Warnemünde in the east of Germany is a particularly popular choice as the venue for the 46th OK Dinghy World Championships, scheduled to open next weekend. So far 89 sailors from Australia, Denmark, Great Britain, Germany, New Zealand, Poland and Sweden have entered for what promises to be a tough and hard fought for event. Undoubtedly the three times and current World Champion, Nick Craig (GBR) is the favourite to take the title for a fourth year in a row.
Ask any OK Dinghy sailor what their favourite venue is and the answer from many of them will be Warnemünde, in the east of Germany. Ask them why, and they will say because the water offers some of the best sailing conditions anywhere in the world, the onshore facilities are great, the people are friendly, the town is wonderful and the beer is plentiful.
Undoubtedly the three times and current World Champion, Nick Craig (GBR) is the favourite to take the title for a fourth year in a row. Craig is now regularly competing in four different classes, and he hasn’t been able to put in the amount of time he wants to in order to fully prepare for this event. However he is certainly one of the fittest and strongest sailors in the international fleet and produces a level of consistency across a range of wind strengths that few other sailors can match.
Craig commented, 'As always, the competition in the OK fleet is one of the toughest of the year. The class attracts some great sailors from many different countries and this is one of the main attractions of the class to me. There are always new faces, as well as old ones and it makes for fantastic racing as well as an awesome social scene.' The current depth of the class was emphasized by Craig’s uncharacteristic third place in the recently concluded Kiel Week.
However, if Craig manages to win for a fourth year running he will make history. Only one other person, Bo-Staffan Andersson (SWE), has won the title three years running and only two sailors have won the title four times, albeit not consecutively, (Andersson in 1988 and 1991- 93 and Leith Armit (NZL) in 1983, 1985, 1990 and 1994), but no one has yet won it four times running.
His main competition is likely to come from local favourite Karsten Hitz (GER). Twice a world champion himself, Hitz finished 4th in 2007 and has a new and largely untested German built hull. The German fleet is unsurprisingly the largest national contingent in Warnemünde with 27 entries. Other likely contenders for the top 10 include Gunter Arndt who was 6th last year, Martin von Zimmermann the 2006 European Champion and Oliver Gronholz who was 10th last year.
Elsewhere the fleet is as deep as ever with Thomas Hansson-Mild (SWE) likely to perform well, after winning Kiel Week with a string of good finishes. In fact many sailors used Kiel as a warm up event for the worlds. Pawel Pawlaczyk (POL) produced one of his best ever performances, won a race and ended up second. Meanwhile Jørgen Lindhardtsen (DEN) is likely to put up a strong challenge, although he has been struggling with injuries for most of the year.
The expected conditions in Warnemünde should produce more than a handful of wind and wave filled days and this is normally when the New Zealand and Australian teams are strongest. This year Mark Perrow (NZL) and Karl Purdie (NZL) are back again after finishing second and third in Leba last year. Purdie is sporting one of the new Icebreaker hulls, as are many of the Kiwis travelling to Germany. Andre Blasse (AUS), 9th last year, is also likely to pose a threat.
Apart from Craig, the British contingent will be looking for those elusive top ten places, and the highly sought after OKDIA ties that accompany them, with Terry Curtis (GBR) hoping to better his 11th last year and Jon Fish (GBR) just trying to put in a consistent performance without capsizing or making any other major mistakes, as he has been prone to do in the past.
There are also lots of new names on the entry list, so there could also be a few surprises at the top.
As usual the local organisers have arranged a full social programme that will include the official launch of the class’s highly praised 50th anniversary book ‘Completely OK’, and several more inductees into the OK Dinghy ‘Hall of Fame’ at a special dinner and awards ceremony during the week.
The major regatta sponsor is Bombardier (www.bombardier.com
), a world-leading plane and train manufacturer. Bombardier has generously covered the majority of costs for the social events, showers and camping.
Most of the fleet will begin gathering in Warnemünde from Thursday 3 July to take part in the three days of Warnemünde Week before measurement of equipment takes place on Monday. The first race is scheduled for 11.00 on Tuesday 8th July. Ten races are scheduled between then and Saturday 12 July.