Big entry for Rolex Baltic Week which starts tomorrow

More than 150 skippers have filed their entries for the second Rolex Baltic Week, which will start tomorrow (20 August) in Neustadt/Holstein, Germany.

The biggest yacht of the fleet will be the 58.66ft (17.98m) Swan 57 RS Happy Hour by Michael Heine from Berlin. The triple-handed keelboats of the international Dragon class will carry out their world championship on the Bay of Neustadt. Another highlight will be the IMS-600 worlds that are to start on the first Sunday with an overnight long-distance race.

“The number of entries has gone up by 50 per cent compared to last year’s,” said Gunter Persiehl, president of the organizing club Norddeutscher Regatta Verein (NRV) Hamburg. This can be mainly attributed to the Hanseatic Lloyd Dragon World Championship with their 75 top crews. There was such a rush that it was decided to include a parallel Dragon World Week into the regatta programme for the crews who have not qualified for the worlds.

The first start on the water on Saturday will see the Nautor’s Swan yachts beginning their Swan Race presented by Deutsche Bank (ends Tuesday, 23 August). The bigger Happy Hour is likely to have her difficulties to become the overall winner in a fleet of smaller competitors. Also Claus Bressler (Hamburg), last year’s winner with his Swan 56 R Chrila will have to watch out most for the Swan 46 Elan of Harald Baum and the Swan 46 MKI Gundel G. of Jens Kiessling (both from Hamburg).

Whereas the Swans will take up full speed from the beginning, the Dragons get a chance to get into race mood in a tune-up race on the first day. Sunday will see a charity race in favour of the World Childhood Foundation that was founded by Queen Sylvia of Sweden. Her Royal Highness will attend the regatta in Neustadt and will watch the race from on the water.

The IMS-600 big boats will have to miss this opportunity. The second race day of the Rolex Baltic Week will send them out onto an offshore race of 80-120 nautical miles through the Western part of the Baltic Sea. This race will be weighted by a points factor of 1.25 compared to a factor of 1 for all (maximum 10) inshore races (Tuesday through Thursday). “We need to be up front right from this very first race if we want to get a podium finish in the end”, such are the plans of the Kiel owner Horst Mann, who will enter the championship with his former boat, the Rodman 42 L M Hispaniola. Even though the Hanseatic Lloyd owned by Christian Pump of Bremen, who also aims for the title, the fiercest competition does not only come from within Germany. The Norwegian Al Cap One III had recently showed her potential at Travemuende Week and is sure to take on the fight against the two favourites. Two other strong challengers are Checkmate owned by Dutchmen Peter de Ridder and Movistar with Italian Lorenzo Bressani.

Among the 75 Dragon crews there are a number of former title holders from various classes including Olympic classes. The current world title-holder is German Dieter Schoen living in Elsbethen, near Salzburg, Austria. He will sail with his long-time crewmember Andreas Huber, along with Danish two-time Finn world champion Stig Westergaard in Chrisco. Another pre-event favourite is Vincent Hoesch from Rimsting, also a 2003 World Champion, who will steer Hll-Ariston with Harro Kniffka and Michael Lipp.

Entries come from 13 different nations. Traditionally, German and Danish crews make up the largest part of the fleet, but there are also entries from Russia and the United Kingdom, as well as boats from Sweden, Finland, Belo Russia, USA, Hungary, Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and even Puerto Rico. The Dragons, who only have their world championship every other year, traditionally sail only one rather long race per day, and determine their champion on the last day of the Rolex Baltic Week.

The second half of the week will feature the Fun Cup (26/27 August), which will be presented by Mercedes-Benz Hamburg. More fun than fierce competition, but serious racing nonetheless – that is the intention of the Fun Cup. All entrants will be rated according to their yardstick numbers. The crews will have a LeMans-style pursuit start from in front of the large marquee. Individual yacht handicaps will determine the staggered start times. The smallest yachts will start first with the biggest and fastest several hours later. The idea is for the competitors to all cross the finish line as closely together as possible after completing the 80 – 200 mile course on the Baltic Sea. The first boat home will win the Fun Cup.

Eighteen German, four Danish and one Swedish team are set to enter the international X-79 class German Open. The 7.96m long keelboats have a beam of 2.88 metres and have been very popular for years, especially in Northern Europe. They are a one-design class and sail without handicap. These demanding racing yachts, manned by crews of five or six, will sail a maximum of twelve races to determine the winner.