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OK Dinghy World Championship - Friendships, culture and intense racing

by Robert Deaves on 3 Jan 2015
Former World Champions in Black Rock: Glenn Collings (1984), Greg Wilcox (2002), Mark Fisher (1986), Peter Milne (1999), Roger Blasse (1998 and 2013). Robert Deaves
An OK Dinghy World Championship is always so much more that the pinnacle event in the class. It is also an annual gathering of old friends from across the world, almost a pilgrimage that keeps the class enthusiasts coming back year after year. While some sailors find it hard to ignore the OK call, competing every year for longer than they can remember, a number of sailors in Black Rock this week have made a return to the class they once loved and are having another crack at the world title.

For some of the sailors here it is their first OK Dinghy Worlds, other such as Andre Blasse (AUS), Roger Blasse (AUS), Greg Wilcox (NZL), Alistair Deaves (NZL) and Gavin Waldron (GBR) are approaching, or over, 20 championships.

Some are missing with injury. Shoulder injuries appear to be in vogue with OKDIA Vice-President Mike Wilde (NZL) staying home, while local sailor Don Williams (AUS) assisted with measurement with one useful arm but was unable to sail. It was also expected that Rod Davis (NZL) would sail, but his other commitments had taken their toll, and he decided to stay home as well.

The new sailors are finding out what the OK Dinghy is all about. From the Finn class, there is the three time Olympian Anthony Nossiter (AUS), a recent campaigner Matt Coutts (NZL) and long time Finn sailor Rob McMillan (AUS). They are finding out that there is a bit more to the class than they originally thought.

Then there are the returning world champions. There are four here. Roger Blasse won in 1998 and 2013, Wilcox won in 2002, Glenn Collings (AUS) won in 1984 and Peter Milne (AUS) won in 1999.

For Collings, this week is his first time in an OK Dinghy for nearly 30 years. He won the OK Dinghy world title in 1984 in Sonderborg, Denmark.

What brought him back? 'This is my home town so I thought they would be good fun to do this after so many years. I had a sail and remembered I really enjoyed sailing OKs. They are great to sail in all conditions, especially downwind. I sailed a worlds in New Zealand in 1985 but didn't do any training for that and haven't sailed one since. Since then I have sailed Etchells, and Tasars and a bit of Lasers.'

How has the class changed since then? 'The mast and sails have developed a lot since my day, they have got a lot harder with so many big sailors in the class these days. I wasn't a super lightweight back then, but I am now. The boats haven't changed that much though – it's all pretty similar and still a lot of fun to sail. But still very hard. The people in the class are the same, maybe there are a few more professionals in the class nowadays.'

Is he back for the long term. 'I don't know. The worlds don't come to Australia very often and I would find it hard to go overseas now. But I might be able to find an old boat I can fix up.'

'I was really surprised how well I went on the first day.' Collings got a fifth and a tenth. 'I am just trying to focus on the right things. I still think I am a bit slow at times, but I didn't seem to be in the first two races. In the third race I just went the wrong way. The wind did what I expected it to do, but the direction didn't do what we expected. It was one of those races when you say 'I'll do what the locals do' and then you don't do it when you get the regatta.'

Looking at the conditions he said, 'Occasionally we get days on end of sea breezes here, but it's quite rare for that to happen. More than likely you get a bit of everything here, so this is not unusual. If a frontal system comes through then each day is different.' That has certainly been the case this week.'

'Back in 1984 my main competition internationally was Stig Westergaard (DEN). Stig was the one to beat when I won the worlds and was always a very consistent sailor. There was also Alastair McMichael (GBR) and when I sailed, and won, the English Nationals he was second; and also John Derbyshire (GBR) was third in the worlds, the year I won. It's amazing that those guys went on to do some pretty incredible things.'

'My best memories of the class back then are travelling and seeing lots of countries, which was always lots of fun. I always enjoyed sailing in different places. Basically it was my chance to get to see the world. I went overseas quite a few times and haven't really done that since.'

