A wet and wild start to the 2023 ORC World Championship
Photo: Christian Beeck / ORC Worlds 2023
The weather today in the Kiel Bucht region was exactly as forecasted, with strong westerly winds of 20-35 knots on the first Coastal Race of the 2023 ORC World Championship, producing a wild but fast and fun experience for the 113 boats competing in the event.
With the start made in front of Kieler Yacht-Club at Düsternbrook Harbor, four waves of starting groups successively filled the inner fjord with their small headsails and reefed mainsails, speeding northeast on a port tack close reach in flat water on the first leg of the course. Once around the second corner at Friedrichsort, the fiord opens up and the wind became gusty, and even more so once around the point at Lighthouse Buelk.
Here the wind and seas were at full force for a short lap of dropped marks and buoys to define short upwind and downwind legs before heading to the finish line set in front of the main event venue at Schilksee Harbor. Class A and Class B raced a 17.3 mile course, while the two groups of Class C raced a 12.6 mile course.
“It was a fast but challenging race, even with a small upwind,” said Jürgen Klinghardt (GER), skipper of his Italia 9.98 PATENT 4 entry in Class C. “We had the #4 jib up and a reef in the main. The conditions were tough, but if you were properly prepared and made the right sail choice, it was okay. Seamanship won today.”
Similar upbeat views were expressed by Willem Ellemeet (NED) today about sailing his Dufour 40 x2.10 FLYING DOLPHIN. “We started with the #3 jib and a full main, which we think was OK at the start, but once we got to the corner the wind got stronger so we had to reef to keep control. It was a good race course, a good start to the championship, and we had fun. My main trimmer is Belgian, and I told him he had to work hard today to earn his beer!”
There were some, however, who felt the conditions exceeded their comfort level, and retired after starting. One was the young team on the Farr 42 UNIVERSITAS, whose skipper Jonas Missel (GER) said “We stopped racing on the upwind leg, it seemed too dangerous and we wanted to save the sails. We are all students and want to have fun at this World Championship. In the middle of the week, when the wind will slow down a bit, we’ll take off.”
Photo: Christian Beeck / ORC Worlds 2023
At the front end of the fleet among the pro teams in Class A, there was still concern for safety in the tough conditions. “We were in the lead on the downwind leg,” said Gavin Brady (NZL), tactician on Karl Kwok’s TP 52 BEAU GESTE (HKG), “but we got lifted with the wind at 140°, so it was better for us to put up a spinnaker to sail low enough to make the turn at the last mark. This was not my first choice, but this was a safer choice than having to gybe twice.”
Tilmar Hansen (GER) is racing his TP 52 OUTSIDER this week and is no stranger to rough racing conditions, having many thousands of offshore racing miles earned from decades of competition here and throughout the world. He viewed today’s choice of course in these conditions as a perfect start to the championship.
“This was a good decision for the Race Committee to have this race, it gave us a perfect level of challenge in these conditions and the start area was fantastic. It was also great for us to see so many of our friends out on the race course here in Kiel, with everyone working hard and having fun. We are looking forward to what’s next in the format.”
Despite the tough conditions, use of ORC constructed course scoring that modeled the wind speeds and directions for each leg generated relatively close results in corrected time. After 2 hours of racing in Class B, for example, the difference in corrected time between Peter Buhl’s Swan 42 SIRENA (DEN) in second place and Erik Stannow’s X-41 DIXI 4 (DEN) in third place was a mere 2 seconds, and only another 49 seconds to Jens Kuphal’s Landmark 43 INTERMEZZO (GER) in fourth place.
Photo: Sascha Klahn / ORC Worlds 2023
Arjen von Leeuwen, “Joule”, Class C: “Three quarters of the course was okay, but we also saw gusts up to 42 knots. It was more a fight for survival. The biggest difficulty was getting into the harbour box, though. We are happy to be here now and have a beer. We haven’t set a target for the World Cup, we don’t know the area well enough for that.”
Gordon Nickel, “Aquaplay”, Class C: “That had little to do with racing today. We are not here for that purpose. We are glad that we arrived safely, because we also have to take responsibility for the boats. There is still some boat work to do today. We had to change the headsail on the downwinder after we got a tear.”
Harald Brüning, “Topas”, Class C: “Our local knowledge helped us. We had a full main and knew that we could hold it, that we knew it. The start was great, others were very cautious. So we were able to position ourselves well right away and sail right to the front. We really had fun: every time we surfed there was a big “hurrah” on board.”
Lars Hückstädt, “X-Day”, Class A: “Half of the race was fun, the other half was too much wind for our boat – especially on the upwind. With the announcement that there was no wind limit, the Race commitee perhaps ventured out a bit too much in advance. You should also think about the material. But we also had our fun moments, sailed 19 knots without spinnaker and got out there what we set out to do.”
Jani Lehti, “Mercedes Benz”, Class A: “It was a tough race with 30 to 40 knots of wind – more a survival game than a race. On the downwinder, we had 20 to 21 knots of speed with the smallest headsail and the first reef in the main. In the end, we are happy to have made it to port without any damage. We set our sights on a podium finish for the Worlds, but it’s going to be tough against TP52.”
Kai Mares, “Immac Fram”, Class C: “Unfortunately we missed the start a bit, so it wasn’t such a good race for us. The wind was at the limit of sailable. Luckily we were in the harbour in time before the storm really started.”
Schedule of the World Championship 2023:
- Wednesday, August 9: Inshore racing: one to three races and/or one Coastal Race, Midweek Event with buffet
- Thursday, August 10: Inshore racing: one to three races and/or one Coastal Race
- Friday, August 11: Inshore racing: one to three races and/or one Coastal Race
- Saturday, August 12: Final race and award ceremony with buffet