'The number of entries has gone up by 50 percent compared to last year's,' said a happy Gunter PERSIEHL, president of the organizing club Norddeutscher Regatta Verein (NRV) Hamburg. This can be mainly attributed to the Hanseatic Lloyd Dragon World Championship with their 75 top crews. There was such a rush that it was decided to include a parallel Dragon World Week into the regatta programme for the crews who have not qualified for the worlds.
The first start on the water on Saturday will see the Nautor's Swan yachts beginning their Swan Race presented by Deutsche Bank which ends on Tuesday 23 August. Happy Hour is likely to have her difficulties to become the overall winner in a fleet of smaller competitors. Last year's winner Claus BRESSLER (GER), with his Swan 56 R Chrila, will have to watch out for the Swan 46 Elan of Harald BAUM (GER) and the Swan 46 MKI Gundel G. of Jens KIEßLING (GER).
Whereas the Swans will take up full speed from the beginning, the Dragons get a chance to get into race mood in a tune up race on the first day. Sunday will see a charity race in support of the World Childhood Foundation that was founded by HM Queen Sylvia of Sweden, who will personally attend the regatta in Neustadt and will watch the race from on the water.
The IMS-600 big boats will have to miss that opportunity. The second race day of the Rolex Baltic Week will send them out onto an offshore race of 80 to 120 nautical miles through the Western part of the Baltic Sea. This race will be weighted by a points factor of 1.25 compared to a factor of 1 for all (maximum of ten) inshore races. 'We need to be up front right from this very first race if we want to get a podium finish in the end,' such are the plans of Horst MANN (GER), who will enter the Championship with his former boat, the Rodman 42 L+M Hispaniola. Even though the Hanseatic Lloyd owned by Christian PUMP (GER), who also aims for the title, the fiercest competition does not only come from within Germany. The Norwegian Al Cap One III has recently shown her potential at the Travemünder Woche and is sure to take on the fight against the two favourites. Two other strong challengers are Checkmate_ owned by Peter DE RIDDER (NED) and Movistar with Italian Lorenzo BRESSANI.
Among the world's 75 best Dragon crews, it is hard to make out the favourites, as there are a number of former title holders from various boat classes, including Olympic ones at the start. The current title holder is Germany's Dieter SCHOEN. He will sail with his long time crewmember Andreas HUBER, along with Danish two time Finn World Champion Stig WESTERGAARD in Chrisco. Another pre-event favourite is Vincent HOESCH (GER), also a 2003 World Champion, who will steer Hll-Ariston with Harro KNIFFKA and Michael LIPP.
Entries come from 13 different nations. Traditionally, German and Danish crews make up the largest part of the fleet, but there are also entries from Russia and Great Britain, as well as boats from Sweden, Finland, Russia, the USA, Hungary, Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Puerto Rico. The Dragons, who only have their World Championship every other year, traditionally sail only one rather long race per day, and determine their Champion on the last day of the Rolex Baltic Week.
The second half of the week will feature the Fun Cup, which will be presented by Mercedes-Benz Hamburg. More fun than fierce competition, but serious racing nonetheless - that is the intention of the Fun Cup. All entrants will be rated according to their yardstick numbers. The crews will have a LeMans-style pursuit start from in front of the large marquee. Individual yacht handicaps will determine the staggered start times. The smallest yachts will start first with the biggest and fastest several hours later. The idea is for the competitors to all cross the finish line as closely together as possible after completing the 80-200 mile course on the Baltic Sea. The first boat home will win the Fun Cup.
18 German, four Danish and one Swedish team are set to enter the international X-79 class German Open. The 7.96 metre long keelboats have a beam of 2.88 metres and have been very popular for years, especially in Northern Europe. They are a one-design class and sail without handicap. These demanding racing yachts, manned by crews of five or six, will sail a maximum of twelve races to determine the winner.