Peter Milne started his OK Dinghy career just as Collings was finishing. 'Glen was just finishing as I came into it. I only overlapped a year or two with him and then he went to New Zealand for a one off worlds, so it's a long time between events for him.'

After a gap of some 14 years, Milne has bought back his 1999 world championship winning OK Dinghy and is having another go. Why did he return to sailing the OK. 'Hmmm, these are questions I keep asking myself. I guess the thing that drags me back mostly is the culture. The friendliness, the intensity of the racing and the social side. Everyone mixes together really well. And of course the fun of sailing them downwind in a breeze is not matched by many other classes. So, that's what brings me back – the opportunity to sail my old boat against my old mates.'

'I started in 1983, stopped in 2000, and came back last year. I have done six months before these worlds, though I have been sailing a lot of different boats over the years. In 1983 -1989 period I did a lot of other sailing, with keelboats and Sydney-Hobarts, but always kept coming back to the OK. When I started sailing there was a core group of us with Andre, Roger, Neil Williamson (AUS) and Mark Jackson (AUS). There'd be six to eight of us out a couple of nights a week, so we all sort of grew up together. Really this is just the opportunity to race against my mates again.'

On the changes in the boats. 'The masts are very different and I really don't understand them. Roger very kindly leant me his mast and I had a brand new sail made at the last minute. I can't sail with a stiff mast, so I changed to a much softer mast which is like what I had when we had aluminium. I am only 82 kg now. When I won the worlds in 1999 I was 78 kg and I won the windiest race. But I had an aluminium mast that has an epoxy-glassfibre wrap around the top, so it was very stiff sideways but very soft fore and aft and that worked really well in the breeze.'

'So if I keep sailing now, I will have to develop another mast as I can't keep using these stiffer masts we have today. For my weight it doesn't really work.'

'The boats are different from the 1990s with the carbon mast but not a lot, just the masts are stiffer and there seems to be an increase in the size of the people sailing the boat these days. It's quite dramatic, so I don't think at the moment there is a lot to cater for the lighter guys, especially in the breeze. If you sail here you have to have rig that will be competitive in 20 knots. So I think we just have to work a bit harder for that. But that's the main change I see over the last 20 years.'

'I have my old boat back, all resprayed, that I built 18 years ago. It's still quick, it's just the rig that's not quite balanced, so I need to sort that out and see how we go. I bought the boat back and restored it so I think I'll keep it and do regattas here and there. I am still sailing other boats as well so it's not my main boat at the moment.'

Of the two former world champions, Milne is currently lying in 17th place after two 13th on day two, but dropped with a 38th on day three. Collings is fairly slightly better in 12th overall.

At Black Rock, the club has been buffeted by 30-40 knot winds all day long on Saturday with temperatures in the high 30s. The frustration of the sailors is palpable. They want to go sailing, but that will now have to wait until Sunday, which is the final day of the event, as for the third time this week the sailors have been kept onshore because of strong winds. Two more races are needed to make a valid championship and the PRO has changed the schedule for the final day to give the best possible chance of racing. Racing is now scheduled to start at 10.00 with a last possible start moved back to 17.00. So keep fingers, toes and everything crossed that we get the final races in.

Results after three races

1. NZL546 Luke O'Oonnell 15
2. NZL519 Matt Coutts 16
3. NZL549 Matt Stechmann 17
4. AUS749 Roger Blasse 19
5. NZL544 Greg Wilcox 22
6. AUS753 Mark Skelton 29
7. DEN1340 Christian Olesen 33
8. AUS735 Mark Jackson 33
9. AUS730 Michael Williams 35
10. AUS765 Anthony Nossiter 40

Complete Results:

