Germans Win Inshore Race in Kiel and the Fleet Is Learning Quickly
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."
Nord Stream Race © Andrey Sheremetev
Rasmus Damsgaard says the mood on the Danish boat is high, even if the crew from Frederikshavn Sejlklub have been forced to race for two days without their gennaker after running over it during a botched manoeuvre on day one. "We some issues wth out kite on the first day and it will be repaired and ready for the start of the Nord Stream Race. Instead we have been using the J4 to hoist up and down. But it has been good to see we have been rock solid upwind, even compared with the Germans. We are looking forward to some downwind sailing once we get the gennaker back from the sail loft, and hopefully it will be ready soon." For the time being Damsgaard and his colleagues return for two days work in Denmark. "I'm a project manager in a construction business, and I think my colleagues at work don't really understand what I am doing! This is how we choose to spend our holidays, which might look strange to other people. But this is what we love doing!"

Sandra Sandqvist, is the only women competing in this year's Nord Stream Race. She is calling tactics on board the Swedish entry representing the Royal Swedish Yacht Club, Kungliga Svenska Segelsällskapet. "It's been quite the ride, classic Kiel weather, windy but more sun than expected. It's been a useful few days, learning to get the big sail up and down, timing the starts. We're a lot better than we were two days ago. The boat is a dream to sail but it takes some muscles. It's hard to be a girl because I want to run up the front and I want to help, but I don't have the physical power. We have a guy on the crew, Bear, he's more than 2m tall and he's such a hero to have on board." Instead, Sandqvist's role is to play the chess moves around the race course. "I'm trying to figure out the wind and where to take the boat." She'll be helping race the boat as fast as possible to Copenhagen this weekend, but the Swedes have plans to swap crew in and out for different legs so maintaining continuity and consistency could prove challenging.

A broken forestay for the Russian entry - Lord of the Sail, Asia - means Sergey Musikhin's crew have had to miss the past two days of racing. But a new forestay is being flown over from the factory in Sri Lanka and will be installed in time for the Russians to begin the first offshore leg of the Nord Stream Race this weekend.

See the results here.

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