, with each leg around 2 nautical miles. In gusty conditions the Stars were powered up and sometimes overpowered, with two boats dismasted - Mats Johansson and Leif Möller (SWE) were first to lose theirs - and several teams reporting damage or torn sails.

Collision between German Star boats on the course. Image copyright Rolex / Tom Körber.

The early leaders were Kunio Suzuki and Wada Daichi (JPN). The former Olympic Laser sailor had a textbook first beat, judging every wind shift correctly to show the fleet around the first top mark. Behind them all three medalists from the 2008 Olympic Games were chasing hard. Fredrik Loof (SWE), who was third at Qingdao, followed in second, with gold medalists Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson (GBR) in third, and Olympic runners-up Robert Scheidt/Bruno Prada (BRA) in fourth.

By the second beat British team of Percy/Simpson had fought their way to the front, a position which they held to the final downwind gate, with Loof and Scheidt still in third and fourth respectively. Alexander Schlonski/Frithjof Kleen (GER) of the home nation were on their tails in fifth.

Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson (winner of 2008 Olympic Games), second in the 1st race. Image copyright Rolex / Tom Körber.

However, in the shifty conditions Fredrik Loof, sailing with new team mate Johan Tillander (SWE) made the better call up the final beat, heading left to just edge past the British team and take first at the finish line. Behind Percy/Simspon (GBR) were in second, with Suzuki/Daichi (JPN) in third.

Winner Fredrik Loof said afterwards: "We hadn't had a brilliant start but worked our way through the fleet. We were pretty fast in these conditions and gained step by step. Finally we overtook the Brits on the second half of the very last beat."

Second placed crew Andrew Simpson said: "It was a really tough race today, very shifty and much more wind than we expected. We felt like one year ago in Qingdao with all the Olympic medalists fighting each other. But also the Japanese sailed a clever race with easy decisions.

"We were leading at the second gate but Freddy took a high risk on the last beat heading hard left, this paid off. We're very happy with the second place and it's great to be back racing again in such a competitive fleet."

In fourth was current world number one Robert Scheidt (BRA), who was suffering some damage sustained in the breezy conditions. Scheidt explained: "We had a small rip in our mainsail and couldn't really trim it hard on the final beat. Otherwise we would have attacked the Japanese more."

Current European champions Robart Stanjek/Markus Koy (GER) were fifth as first home team, while fellow German boat of Alexander Schlonski/ Frithjof Kleen took 6th. Flavio Marazzi/Enrico de Maria (SUI) were 7th, Alexander Hagen/Kai Falkenthal (GER) 8th, American competitor Mark Mendelbaltt/Mark Strube (USA) finished in 9th, and Silvio Santoni/Fabio Toccoli (ITA) in 10th.

Fleet start. Image copyright Rolex / Tom Körber.

Tuesday's (7 July) racing is scheduled to begin at 1100hrs (local time), with two races of around 2-2.5 hours duration.

Results of the first race 2009 Rolex Baltic Week / Star Class European Championship
1 Fredrik Loof/Johan Tillander (Sweden)
2 Iain Percy/Andrew Simpson (Great Britain)
3 Kunio Suzuki/Wada Daichi (Japan)
4 Robert Scheidt/Bruno Prada (Brasil)
5 Robert Stanjek/Markus Koy (Germany)
6 Alexander Schlonski/Fritjof Kleen (Germany)
7 Flavio Marazzi/Enrico de Maria (Schwitzerland)
8 Alexander Hagen/Kai Falkenthal (Germany)

Rolex Baltic Week

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