  Race Number Points  
Pl Name Sail
Country Club 1 2 3 Total
1 O'CONNELL, Luke NZL546 NZL Worser Bay BC 8 6 1 15 15  
2 COUTTS, Matt NZL519 NZL Auckland SC 4 7 5 16 16  
3 STECHMANN, Matt NZL549 NZL Naval Point Club 1 5 11 17 17 Veterans
4 BLASSE, Roger AUS749 AUS BRYC 11 2 6 19 19 Veterans
5 WILCOX, Greg NZL544 NZL Potsdamer Seglerverien 3 12 7 22 22 Veterans
6 SKELTON, Mark AUS753 AUS   7 19 3 29 29 Veterans
7 OLESEN, Christian DEN1340 DEN VSK 14 17 2 33 33  
8 JACKSON, Mark AUS735 AUS BRYC 9 16 8 33 33 Veterans
9 WILLIAMS, Michael AUS730 AUS BRYC 6 8 21 35 35 Veterans
10 NOSSITER, Anthony AUS765 AUS MHYC 22 1 17 40 40 Veterans
11 MCMILLAN, Robert AUS766 AUS WSC/RPAYC 20 4 20 44 44 Veterans
12 COLLINGS, Glenn AUS535 AUS Safety Beach SC 5 10 30 45 45 Veterans
13 DOUGLAS, Bradley NZL369 NZL Wakatere BC 12 20 22 54 54  
14 BLASSE, Andre AUS729 AUS BRYC 17 18 19 54 54 Veterans
15 PERROW, Mark NZL551 NZL Waiuku YC 15 11 34 60 60  
16 CLOUGH, Jonathan NZL498 NZL Wakatere BC 21 38 4 63 63  
17 MILNE, Peter AUS694 AUS BRYC 13 13 38 64 64 Veterans
18 HOOGENBOOM, David NZL303 NZL Waiuku Yacht Club 26 34 9 69 69 Masters
19 WILLIAMS, Brent AUS754 AUS ASC 24 26 24 74 74 Veterans
20 DEAVES, Alistair NZL542 NZL Wakatere BC 29 37 10 76 76 Veterans
21 BOURNE, Dave GBR2157 GBR Upriver YC 34 27 15 76 76 Veterans
22 MCDOWELL, Steve NZL545 NZL Worser Bay BC 28 31 25 84 84  
23 MORRISON, Ben NZL530 NZL Wakatere BC 27 3 56 86 86  
24 O'DONNELL, Edward AUS734 AUS Wangi ASC 32 15 40 87 87 Veterans
25 DAVIES, Tim AUS739 AUS Wangi ASC 10 24 54 88 88 Veterans
26 DEAVES, Robert GBR2156 GBR Waldringfield SC 41 33 14 88 88 Veterans
27 RHODES, Paul NZL557 NZL Worser Bay BC 23 23 43 89 89 Veterans
28 HORNE, Peter AUS764 AUS Drummoyne SC 25 29 37 91 91 Veterans
29 SVENDSEN, Jorgen DEN1445 DEN Hellerup Sejlklub 2 14 78
94 94 Veterans
30 BUSH, Daniel NZL478 NZL Wakatere BC 50 9 35 94 94  
31 KETTERIDGE, David AUS725 AUS Adelaide SC 33 46 18 97 97 Masters
32 WELLS, Gareth AUS742 AUS Wangi ASC 18 28 59 105 105 Veterans
33 PEDERSEN, Malte DEN1407 DEN Royal Danish YC 57 40 12 109 109 Masters
34 FENWICK, Chris NZL509 NZL Napier SC 30 54 28 112 112  
35 ASHTON, Bruce AUS728 AUS BRYC 19 78
16 113 113 Masters
36 ROBINSON, Peter AUS750 AUS Drummoyne SC 42 41 31 114 114 Veterans
37 COULTHARD, Adrian NZL531 NZL Napier Sailing Club 31 55 29 115 115 Veterans
38 BAKER, Andrew AUS761 AUS BRYC 44 49 23 116 116 Veterans
39 MANNERING, Adrian NZL504 NZL Napier SC 36 35 49 120 120 Veterans
40 POSPIECH, Rainer GER765 GER Yachtclub Berlin-Grunau 35 44 41 120 120 Masters
