Fun Format Encourages Participation

Published on September 15th, 2016

If the recreational sport of sailing gets too serious, we run the risk of losing the base layer on which the pyramid relies. Andreas Borrink share this report on what they are doing in Germany to keep the fun in their recreation…

Established in 1990 by German chief measurer Günter Ahlers, who copied the format during a visit in Australia and installed it in the Hamburger Segel-Club (750 members) for Wednesday night racing, the Känguruh (purposefully misspelled!) is going stronger than ever! We recently celebrated 25th anniversary with far over a hundred boats racing right in the town center of Hamburg on beautiful Lake Alster.

The format is quite easy to understand: Yardstick based, the handicap is not calculated from the time sailed as usual. Quite the opposite: based on the wind forecast and a max course length, every single boat gets an individual starting time (slow boats first) according to its handicap.

We start with the “Seezunge” Catboat (which should actually have an even better rating since its REAL slow) and end with boats like the J70s, the 505s and the good old Flying Dutchman. No catamarans allowed as they are too fast.

The big advantage is that if you finish first you win the race. Better yet, with the entire lot theoretically finishing at the same time, the bar is always crowded after the finish and the usual rule discussions can start right away. This is by no means fair (is there a fair handicap system?) but it is maximum fun!

This week we had a fleet of 96 boats (we often exceed 100 boats!) and through the season we will see close to 300 boats participating. And what a diversification of people and characters – from Olympic medalists to chaps who rent a boat to compete. They all rush to the club after work so as not to miss a single of the 22 heats scheduled during the season.

For the boats you will find it difficult to think of any local or national class not competing. Most popular are J/24s, 505s, Congers and the beautiful traditional H-Jollen in a wide variety from Carbon-tuned monsters to wooden pieces of furniture.

In times of declining numbers of sold boats, low prices for second hand ones and a national sailing league that takes away many people from racing – who just don’t understand why they should keep spending money on their hobby by owning a boat when others sail for nada – this unique race series really is a “rock in the wash”, as the popular saying goes.

The location, a lake right in the center of town, a 10 minute walk from office – you don’t see this very often. A great organization with dozens of helpers from the club, a social part hardly matched by any other, a prize giving late in the evening with random prices, little gadgets which you don’t need but are nice to have, this format combines for a sailing event you should join once in your life if you have the chance.

So if the Scuttlebutt community is ever in Hamburg for business or holidays, come see us on a Wednesday and we will arrange a boat or crew slot for you!

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