This coming weekend is a time of great memories. In the Bundesliga, racing on the Berlin Wannsee will be three-time Olympic gold medalist Jochen Schumann. It’s the first time since 2000 in the Sydney Olympic Games that he will sail with Gunnar Bahr and Ingo Borkowski in the same boat. Their fourth crew from the YC Berlin-Grunau will be Erik Powilleit.
With Bahr and Borkowski, Schumann had won his fourth medal in Australia. That it was the Silver Medal “only", Schumann attributes today to several "bad nights”.
What is his objective for the regatta on the Wannsee, with his club positioned in third place overall in the Bundesliga?
"We, of course, go take a risk," says Schumann. Anyone who has won an Olympic medal should be able to prevail in the Bundesliga. But, this will only be possible from an America's Cup winner's view, when the wind blows strong on the Wannsee. "Then, we are well positioned," says Schumann. During calm periods the boat from Grunau might have a distant chance, because the sailors on competing young sailors from other clubs are too competitive!
That Schumann, who lives in Penzberg, near Munich, returns for the third event of the J/70 Segel-Bundesliga this season in his home, is typical of the Bundesliga regatta. "It's a super nice format that everyone understands," says the former Olympic Champion and Fourth Vice President of VSaW, Ulrike Schumann (un-related to Jochen Schumann, by the way). Ulrike Schumann will just be a tactician on board their team and she is looking forward to the debate with her famous namesake. In fact, a new esprit de corps has evolved. The same four sailors do not always sail for their respective clubs. For example, Jochen Schumann, was crew last year for a young women sailor on their club team!
The juggling of top sailors is one of the reasons why the interest in the clubs of the Bundesliga racing is sustainable and broad. "To be allowed to sail for my club, is an honor for me," explains Ulrike Schumann. “Our club’s participation leads to a greater awareness. The competitions have a huge role in developing that interest,” she says.
The situation is similar to the creator of the Deutsche Segel-Bundesliga, the former Tornado World Champion, Oliver Schwall. There were several advantages of the fledgling Sailing League: within the clubs you are getting closer together as members; the competitions are also a platform for the presentation of the club to the outside world, beyond the sailing community; and because sailing has finally arrived primarily in the general media locally and nationally, everything in sailing is gaining great exposure as a family activity.
How seriously do the best German clubs take the competitions, for example the Bundesliga races next weekend in Berlin? On the terrace of the organizing club, the sailing competitions are transmitted “live” via 60” LED monitors to the public with Hasso Plattner’s SAP Software Ag company providing the tracking and analysis software. And, if anyone ever puts some of the best German sailors on the Great Wannsee against each other, even the best of the past will celebrate that anniversary. Fifty years ago VSaW member, Willi Kuhweide, won gold at the Olympics sailing in Tokyo, Japan. Even five decades after his triumph in Tokyo, the aura of his success has still not faded. On the contrary, Kuhweide, today, is still synonymous with the international success of German sailors.
His VSaW sailing club will celebrate this famous anniversary in parallel with the J/70 Segel-Bundesliga regattas. And Kuhweide, who now lives in Arizona (America), will be traveling to the festivities. He will also take part against his one-time closest rival, the East German sailors Bernd Dehmel!
The erstwhile opponents are likely to be surprised by how professional sailors must be today in order to have success. "At the time, when Willi Kuhweide took Olympic Gold and later won the Bronze Medal, they had nowhere near as much training as sailors have today," said Ulrike Schumann. “However, no such service were offered to the athletes back in their time. For the J/70 Segel-Bundesliga regattas, for example, the 18 yacht club teams no longer need to bring anything but their sailing clothing! The J/70 boats are provided at the respective venues ready to go. A cooperation with the manufacturer of the boats makes this possible,” she says.
To build upon the successful times of Kuhweide and Jochen Schumann, the aim of the German Sailing Association and Sailing Team Germany is to elevate the sport within Germany. The J/70 Segel-Bundesliga plays a role in this context. The great stadium-sailing format attracts a lot of viewers and, unexpectedly, enormous public interest— thanks to modern technology. The last Bundesliga regattas in Travemünde were viewed by up to 25,000 people live on the Internet. "For now, that is a good number for sailing," says Schwall. But, also in Travemünde were many public visitors that were present; they were also able to experience the Bundesliga sailing very close in perfect conditions.
As a partner, SAP Software AG (Chairman/ CEO Hasso Plattner owns a J/105 and J/125) has used a combination of wireless WiFi and their world-renowned database technology to provide real-time tracking and standings of the teams on a “mark-by-mark” basis (e.g. you know how each team is winning or losing the entire regatta each time they pass a mark!). "We need to bring the sport of sailing on land," says Schwall. In Travemünde this requirement was met in spades. The observers ashore were especially satisfied, especially as the regatta unfolded quite dramatically on the water.
The success of the Bundesliga, meanwhile, has spread abroad. In Denmark, there is now a similar league. Austria, Sweden, Czech Republic, Russia and the United States will soon follow. In Europe, like football (soccer to Americans) a Champions League is evolving. A first test for this is to take place this fall in Copenhagen, Denmark on the J/70s (12 boats and 24 teams total).
Should Schumann be there in Denmark with his club from YC Grunau, it could lead to a duel, in which he could settle an old score in the J/70 SAILING Champions League one day. In Sydney in 2000, he was inferior to the Dane Jesper Bank under curious circumstances. To beat Bank, might alleviate the pain of that time so many years ago to miss a fourth Olympic Gold Medal?? Time will tell. Perhaps, their children and friends will become good friends! Thanks for contribution from De Morgen Post in Germany