41 WILLIAMS, Glenn AUS719 AUS Big River SC 47 22 52 121 121 Veterans
42 JANSSEN, Folkert AUS733 AUS BRYC 65 25 32 122 122 Veterans
43 DAME, Dirk GER750 GER Segler-Vereinigung Mannheim 37 58 33 128 128 Veterans
44 HENGST, Rob NZL533 NZL Napier SC 48 39 47 134 134 Veterans
45 FOEST, Ronald GER688 GER DRS 55 68 13 136 136 Veterans
46 RONE, Eric USA536 USA Wakatere BC 16 42 78
136 136  
47 LOKUM, Gary AUS741 AUS BRYC 60 32 46 138 138 Veterans
48 WALDRON, Gavin GBR756 GBR Morecambe SC 43 53 44 140 140 Veterans
49 TROLAND, Nils DEN1391 DEN HSS 52 45 45 142 142 Veterans
50 WILLIAMS, Elizabeth AUS759 AUS Sandgate YC /BRYC 40 78
26 144 144 Women
51 HORVATH, Michael AUS744 AUS BRYC 62 21 63 146 146 Veterans
52 GERICKE, Dirk GER735 GER SG Einheit Brandenburg e.V. 61 59 27 147 147 Veterans
53 HAINES, Samuel AUS708 AUS BRYC 59 43 48 150 150  
54 HALL, Chris AUS757 AUS Ballarat YC 46 48 57 151 151  
55 SYLVESTER, Jorg GER726 GER Segeberger Segel-Club 39 63 50 152 152 Veterans
56 PIKE, Martin NZL554 NZL Napier SC 63 50 42 155 155 Masters
57 WILSON, Mitchell AUS695 AUS Wangi ASC 53 64 39 156 156 Youth
58 VISICK, Christopher AUS758 AUS BRYC 45 47 64 156 156 Veterans
59 WAKEFIELD, Grant AUS736 AUS DSC 38 61 58 157 157 Veterans
60 POWRIE, Sefton NZL547 NZL Wakatere BC 49 56 55 160 160 Masters
61 LYNCH, Peter AUS726 AUS Wangi ASC 56 30 78
164 164 Veterans
62 DEVINE, Chris NZL548 NZL Napier SC 67 36 62 165 165 Veterans
63 BROCKHUUS, Mads DEN1419 DEN Skaelskor Amator Sejlklub 58 60 53 171 171 Veterans
64 YATES, Glenn AUS767 AUS Wangi ASC 64 62 51 177 177 Masters
65 FERGUSSON, Ron AUS618 AUS Albert SC 51 66 66 183 183 Veterans
66 SMITH, Tim AUS740 AUS BRYC 70 52 61 183 183  
67 MOORE, Stephen AUS755 AUS BRYC 69 51 65 185 185 Masters
68 PARKINSON, Ashley GBR711 GBR London Corinthian SC 74 78
36 188 188 Veterans
69 FURNEAUX, Richard AUS737 AUS BRYC 66 57 67 190 190 Masters
70 THOMPSON, Erik AUS706 AUS Sandgate YC / BRYC 72 67 60 199 199 Masters
71 ROBERTS, Mark AUS762 AUS ASC 54 78
210 210 Veterans
72 CROMIE, Luke AUS672 AUS BRYC 73 65 73 211 211 Veterans
73 FLAVELL, Mike AUS543 AUS BRYC 75 70 70 215 215 Masters
74 WALKER, Michael AUS655 AUS Drummoyne SC 71 78
68 217 217 Masters
75 WILLIAMSON, Neil USA678 USA   68 78
71 217 217 Veterans
76 HENDERSON, John AUS715 AUS BRYC 76 69 72 217 217  
77 USTOVYTSKI, Slava AUS760 AUS BRYC 77 78
69 224 224  
C-Tech 2020 Tubes 728x90 BOTTOMDoyle Sails 2020 - Built for Adventure 728x90 BOTTOMLloyd Stevenson Catalyst 45 728x90px3 BOTTOM

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