ORC Worlds 2023 on course for a record?
Compulsory and freestyle at the same time - World Champions, European Champions and enthusiastic Kiel fans at the start
Already nine months before the first start, the Offshore (ORC) World Championship (August 4 – 12, 2023) is on record course. At the end of the pre-registration, 128 yachts from 16 nations were entered in the list of participants, with some strong candidates from Estonia still missing, who dominated Group C at the World Championship two years ago in Tallinn and the European Championship this year in Hankö (Norway). But already now the second ORC World Championship in Kiel has the chance to set new records for participants. 151 offshore yachts from 15 nations competed in the 2014 World Championship in Kiel. This mark is unrivaled until now – perhaps only until August 2023.
In addition to the large German fleet, the Scandinavian countries Sweden (9), Denmark (8), Finland, Lithuania and Norway (6 each) provide the largest contingents, as expected. While at the World Championships on the Mediterranean Sea mainly Mediterranean countries were at the start, the majority in 2023 comes as expected from the Baltic Sea. Following the cancellation of the 2020 Offshore World Championships in the US, the venue for the World Championships will now alternate annually between the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean. The 2021 World Championship in Tallinn (Estonia) with 104 participants from twelve nations and the 2022 World Championship at the Italian club Costa Smeralda (Sardinia) with 69 starters from 14 nations will now again be followed by the Baltic Sea with Kiel as the venue.
In 2014, 70 German yachts were at the start here, and 60 are currently registered for 2023. The fast pre-registration success was probably also helped by a lure, because one of the pre-registered yachts gets the entry fee waived.
“This is just the pre-registration, of course, but we are happy about the enthusiasm that is already there. And there will certainly be more entries,” says Eckart Reinke, offshore boss at the Kieler Yacht-Club.
While some German yachts such as the reigning European and 2021 World Champions, “Halbtrocken 4.5” (Milles 45/Kieler Yacht-Club) around owner Michael Berghorn, had concentrated on the Championships and regattas in the Baltic Sea this year, others such as the “Immac Fram” headed by skipper Kai Mares are returning after a short stint in the Mediterranean. The owner from Dänischenhagen had won German Championships, Kiel Weeks and Travemünde Weeks with the Italia 9.98 and was Vice-World Champion in 2018. With the trip to Mallorca Mares sought this year the comparison with the big names from the Mediterranean. “Also to broaden our horizons,” said Mares, whose big goal is the 2023 World Championship in his home district of Kiel. In 2014, the “Immac One4All” (J/V49) had finished sixth in Group A as the second best German yacht. With the Italia 9.98, Mares and crew are now in Group C.
The best of the best will meet at the 2023 World Championships. The top six of the European Championships ahead of Norway in Category A, five of the top six in Category B and three in Category C are entered for Kiel. Among them, of course, are the German medal hopes. The reigning European Champion Jens Kuphal (Berliner Yacht-Club), for example, will compete with his “Intermezzo” in a direct comparison with two other Landmark 43s from Norway (“White Shadow”, Torkjel Valland) and Finland (“Madam Gray”, Sampsa Vehkamäki). Kuphal, who has entered The Ocean Race with the German-French team “Guyot Environnement Team Europe”, is one of Germany’s most dedicated ocean sailors. The Ocean Race will also see a reunion with Imoca in Kiel, as the race will take a fly-by through Kiel’s inner fjord on June 9. Kuphal and skipper Robert Stanjek (2012 Olympian in London) know the Kiel Fjord like the back of their hand. This year, the “Intermezzo” team won the Kiel MaiOR Regatta and the Kiel Cup as part of Kiel Week. And the Kiel Cup had it all with all the weather capers.
Even though the reigning European champion Michael Berghorn (KYC) had to settle for third place at Kiel Week, in Hankö the 2021 World Championship victory was followed by the 2022 European Championship victory and the reward for extensive preparation. To this end, Berghorn refrained from defending the World Championship title in the Mediterranean this year and remained true to his home waters of the North Sea and Baltic Sea. “We had aiming for the title defense in Porto Cervo in Italy, but then I had concerns about Corona. Maybe, the yacht is there, and we don’t have a chance to get there. And then when I was told that the 2023 World Championship is in Kiel, we decided to focus entirely on the home World Championship,” said Berghorn, who completed a full program in the north in 2022: MaiOR, North Sea Week, Kiel Week, and Rund Skagen in between. “We came in second there twice,” Berghorn said. The tripel was not the goal, and with the victory in ORC I, the reputation of a possibly eternal second was also wiped away in the Skagen Round Race. To that end, the „Halbtrocken 4.5“ crew was also expanded. “I plan to have a stronger rotation rather than an A and B team,” Berghorn said with respect to the crew’s vacation plans. On board as of now are two professionals. In addition to Dane Jes Gram-Hansen, Dutchman Frans Hinfelaar climbed aboard the „Halbtrocken 4.5“. “We have a lot of plans,” explains Berghorn. And the European Championship victory once again makes people sit up and take notice. The successes make people happy and satisfied, but at the same time, expectations are rising. And the competition is now watching the “Halbtrocken 4.5” even more closely, knows the man from Hamburg, who in the meantime also has two J/70s moored in Kiel and thus recruits and trains his own young talent. “We already managed 5th place at the J/70 European Championships in 2021,” says Berghorn, who will also sail some regattas in the J/70 this year: This way, he says, you get to know the junior sailors better, and the steering is even more direct.
