Top Claas

Thursday, 5th December 2013



505 WORLD CHAMPION CLAAS LEHMANN will never forget his first trip to Barbados. The popular German surgeon recalls his visit with great delight…


What was your reaction when Barbados was first mooted as a possible destination for the 2013 505s World Championships?


I was really excited when I first heard that Barbados could become the venue for the 2013 Worlds, and of course, I then voted for Barbados! I think this was way back at the AGM held during the Worlds at Aarhuus in Denmark in 2010.


What did you know about the island or the wider Caribbean prior to your visit?


I confess I didn’t know too much about Barbados, but I was aware of the distillery on the island producing the world famous Mount Gay Rum. I had also sailed once in the Antigua Race Week a decade ago, so I had already enjoyed a flavour of a Caribbean island.


505 racing appears high-octane sailing and very specialized. How did you get into the sport and in particular into this class?


  Yes, 505 is a very fast high performance dinghy racing and that’s why I like it so much. It is not like sailing on a tour boat and you never have problems being underpowered with an average crew weight. This is very different to, for example, sailing in the Olympic 470 class, where I sailed before. I got into the sport by having a solid racing background, starting in Optimist, then sailing Europe Dinghy before I moved into Olympic 470 class. I stopped for two seasons at the of start of my career as a surgeon, but a sailor I knew from 470 Olympic Class asked me to become his helm in 505. At first I didn't welcome it because I really had no time for anything because most of my days and nights were spent in hospital. But he eventually persuaded me to sail the following season and I sailed in three weekend regattas with him. After the first season I was so delighted from the speed potential of the 505 and the nice feeling of never being underpowered that we planned more races including big events like the National Championships and Kiel Week.


How much of your life is devoted to 505 sailing?


Leon and I sail 6-8 regattas per year, but no more. Our programme includes the Worlds, Kiel Week, National Championships, Euro Cup races on Lake Garda and some of our favourite weekend races, so our four weeks of holidays is easily consumed by sailing every year! In addition, we also train some weekends in Kiel.


Your 505 record is outstanding so what did it mean to add the world title to your sailing CV?

  We have sailed quite well in the last few seasons and got better and better every year, but we had never won a major title before Barbados. I won two times in the Kiel Week with my former crew and was German Vice-Champion several times in 505, and in Europe Dinghy as well. We finished 9th in the 2010 Worlds at Aarhus in Denmark, and fifth at La Rochelle in France. Our target in Barbados was to finish in the top ten knowing that this was always going to be difficult to achieve because all the sailors in the top 15 are world class. This was confirmed by the fact that former world champion Mike Martin finished 14th in Barbados. So, becoming world champions is not really another title added to our CV, it is our first major! Of course, it’s the crown we wanted most so we now feel very, very happy. We really feel like being one of the top sailors in the 505 class, but we recognize that in the top 15 sailors there is no big difference as they are all world class and on their day anyone of them could be the world champion. Barbados was our week, but we know it will be really hard to achieve another world title.


You seem to have achieved everything in your chosen sport and yet remain so competitive. What goals has Class Lehman set for himself in the future?


  We enjoy the competition and the challenge of tough sailing, but it is most important to have fun whilst sailing. We are still amateurs spending our free weekends and holidays away from high-stress jobs. Leon has started his business career now and I'm a cardiac surgeon so we are both in the same position. We don't want the same stress or pressure in our leisure time as at work! Our goal is to sail in the inner circle of the top sailors, and to remain in the top fifteen and take each race as it comes. I just want to feel good after sailing a regatta, having done my best and enjoyed the sport.


The 505 sailing class is very well structured and organized. Did the facilities and organization in Barbados live up to your expectations?


  The organization and the facilities were perfect in Barbados, and from our point of view there was really nothing that could have been better or should be improved. Everything was very relaxed and we liked it. No, it was much better than that- we loved it!


What will be your lasting memories of your 2013 visit?


  Our lasting memories will always be the final race when we overtook our opponents and became world champions and the next few hours with the prize-giving ceremony and the party afterwards when we went to the Reggae Club. But there were so many unforgettable memories including island cruising in our rental car, and discovering nice spots at the beaches for kitesurfing or relaxing and having a beer at the local bars. Of course, we will never forget the friendly and relaxed people of Barbados-they always seemed to be really happy so we called it the Caribbean style.


Can we expect to see you on the island again?


  Hopefully we will sail again in the Caribbean Sea with a bigger boat, and not too far in the future. Of course, when we come back to Barbados it will always have very special memories, as it was the place of our great sailing triumph!







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