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Symonite OK Worlds: Home advantage helps Slater to world title

by Michael Brown, Yachting NZ 16 Feb 2019 23:44 PST 17 February 2019
Dan Slater directs the traffic just before the wing mark - Day 4 - Symonite World OK Championships - February 2019 - Wakatere Boating Club © Richard Gladwell

Dan Slater learned to sail off the waters of Auckland's East Coast Bays and that was a big reason why he won the Symonite OK Dinghy world championships on Friday.

When competitors had to tackle tricky conditions, and there were plenty of those moments over the five days of racing, Slater invariably put himself in the right place.

It meant the three-time Olympian went into Friday's final two races with a healthy 11-point lead and the luxury of a fourth-placed finish as his drop and it came in handy.

Slater was 24th and 21st in Friday's two races to finish four points ahead of Sweden's Fredrik Loof, with youth world champion Josh Armit, who won the final race, a further three points back in third.

Slater's victory was probably more comfortable than the finishing margin might indicate.

"I felt quite comfortable all day and I knew in that last race it was just a case of staying with my main rivals, and they were right next to me," the 42-year-old said. "My only fear was if they attacked me at the start and then went on to win the race and I had to play catch-up but that didn't eventuate.

"It's been a lot of fun. I was probably underprepared but did the things that were important and just sailed with a clear head. When you do that, you generally do the right things. And I was on my home patch. The days that were really tricky, I felt quite comfortable."

Olivia Christie, who is Olympic campaigning in the Laser Radial, was the highest-placed female in the 111-boat fleet, finishing 50th overall. She didn't know a lot of the people she races against but admitted it was probably a good thing given the fleet was littered with former Olympians, world champions and America's Cup sailors.

"I don't really know all the names so I wasn't really intimidated but I probably would have been if I knew who they were," she said.

"It's been really interesting learning how to sail the OK. It's also the biggest fleet I have ever sailed in so it has been a really good learning experience. It's definitely given me some good practice for sailing the Radial in big fleets later this year."

The tall stories had already started as competitors washed down their boats and prepared for tonight's dinner and prizegiving. One of the features of the OK class is the social element and Wakatere Boating Club commodore Simon Probert, who was also competing, was sad the event was coming to an end.

"In many ways, it was the most classic OK worlds it could be," he said. "It was fun, sunny, there were heaps of boats and we had fantastic support from all the sponsors, volunteers and the club. It was great fun over the two weeks [which included the New Zealand championships]."

Slater missed the national championships because of other commitments but loved getting back on the race track with some familiar faces.

"It was great to sail against the guys I sailed against over the years, like Freddie and Rohan Lord," he said. "We have gone through the ranks and done Olympic campaigns against each other. it's bloody good fun to sail against those guys again and it does feel a bit like the old days.

"Then you have Josh coming through the ranks, who is a gifted 17-year-old. I thought he was going to be the one to beat because he's fitter than all of us, slicker than all of us and has been sailing six days a week for the last three years. Probably a little bit of experience came through."

The next OK Dinghy world championships will be in Sweden and Slater admits he might be tempted "if all the stars align". It will be a different proposition, however, because he won't be able to rely on home advantage.

Results and standings after the final day of the OK Dinghy World Championships sailed at the Wakatere Boating Club Friday (112 boats):

1st: Dan Slater (NZL) 2 2 2 1 2 3 4 (24) 21 - 37 points
2nd: Fredrik Loof (SWE) 4 10 4 9 1 2 3 8 (19) - 41 pts
3rd: Josh Armit (NZL) (19) 1 3 6 6 7 8 12 1 - 44 pts

First veteran: Dan Slater (NZL)
First open: Luke O'Connell (NZL)
First junior: Josh Armit (NZL)
First master: Rod Davis (NZL)
First grand master: Bob Buchanan (AUS)
First junior woman: Olivia Christie (NZL)
First veteran woman: Elizabeth Williams (AUS)

Full results click here

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