Norddeutscher Regatta Verein swept to victory in the inshore series at Kieler Woche, the first part of the Nord Stream Race. Three days of close racing at Kiel Week have given the five international crews a chance to get to grips with the powerful ClubSwan 50 racer-cruisers, an opportunity to learn the ropes before the offshore phase of the contest begins on Sunday with the race from Kiel to Copenhagen.
While the German crew won with a string of bullets, including two race wins today in moderate breeze, the rest of the fleet is closing the gap on Norddeutscher Regatta Verein. Henrik Lundberg, skipper of the Finnish entry representing Åländska Segelsällskapet, very nearly took the final race off the Germans. "We were leading for most of the race, but unfortunately 50m before the windward mark the jib halyard broke and the Germans got past us, otherwise we might have won. To beat the Germans we have to be more consistent. We can match their speed when we are at our best but they have a higher average than us. This boat is totally new to us so we have a steep learning curve." Åländska Segelsällskapet finished second in the inshore series coming second across the line in each of the last five races.
Lundberg competed in two legs of the Whitbread Round the World Race almost 30 years ago aboard the Finnish entry UBF, but the 1,000 miles to St Petersburg will be the longest offshore race he has done since his Whitbread appearance in 1989. He is expecting a big learning curve throughout the race to Russia. "It has been fantastic to get these seven races in good breeze here in Kiel, and to learn what to do to match the speed of the others, but the offshore is going to be different."
Joshua Weber is the mastman aboard the winning German boat, although he's taking nothing for granted. "We'll see how it plays out over the offshore legs," said Weber. "For the inshore racing, we brought some more big boat experience to the table, and a couple of us have been sailing on a ClubSwan 50 for the past year. But already we can see the others learn very quickly and the fleet is moving closing together. I think we've got a good shot at winning, but there is plenty of opportunity for others to do well in this race."