Setting sail in Kieler Woche

June 2017 – More than three million visitors watching athletes from 66 nations – Kieler Woche (Kiel Week) is a mega-event, the largest sailing competition in the world and the biggest public festival in northern Europe. Every year, at the end of June, the aquatic duels that characterize Kieler Woche inspire sailing fans and landlubbers alike. And every year, the high point of Kieler Woche is a great parade of tall ships along Kiel Fjord.

Kieler Woche smashes records! Like: 1,700 boats registering for regattas – in all the competition’s 135 years, there’s never been anything like it. The annual sailing event has been held in front of Kiel’s Laboe Naval Memorial since the late 19th century. Just 20 yachts took part in the first regatta off Düsternbrook yacht harbor back in 1882. Now Kieler Woche attracts sailing fans from all over the world. Every year, some 4,000 sailors gather in Kiel Fjord to take part in the competitions. And every year, in the last week of June, Kiel becomes the ultimate destination for sailing enthusiasts everywhere. Regattas are held in 16 national and international boat classes, plus the 10 Olympic classes. Yachts also compete in international ORC classes I-IV, as well as various one-design classes.

Cultural cooperation

But Kieler Woche is much more than just a sailing competition. It’s a full-scale spectacle with more than 2,000 separate events, gigs and concerts. The 1972 Olympic Games first inspired the public festival that now runs alongside the sporting event in Schleswig-Holstein’s regional capital. “At the time, it was all about promoting cultural cooperation,” explains Dirk Ramhorst, who chairs the organizing committee. “And that’s still a key factor today. We’ve got visitors coming to Kiel from 66 countries – that’s unique.” Highlights of the festival week include the awards ceremonies for the Global Economy Prize and the city’s Science Prize and Innovation Prize, as well as the traditional fireworks display. And once again, the three million or so visitors attending this year’s 10-day festival were kept cheerful and entertained by musicians, artists and plenty of good food.

Dedicated to sports and young people

“Good for Kids” charity campaign during Kieler Woche
“Good for Kids” charity campaign during Kieler Woche

All this is made possible also by premium sponsors such as HSH Nordbank, with a commitment based on deep regional roots. This is the 14th year in a row that the bank has sponsored this major sporting event on Germany’s north coast. And not only that – every year, the bank also runs the “Good for Kids” charity campaign during Kieler Woche (see box). An important issue for Stefan Ermisch, CEO of HSH Nordbank. “Kieler Woche is a unique combination of social cooperation and top-level sporting performance. Team spirit and fairness play a central role in the regattas – and these values are also important for children and young people.”

More about Good for Kids

“Gut für Kids” (Good for Kids), a charity campaign launched in 2011 by Kieler Woche and HSH Nordbank.
“Gut für Kids” (Good for Kids), a charity campaign launched in 2011 by Kieler Woche and HSH Nordbank.

Once again, visitors to this year’s Kieler Woche could buy blue charity armbands for one euro each from promotional teams or 120 sales stands. Or they could pay out 10 euros for this year’s special highlight – a black armband emblazoned with “Gut für Kids” (Good for Kids). The charity campaign was launched in 2011 by Kieler Woche and HSH Nordbank. All donations go to the “Kids into Clubs” project, a joint initiative by the city’s sports association Sportverband Kiel e.V., participating clubs, and Kiel city council. The aim is to enable children and young people to take part in club sports; the funding is used to buy sports equipment and other gear.

Boosting the regional economy

But even outside the festival week, the sporting event makes a major contribution to the regional economy. “ Several hundred jobs depend on Kieler Woche all year round,” says event chairman Dirk Ramhorst. He has been involved since 2004, as one of 450 volunteers who make Kieler Woche possible. For him, Kieler Woche is a very special event. “There’s a popular saying among sailing enthusiasts: ‘Do it like in Kiel’. One example of this is the live TV coverage of the sailing competitions, so the spectators back on shore can see it all up close. It’s a unique blend of tradition and innovation.”

„There’s a popular saying among sailing enthusiasts: ‘Do it like in Kiel’.“

Dirk Ramhorst, Chairman of the Kieler Woche organizing committee

Bringing audience and athletes together

"Being so close to the spectators – there’s nothing like it anywhere else!"

But Kieler Woche isn’t just an annual highlight for sports lovers and visitors from around the world – it’s also good news for the region’s professional athletes. Jan-Hauke Erichsen trains in Schilksee harbor, so for him, having the regatta on his doorstep is a big incentive. “Being so close to the spectators, there’s nothing like it anywhere else! You come ashore and you meet all these people standing there watching you, talking to you, cheering you!”

Sporting diversity

Every year, the competitors start their regattas from the Schilksee Olympic Center. This year, sailors from 66 countries competed for trophies in 16 different classes. Spectators along the Kiellinie – the western side of Kiel Fjord – enjoyed a number of special competitions such as Optimist dinghy races, canoe polo and “Kutterpullen” rowing races. This year, there was another sporting highlight – the Para World Sailing Championships, masterminded by World Sailing and the organizers of Kieler Woche to promote inclusiveness in sailing. The inclusion of sailors with disabilities has been an important part of Kieler Woche for many years.

Kieler Woche 2018 will see more world-class sport as the city hosts the final of the Sailing World Cup – the high point of the international Olympic and Paralympic racing series. This is another feather in the cap of Kiel.Sailing.City, underscoring the city’s reputation as the world capital of sailing.

Kieler Woche in figures

  • 135 years of Kieler Woche
  • 4,000 sailors on 1,699 boats
  • 16 sailing competitions
  • 3 million visitors
  • 16 stages with live music
  • 555 Kieler Woche flags flying