Yachting Heritage Center: Flensburg, the new global mecca for sailing

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Flensburg, the new global mecca for sailing

Yachting Heritage Center: Flensburg, the new global mecca for sailing-center

Oliver Berking at the Yachting Heritage Center in Flensburg

Source: Stefan Anker

A passionate sailor and entrepreneur has opened a private museum in Flensburg. The first exhibition is dedicated to the yachts of European monarchs – with items on loan from Buckingham Palace.

D.he ship in the middle of the exhibition hall is not on an unattractive rack like at a boat fair, where the visitor usually first gets to see the exhibits from below. No, its entire freeboard hovers above the level of the floor, as if it were moving across the water towards the visitor. The elongated keel is in a recess and can be admired through a plexiglass plate.

The historical gem is called "Norma V" and was built in 1936 for the Norwegian Crown Prince Olav. At the inauguration of the Yachting Heritage Center at the old industrial port in Flensburg, drinks were served from her cockpit. And now it stands, the deep blue side wall polished to a high gloss and the fittings flashing, as an eye-catcher in the main room of the recently opened museum.

It aims to become a new mecca for the global sailing community. “We want to show unique exhibits and thus reach people from all over the world who are enthusiastic about water sports,” says Oliver Berking. The initiator and patron of the museum is the owner of the traditional silver manufacturer Robbe & Berking, and has also been running a classic shipyard in the immediate vicinity since 2008.

270 meter long bookshelves

The business of restoring noble old wooden sailboats is booming – they are the favorite toys of sailing-enthusiastic millionaires. Oliver Berking now wants to direct this enthusiasm to his museum and cultivate the cultural heritage of sailing. For him this is the logical continuation of his work as a shipbuilder and restorer.

The entrepreneur plans three to four exhibitions a year, all of which should revolve around his great passion: classic yachts. The 1500 square meter building complex was designed by the Flensburg architect Gunnar Carlsson and takes on the industrial charm of its surroundings. In addition to the central exhibition hall, it houses the world’s largest collection of maritime books, newspapers and magazines.

Yachting Heritage Center: Flensburg, the new global mecca for sailing-center

The museum houses the world’s largest collection of maritime books, newspapers and magazines

Source: Stefan Anker

The library is housed on a total of 270 meter long bookshelves on the upper floor. It took the Wiesbaden collector Volker Christmann 25 years to collect these treasures before he sold them all to Oliver Berking. “Our library contains over 8500 books and magazines,” says the museum maker. “The huge collection came to us in Flensburg in 2012. One of the main tasks in designing the museum was to find the right setting for it. "

All volumes in the library are also digitally recorded, making the Yachting Heritage Center an important source of information for sailing enthusiasts who are interested in the history of certain types of boats or individual ships. If Berking has its way, its center for sailing culture will one day become as famous as the Mystic Seaport on the American east coast.

"Royal Yachting" exhibition

He did it with the support of a few sponsors, but without any government funding. Berking is silent about the costs and only reveals that he invested a lot of "time, effort and sleepless nights" in the project.

The title of the first exhibition, which also includes the “Norma V”, is “Royal Yachting”. It can be seen until the end of January and shows how sailing became fashionable at the end of the 19th century as an elitist and expensive leisure activity – and how Europe’s kings competed against each other in regattas on mighty yachts.

The German Kaiser Wilhelm II and his uncle Edward VII, the King of England, fought a veritable arms race with his "Meteor". His son King George V loved the "Britannia" so much that he decreed that no one else was allowed to sail the ship after him and that it would have to be sunk after his death. Only a few pieces of equipment have been preserved from the legendary yacht, including the racing stand and the steering wheel.

Yachting Heritage Center: Flensburg, the new global mecca for sailing-flensburg

1500 square meters: The Yachting Heritage Center

Source: Stefan Anker

They, too, can now be admired in the Flensburg Museum, as can the dishes on board the “Meteor” – from KPM, the Royal Porcelain Manufactory in Berlin, of course. Next to it is the almost modern-looking deck chair on board the royal yacht "Hohenzollern". “We are proud that so many European royal families have made loan items available to us,” says Berking. "Some exhibits, especially from Buckingham Palace, have never been seen publicly before."

One of the main attractions is the gold medal won by the Greek Crown Prince Constantine at the 1960 Olympic Games in Naples. As a 20-year-old student he achieved victory on the kite "Nirefs", a gift from the Greek Navy. To this day, the dragon, an elegant keelboat designed by the Norwegian Johan Anker in 1929, is referred to as the “royal class”.

Busts of sailing celebrities

Anker was not only a designer of the highly regarded and difficult-to-sail kite class, he also designed some twelve, majestic meter-class yachts that also competed for the America’s Cup. A construction plan from his estate was recently implemented at Berkings Werft. With the “Siesta”, a completely new twelve was launched last year.

Reason enough for the landlord to put a plaster replica of Anker’s head in the main hall of the new museum as part of his “Hall of Fame”. "This area will be gradually expanded, we want to place the busts of famous men and women in sailing here," says Berking. Another celebrity has already found her place across from Johan Anker: Henry Rasmussen, founder of the Abeking & Rasmussen shipyard.

Yachting Heritage Center: Flensburg, the new global mecca for sailing-global

The area of "Hall of Fame" will be further expanded

Source: Stefan Anker

Rasmussen is a key figure in the development of the maritime competence center that Oliver Berking has built up in recent years, because he designed the "Sphinx". Without the dark blue yacht with the elegant stripes, Oliver Berking might not be where he is today, but only the boss of a famous silversmith.

But a good ten years ago, the enthusiastic sailor and two friends from the Navy bought the aging twelve, which had been under the name "Ostwind" as a training ship, and restored it with great care. In 2007 the "Sphinx" was as beautiful as when it was launched and took part in the classic regattas on the Flensburg Fjord.

Berking wanted to use the know-how that he had acquired during the restoration. On the grounds of the industrial port, he founded a shipyard where classic yachts are reproduced and restored. Through a large window front, museum visitors can now see how old wooden jewelry is being worked on in the hall next door.

In “Gallery 4”, which is also housed in the Robbe & Berking Yachting Heritage Center, four artists show their maritime pictures in a joint permanent exhibition, and yacht photographer Nico Krauss also exhibits his work in one of the rooms of the new museum.

For Berking, the two galleries are an ideal addition to the shipyard and museum. "If you don’t want to buy a boat from my shipyard straight away," he says with a mischievous smile, "you can at least start with a nice picture of a boat."

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