St. Petersburg, 27. August 2016 – The breeze got stronger throughout the afternoon for the second day of the SAILING Champions League in St. Petersburg (Act 1, 26. – 28. August). For many of the 23 international club teams competing in Russia, the warm gusts of 25 knots were too hot to handle. But not for the crew of the Société Nautique de Genève who won the last, and windiest, race of the day.
The tenth of 15 scheduled flights of races had just got underway but the breeze and the waves at the mouth of the mighty Riva Neva were really starting to build up. The nature of league sailing is to ensure that every team gets to sail every other team at least once. But this would be a particularly good race to watch, because it brought together the top three in the overall standings at just past the halfway stage of the competition.
The leaders after day one, Norddeutscher Regatta Verein, were still going well but the two clubs behind them were enjoying an exceptional run of success. The Swiss had scored 1,2,1,1 so far on day two, while Berliner Yacht Club had won six races straight. Norddeutscher were slow out of the start, as skipper Tobias Schadewaldt admitted afterwards. “We just couldn’t get the boat moving properly, couldn’t get the balance of the sails quite right.” By this time, mainsails were ragging in the blustery breeze, and head sails were hard pressed too, particularly the jib of Berliner Yacht Club when the front corner of the sail exploded, pushing them into last place.
No such problems for Société Nautique de Genève, with skipper Nicolas Anklin keeping a firm grip on the tiller to steer his J/70 across the finish line in a clear first place. “We have done a lot of racing in fast multihulls,” he said, “so we feel pretty secure racing in a keelboat like the J/70.” While the result briefly moved the Swiss to second overall on the leaderboard, Berlin’s skipper Stephan Mölle secured average points from the aborted race after a successful hearing with the jury. And average points on a string of first places is pretty sweet. Berliner Yacht Club now sit on a virtual tie for first place with their fellow Germans from Norddeutscher Regatta Verein, who didn’t look quite so polished in the big breeze.
Schadewaldt was only sixth around the top mark of that race but while others were looking a bit messy in the high-speed manoeuvres downwind, Norddeutscher were fast and sure-footed, taking third by the bottom of the first lap and holding that place until the finish, behind the Swiss and Yacht Club Adriaco from Italy. “Those were the biggest conditions we have ever sailed the J/70 in,” said Schadewaldt, who represented Germany in the 49er skiff at the 2012 Olympics. “But then those were probably the biggest conditions for a lot of teams out there too.”
For the final day’s racing on Sunday, the contest moves location to the spectacular city centre of St Petersburg when the race course will be on the River Neva itself. The forecast is for lighter and much shiftier breezes, so consistency will be much harder to find and there could be plenty of changes on the leaderboard to come.
This is the third occasion for 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. Twelve nations are represented among the 23 clubs competing in St Petersburg, and the top 16 finishers will earn a place in the grand final next month in Porto Cervo. In Sardinia it’s all about the battle for the silver bowl, created by Robbe & Berking, and being crowned the best yacht racing club in Europe.
Racing continues on Sunday at 10am, and you can follow the action live here: https://scl2016.sapsailing.com. Technology partners of SAILING Champions League, SAP and SailTracks are running a live broadcast and expert commentary from 12pm onwards.