St. Petersburg, 28 August 2016 – Berliner Yacht Club are the champions after proving they were the masters of every kind of wind and wave condition over the three days of the SAILING Champions League in St. Petersburg (Act 1, 26. – 28. August).
For the final day of competition, the race course moved into the historic centre of St Petersburg with the strong current of the River Neva setting an additional challenge for the 23 international club teams representing 12 nations.
The leaders after two days of open water racing were Norddeutscher Regatta Verein, twice winners of the National Sailing League in Germany. However, breathing down their necks were fellow Germans Berliner Yacht Club who had notched up six straight victories in the ever-increasing strong winds of Saturday afternoon out beyond the river mouth of the mighty Neva.
Question was, which of the two German clubs would make the most successful switch to the much shiftier and gustier breezes on the enclosed waters of the Neva, with the wind swirling around the ancient walls of the Peter and Paul Fortress? There were plenty of other teams waiting in the wings to pounce on any Germany errors, not least the Société Nautique de Genève who had also been strong performers in the high winds out to sea the day before. A couple of other clubs were making big moves up the leaderboard, with Regattaclub Bodensee from Switzerland and Yacht Club Adriaco from Italy tilting a potential podium place.
Before racing Toby Schadewaldt had been weighing up the tactical dilemmas of the Neva race course. “It’s going to be hard to judge the start with the current pushing us over the line, so time and distance will be critical,” said the Norddeutscher skipper. “And then downwind do you gybe out of the current back in by the river’s edge, or go out into the middle and aim for the strong wind, even if the current is against you?” Clearly the former 49er Olympian had worked out the pros and cons as he went on to steer home to victory in the first race of the morning.
The next race would see Norddeutscher in a direct battle with arch-rivals Berliner Yacht Club. It was a poor start for the series leaders who took a penalty turn for a start line incident, putting them into last place. Schadewaldt just couldn’t find a way back into the race while Stephan Mölle took Berliner to a much more useful second place. There were still more heats to come, but that penalty turn and last place was the moment Norddeutscher loosened its grip on the series lead.
Now it would take a similar mistake by Berlin for things to change, but Mölle and his crew won their final heat. That was good enough to give Berlin Yacht Club victory by four points over Norddeutscher Regatta Verein. “I can’t quite believe we’ve managed to win,” said Berlin crewman Valentin Gephardt. “We came here hoping to finish in the top 16, and racing against so many international teams we didn’t know what the level would be like. But I think it helps that we do a lot of short-course racing in small fleets in the J/70. Our boathandling was good, but you could see the standard of manoeuvres going up on every boat over the past three days.”
The significance of a top 16 finish was to earn a qualifying spot for the Sailing Champions League Finals in Porto Cervo, Sardinia, a month from now. Nyländsak Jaktklubben of Finland took the 16th and final spot, just edging out Halmstads Segelsällskap from Sweden who missed out by a single point.
This was the third time for the running of the SAILING Champions League, the international inter-club contest that has taken the competitive racing world by storm since it launched just a couple of years ago. St Petersburg Yacht Club were proud hosts of the regatta and are already looking forward to the next opportunity to host the League. For the near future, however, the SAILING Champions League moves on to Sardinia where it´s all about the battle for the silver bowl, created by Robbe & Berking, and being crowned the best yacht racing club in Europe.
To go back through all the action from St Petersburg, go to: https://scl2016.sapsailing.com. Technology partners of SAILING Champions League, SAP and SailTracks ran a live broadcast and commentary of the racing, the recording of which you can also watch back on https://scl2016.sapsailing.com