The memory of 2014 is still deeply rooted in many of the active sailors. This is also the case for Kaus-Peter Boock, who took part in the World Championships in Kiel with his X-332. “As a Kiel native, it is a compulsory and freestyle event at the same time,” says Boock. For more than 25 years, he has been looking after the interests of the Sporthafen GmbH and, as chairman of the supervisory board there, has his finger directly on the pulse of Kiel’s sailing sports. With his “Quattro”, the man from Mönkeberg is always good for success, like this year when he won the Aalregatta to Eckernförde in the ORC III class. “We were getting faster and faster. It was absolutely our conditions,” Boock enthuses. The 2023 World Championship will be the fourth World Championship participation for the then 70-year-old with his X-332: Flensburg (2010), Kiel (2014), Copenhagen (2016) and Kiel 2023. “You have to give the Championships to where the active sailors want to sail,” says Boock, who would also have liked the 2023 IDM to Kiel Week as a World Championship preparation on his turf. The absolute Kiel fan has been present on the regatta courses with his X-332 since 2007, and before that with the 36 DB as an absolute long-distance fan. The aim now is to top the 2014 ranking of 28th. But for Boock, the most important thing is to be there, in Kiel anyway.
“We have already been able to test the innovative courses for the middle distance during Kiel Week,” says Eckart Reinke in his 28th Kiel Week year in June. The Kiel Week Head of Offshore, together with Stefan Kunstmann, who is Race Manager at the famous RORC in London and also a KYC member, is one of three Race Officers at the Worlds in Kiel. Both have already submitted their course proposals for the middle distances to the Offshore Racing Congress (ORC). Reinke, as chairman of the Offfshore committee of the German Sailing Association, is a proven offshore expert and a driving force for sailing in Germany. The internationally renowned Race Officer has been involved in four World Championships (2005, 2009, 2014 and 2021). Assignments at five European Championships, the America’s Cup, the Nord Stream Race, the Farr40 Circuit, as well as race management assignments throughout Europe are to his credit. “Sailing is more than moving yachts like big dinghies. Sailing also involves navigating during the day and through the night, calculating currents and charting optimal courses,” says Reinke.
The hope of ORC Vice President Eckhard von der Mosel that the World Championship in his own country will also provide impetus for the German ORC fleet seems to be coming true. “I assume that the ORC fleet in Germany will be enriched and that the offshore scene will be revived,” said the lawyer even before the outstanding pre-registration result. New yachts such as “Halbtrocken 4.5” or “X-Day” (Lars Hückstädt/Hamburg) are now fixed positions among the very big ones (Category A), while “Tutima”, “LM Hispaniola” – at the start in 2014 – are no longer there, and “Immac One4all” and “Uijuijui” have moved to small categories.
With the expertise of two Olympic sailing competitors, more than 130 years of Kiel Week and numerous World and European Championships, Kiel already ran into open doors at the Offshore Racing Congress during the application process. Good contacts can’t hurt either. And the Kielers have excellent contacts to the Offshore Racing Congress: Reinke’s mentor Eckhard von der Mosel is vice president here. The 67-year-old from Kiel was himself the head of organization for the Kiel Worlds in 2014, and he will also take on this task in 2023. Reinke, meanwhile, wants to concentrate on race management.
The infrastructure in the Olympic Sailing Centre Kiel-Schilksee with cranes, shared berths and parking spaces for the trailers, the race office with rooms for jury, race committee and organization, sailing in front of the spectators, a modern media center and areas for large event tents are powerful arguments for the state capital.
Comprehensive media relations are also guaranteed: The offer ranges from press releases to social media such as Facebook and Instagram, the presentation of the World Championship on the official event website to the photo and TV feed.
Framed by an opening ceremony and the award ceremony, two days of registration and measurement are planned, as well as seven days of racing.
As of today, the largest fleet is once again provided by the X-Yachts shipyard with, among others, the X-41 (6 yachts), X-35 (5) and X-332 (5). The Italia 9.98 fleet is also strongly represented with five boats.
Preliminary schedule of the ORC World Championship, August 4-12, 2023:
- Friday, August 4 to Saturday, August 5: Registration & Measurement.
- Sunday, August 6: Practice Race & Opening Ceremony
- Monday, August 7 to Friday, August 11: Races
- Saturday, August 12: Final Races & Prize Giving Ceremony
Text: Hermann Hell