The first ever Rolex Baltic Week that will be sailed off Neustadt/Holstein, Germany, from Saturday, 7 August, to Sunday, 15 August is only one entry short of 100 yachts.
Holger BENOX, Race Director and Event Manager from the organizing club Norddeutscher Regatta Verein (NRV) from Hamburg is optimistic that there is more to come: "We will get more than a hundred boats with the usual last minute entries",
he says four days before the regatta. The fleet includes boats as diverse as the 27 one-design J/24s, which are to sail their German Open and the big Swan 56R Chrila of Claus Bressler. The sailing highlight will be the International German Offshore Championship (Internationale Deutsche Meisterschaft, IDM) from 7th to 10th August.
NRV and title sponsor Rolex Germany should be more than satisfied, as they confidently expect some 700 crew at the premiere of this offshore regatta week. The IDM will certainly be the focus of attention with 46 teams on the starting line. Among them, the Swedish IMX40 Spiff from Frölunda in IMS Class 1. The IDM will be sailed in the three classes IMS 1, IMS 2 and IMS 3/4 and will start on Saturday at 1400, with an overnight long-distance race of 80 to 120 nautical miles through the Western part of the Baltic Sea.
"A good start and solid tactics are most important to avoid falling behind early on"
, explains Thomas JUNGBLUT. The distance race will be rated by a points factor of 1.5 and according to the rules, it may not be discarded. The Hamburg sailmaker will be the skipper of the highly favoured L+M Hispaniola, the Rodman 42 of Horst MANN from Strande. Her crew has just tasted victory at the dress rehearsal formed by the 115th Travemuende Week, even though they were unable to take part in the first race and started with a discard.
Whereas experts expect her to duel with her sister Hanseatic Lloyd of Christian PLUMP from Bremen, the IMX40 Moonshine of Matthias MÜLLER von Blumencron could also be a serious challenger. She came fifth at the IMS 600 European Championships during Kiel Week. The defender of the IDM title, Thomas Brügge (Neumünster) with his X-43 Extasy seems to have only a slight chance of winning again this year.
In the IMS Class 2, there will definitely be a new German Champion, as Torsten Bastiansen's Sailtron X Press from Flensburg will not be at the start.
Peter Süselbeck from Oberhausen wants to follow in his footsteps with the First 36.7 Westwind. He flew the German colours at the Rolex IMS Offshore World Championships in Capri, Italy, but did not live up to his own expectations finishing 22nd. Detlef Amlong from Schwedeneck and Froschkönig are set to repeat last year's success in the IMS Class 3/4.
The first International Bavaria Cup in the second half of the week has lured a dozen owners to Neustadt. "According to previous information, we had expected many more",
says Benox, "but a new regatta first needs to settle itself and that's our aim this year."
Three of the entries are the new Bavaria 35 Match. Their potential will be gauged against that of the classic Bavarias ranging from 32 to 44 feet in length.
One of the most prominent sailors will be Ronald 'Ronny' Wulff, who has chartered the Swan 45 Babs solely for the Swan Regatta presented by Deutsche Bank. "My own yacht is in the Mediterranean",
says the former president of German football club Hamburger Sportverein, "but that's no reason for me to miss out on the Rolex Baltic Week."
Last year, Wulff's Swan 53 Cheri had successfully crossed the Atlantic in the DaimlerChrysler North Atlantic Challenge organized by the NRV.
Nine crews have decided to put fun before performance and will sail in the Fun Cup presented by Mercedes-Benz (Hamburg). According to their yardstick ratings, the crews will start in Le Mans-style, which means that the presumed slowest boats will start up to a couple of hours before the faster yachts follow. The "Fun Ones" will include three Bavarias not competing for their own cup, the Swan Chrila and Saybia. This Hanse 531 recently sailed a promotional tour along the course of next year's NORD/LB Baltic Sprint Cup, which will be organized by the NRV in 2005 from Sandhamn, Sweden, via six stops en route to Rostock/Warnemünde in Germany.
The biggest fleet will be the J/24 class at its German Open. The favourites in this one-design class are the third- and fourth-ranked crews of 2003, Manfred König and Jan Kähler (both from Hamburg). At Kiel Week 2004, Kähler won just ahead of König. "Right from the start, the J's have welcomed the Rolex Baltic Week and promoted it intensely",
says Holger Benox, "this is why we have so many entries in this class."
Apart from the racing, the Race Director is also looking forward to an interesting event programme on shore. Every evening, there will be live music of various styles or a disk jockey on stage in the big marquee at the race village. Wonderful culinary delights will be provided by caterer 'Casino Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten'. The main prize-givings on Tuesday (10 August) and the second Sunday will take place on Neustadt's historic town hall square right in the city centre.