The Nord Stream Race fleet of ClubSwan 50s embarks on its own adventure through the Baltic Sea, just as the Volvo Ocean Race was drawing to a dramatic conclusion 600 kilometres away in The Hague, with the outcome of a nine-month race only determined in the final few minutes, so skipper of Frederikshavn Sejlklub, Kris Houmann, commented: "The Volvo Ocean Race goes to show that anything can happen, and it's never over until it's over in offshore racing."
Houmann is keen to win the first leg into home waters. "We are from the north of Denmark so we don't really have a local knowledge advantage but it would certainly be cool if we can win the first leg," he said, remembering the frustration of leading last year's first leg for much of the way, only to lose out in the final couple of hours into Copenhagen.
Veteran of the Whitbread Round the World Race Henrik Lundberg who skippered Finnish crew Åländska Segelsällskapet for last week's inshore races, has brought in professional sailor Staffan Lindberg as skipper. Lindberg has had success at many levels of the sport, from short course match racing to long distance offshore, and should bring added strength to the team.
Following an injury to one of his crew yesterday at the end of an afternoon of VIP guest racing in the Kieler Fjorde, the Swedish skipper of KSSS, Christian Harding, was pleased to have brought on 49erFX sailor Hanna Jonsson for the sprint to Copenhagen. "It is great to have all these Olympic sailors competing here at Kiel Week, and we're looking forward to having Hanna join us for the overnight race to Denmark. It will be a great experience for her and she will be a very useful sailor to
have on board. Harding also has his 72-year-old father Dennis on board for leg one. "He's a very experienced offshore racer but he'll just enjoy coming along for the ride."
Dmitry Sudakov, part of Lord of the Sail, Asia, is looking forward to finally getting going after months of build-up to the race for the Russian crew. "Now it is all happening, and it's very exciting for our crew," said Sudakov. "We are good friends and we work well together. Hopefully we will have some good success and good times on the way to St Petersburg."
Ole von Studnitz, a trimmer for Norddeutscher Regatta Verein, felt quietly confident after some strong racing last week in the inshore competition. "The wind looks light, but not too light, which I think will suit us," said von Studnitz. "The ClubSwan 50 is very powerful and will make good speed even in lighter conditions. I think we will see a lot of place changes on this leg and like the World Cup football match last night, we can see that even when the Germans are behind they can strike back at the very last second!"
Elena Solovyeva is Head of Projects for St Petersburg Yacht Club, the organising authority for the race. Last night she hosted the NSR Opening Ceremony for all the sailors on a paddle-steamer cruise into downtown Kiel. The socialising, the getting to know each other, is as important as the racing. "The Nord Stream Race is so much more than a yacht race," she said. "All across Europe, hundreds of people have been working towards this moment - the sailors, the yacht clubs, the sponsors - it is a great collaborative effort to make such a success of this regatta."
The fleet is expected to reach Copenhagen by morning on Monday 25 June; even though the wind is forecast to be light it looks like the fleet will carry gennakers and make good speed for most of the way. On Tuesday the sailors will contest a series of inshore races where media and VIP guests will also get the chance to race on board. And then a dinner and prizegiving for Leg 1 and the inshore races in the evening. On Wednesday morning the fleet gets ready for the start of Leg 2, the long passage to Stockholm, Sweden.
The motto of the Nord Stream Race is 'Connecting Baltics through Sport', and already the five international crews have got to know each other better. Swedish skipper Christian Harding said: "We had a great time in Kiel, especially with the whole festival atmosphere. We're really looking forward to finding out more about the other countries in this region. We all share a coastline with the Baltic Sea, and it's great to discover the differences and the similarities from one place to another as we race from west to east towards St Petersburg."