Following our strong performance in Vilamoura, where we secured a second-place finish, we earned our club a coveted spot in the Youth Sailing Champions League Final in Kiel.
Back in 2019, during an interview with the local news station, we were all posed the same question: What was our ultimate goal? The answer was the same among us – winning the Sailing Champions League.
It might have elicited laughter, even from the interviewer, considering our humble fifth position nationally and not-so-stellar sailing performance at the time. But that's who we were, and that's who we still are: unapologetically ambitious, never letting our sailing performance dictate our aspirations.
Fast forward to 2023, and we find ourselves gearing up to compete against the very best at the Sailing Champions League Final.
But even before the event began, we faced a significant challenge – we didn't have enough money to make the trip to Kiel. Our expenses in Vilamoura had taken a big chunk out of our wallets, making attending the final seem problematic. Determined to make it happen, we started a crowdfunding campaign. It was undeniably a lot of effort, but every moment proved its worth. Without the generus support of our backers, we wouldn't have made it, and we're incredibly thankful to them.
With the necessary funding secured, we set sail for Kiel. We started the event cautiously, heeding my old coaches advice: "You cannot win the regatta on the first day, but you can certainly lose it." Taking this wisdom to heart, we completed the qualifying series in third place – solid but knowing we had more to offer. Our focus shifted to the final, where the first team with two wins would claim the event. Additionally, the team that triumphed in the Qualifier, in our case, the Bodensee Yacht Club Überlingen, began the final with one win already under their belt.
Our start in the first race was promising, as we claimed the lead right off the committee boat. Opting to tack out to the right-hand side, where we observed gusts of wind descending, initially seemed like a wise choice. However, it soon became clear that this was not the best decision, as the Regatta Club Oberhofen (RCO) benefited from a strong left shift at the top mark and rounded it just ahead of us. We engaged in a fierce battle over the course of two laps but couldn't quite gain the upper hand, ultimately finishing in second place. While it was a commendable result, securing a win was paramount, as it would have put us one step closer to winning the championship.
The second race presented its own set of challenges. We struggled with our speed right from the start and found it difficult to make up ground, allowing the team from Wolfgangsee in Austria to clinch the race victory. At this point, every team in the final had a race win to their name, except for us. If we don’t win this next race it’s over.
At the start, all teams were neck and neck, rounding the top mark closely together. We made a strategic decision to tack left on the second upwind leg, capitalizing on a significant left shift. This move propelled us to lead at the second top mark, with all teams trailing closely behind. However, after hoisting the gennacker, Niklas, my brother and gennaker trimmer, spotted a sizable hole in it – not an ideal situation when you need to win with top-notch teams chasing you. Nevertheless, we remained composed and secured a hard-fought victory. In the finish line video, you'll see both my brother and me raising our hands, which might seem like a celebration, but in reality, we were signaling for the boatman, responsible for addressing any boat damages. Although this win was crucial, we were already focusing on the next race.
With one victory secured, every team on the field had claimed a win of their own. The significance of the upcoming race was huge, for it would determine the winner of the youth sailing championsleague. Time was of the essence, leaving us with little opportunity to bask in our initial triumph, as our first priority was to quickly replace the damaged gennaker. Once we had our equipment in order, we made the strategic choice to stick to the right-hand side of the course. This decision initially placed us in the third position as we rounded the top mark. Our team was in hot pursuit, eagerly searching for any gusts of wind or shifts in the breeze that could propel us forward and help us catch up to the leaders, Regatta Club Oberhofen. In a daring move, we attempted to tack to the opposite side of the course, hoping to secure a last-minute victory. Unfortunately, our efforts didn't bear fruit, and we ultimately crossed the finish line in third place. This result mirrored our overall performance in the competition, with Bodenseeyachtclub Überlingen just ahead of us. The ultimate victory went to Regatta Club Oberhofen, who undoubtedly deserved their championship win.
The team was a bit flustered, knowing that anything could have happened in that last race. On the other hand, we had secured a medal for our Hometown Club and the title of the third-best Youth Team in the world. Our feelings were mixed, but we can all be proud of what we achieved and grateful for the experience. Even now, I get goosebumps when I think about that one race win in the final. However, there's also a hint of regret for not winning that last race. This championship, especially the final four, is something I'll never forget and will certainly be one of the highlights of my career.
I'd like to thank our supporters once again for contributing to our crowdfunding campaign, making it possible for us to win a medal for our beloved club and create unforgettable memories. And of course not to forget my amazing team: Thank you Nico aka Mr Gennacker drop, aka the fastest gennacker setter in the wild west. Thank you Carlos aka Mr Hardest oakleys, aka the best jib trimmer in the wild west. Thank you Niklas aka Mr Kaiser 1., aka the best trimmer and brother in the wild west.
Finish line Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCyv-8dG52c
My name is Simon Kaiser and I simply love sailing.