by Mark Roberts
Commencing tomorrow, Adelaide Sailing Club will host the 50th Australian Championship for the International OK Dinghy.
Michael Williams, Andre Blasse and Justin Barr competing at the 49th Natioanls in Hobart - International OK Dinghy 50th Australian National Championships
To commemorate this important event, OK sailors from around Australia have assembled to do battle in what is shaping up to be an interesting week. With 40 degree temperatures in Adelaide over the past few days, a southerly change expected to arrive later today or tomorrow will bring a welcome change and hopefully the south westerly swell and strong sea breezes which Adelaide is most renowned for.
While 10 times national winner and former world champion, Roger Blasse, will not be sailing, a very strong fleet will be vying to win the famous trophy, including defending back to back champion from Victoria, Michael Williams, and fellow Australian champions Mark Jacksons (2003) and Bruce Ashton, who in fact won his second of two Australian titles in Adelaide back some 32 years ago. Joining them is International OK Dinghy President, ISAF measurer and multiple Australian Champion, Andre Blasse, who first won the championship in 1993 and has since taken the title a further three times, with the last being in 2009.
Roger Blasse on his way to winning the 2005 Nationals at Belmont - International OK Dinghy 50th Australian National Championships
What makes this class a true enigma is the longevity of those who sail the OK. Bill Tyler is in Adelaide competing at his 32nd nationals. Bill is 70+ years and is showing few signs of slowing down, although he does threaten to hang up the sailing boots each year. The Blasse brothers and Bruce Ashton have all surpassed 25 national appearances, as has Adelaide pediatrician, Dr David Ketteridge.
Added to the longevity of those competing is the ability of the OK to cater to sailors of all shapes, sizes and levels of fitness by virtue of the rig set up and in particular, the use of carbon fibre masts, with most being purpose built by CTech (NZ) to each sailors weight and sailing style. This evolution, away from aluminium masts, has allowed the OK to foster equality such that the Dr Ketteridges of this world at 60 something kgs (when wringing wet) and Bruce Ashton (not much more) remain competitive in most conditions even when matched up against the likes of Michael Williams and Andre Blasse, who both weigh in at around the 100+ kg. It is perhaps this factor above all that continues to keep the OK faithful coming back year after year and it is that which is also causing new sailors of all ages to move into a class where they can be instantly competitive and be surrounded by a group only too willing and happy to help out where required.
After a practice race on 3 January, the first full day of racing will commence on 4 January, with the first gun at 1pm.
Further reports to follow.