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OKs at the RYA Dinghy Show and Henry Wetherell Interview

by Karen Robertson 18 Feb 03:30 PST Stand C20, 26-27 February 2022
Henry in 'the' squall © Richard Bowers

With the RYA Dinghy Show just over a week away, the OK class association is getting ready for exhibiting OK legend and renowned sailmaker Dick Batt's new Ovington built boat on out stand C20 beside our good friends the Europe Class Association on stand C22.

With a significant upsurge of sailors coming into the class ahead of the 2023 World Championships being held in Lyme Regis there has never been a better time to come into the class so do pop past to say hello. While the 2021 season was better than the 2020 non-season, the 2022 Northern hemisphere season is looking like a bumper year, with sailors throughout Europe bursting to get racing again. Aside from the full domestic Open Meeting calendar and the Allen Sailing sponsored UK Nationals (Herne Bay SC, 14-17 July), the class features a full International calendar which attracts some of the best, and most sociable, sailors in the world to compete in them. We expect a good turnout of UK sailors at:

  • Spring Cup - Medemblik, The Netherlands, 13-15 May
  • World Championship - Marstrand, Sweden, 5-12 August
  • European Championship - Bandol, France, 27 Sept - 1 October

Our new National Champion, Henry Wetherell is one person who's OK sailing will be ramping up towards the 2023 Worlds and we were delighted to interview him last year after his convincing win at a very windy UK Nationals in Weymouth. This interview originally was featured in the OK class winter 2021 Newsletter which is still available online here

Henry Wetherell Interview

We are delighted to have a new National Champion in Henry Wetherell and he's kindly taken some time out for a chat about all things OK and sailing.

Karen Robertson: Hi Henry, thanks for letting us speak to you. You've burst onto the OK scene this year by taking a convincing win in the Nationals from OK legend Nick Craig, which isn't an easy task by any means. Can you tell us a little about your sailing background and any highlights of your sailing career to date?

Henry Wetherell: Hi, I grew up on a small pond called Beaver Sailing Club and sailed Toppers, Rs200's with my Dad, Lasers and then the Finn. I would say my highlight is finishing 6th at my first Finn Europeans and winning the Under 23 category.

KR: What made you join in with the OK fleet this year? Was it something you were thinking about already or was it an unplanned opportunity when Charlie Cumbley's boat became available to sail at the Nationals?

HW: I was actually thinking of joining the class as soon as I finished my Finn sailing as I knew a few of the guys sailing within the class. It was made really easy for me to then do the Nationals as Charlie kindly offered me his boat as he was at the J70 Worlds. His mast and North Sails combination was perfect for me too along with a great Ovington boat.

KR: How did you find the boat to sail and did you have much practice in it before the Nationals? You certainly seemed to make it go quickly right from the first start.

HW: I didn't have much practice before the event, just the sail from WPNSA to Weymouth Sailing club the day before. I found the boat actually very tweaky on the water, each control made big changes to the overall shape. I was having to learn how to sail the boat whilst racing. It was quite noticeable when my rudder popped off up the second beat in the first race!

KR: The Nationals was a seriously windy event with some epic squalls coming through. Coming into the OK from the larger Finn, did you find sailing it in that sort of breeze a little easier because of your Finn background and do you have any Finn tips to share with the OKs for getting downhill quickly and safely? I see from photos of the Saturday that you were sailing with your centreboard fully down on the run.

HW: I would say the OK is a cross between a Laser and the Finn. Sail controls are the same as a Finn but it's much lighter so you can really spin the boat on a dime if you need to.

I would say it was easier to get around the course in a breeze just because it's lighter than a Finn and you can control the heel of the boat more with your body weight.

I think my tips for getting downwind in the breeze is centreboard either down or up very slightly as the board is already quite small so it gets quite loose if you bring the board up too much and your body weight back as far as possible so the bow doesn't dig in. Also having enough vang on to close the leech enough so the boat doesn't always want to death roll on top of you. Another one is generally you're safest the faster you go, if you back off you'll probably be in more danger than if you just get it ripping.

KR: I understand you're planning to go to the OK Worlds in Sweden in 2022 (Covid etc permitting of course). Is this as far ahead as you've planned your OK sailing at the moment or are you targeting the 2023 OK Worlds in Lyme Regis?

HW: I was planning to really aim for the Lyme Regis Worlds, I think this could attract ex Finn sailors and some Laser sailors if they can get hold of boats. But it looks as though I can get to the Worlds next year in Sweden just after Cowes Week so I'm looking forward to that.

KR: We've seen many older world class sailors such as Freddy Loof come into the class to sail 'just for fun' and the standard in the international fleet seems to be getting higher every year. With the Finn being (unjustly IMO) dropped from the Olympics, do you think we might see more of younger Finn sailors like yourself move across to the OK? It's perhaps a more economical boat to campaign than the Finn.

I really hope guys who either sail the laser or are too big for the laser sail the OK in the future as I think it'd a great class to learn some different skills whilst also applying the skills they have from what they already do. I hope we see more Finn sailors sailing the OK as you can sail them at 80-100kg no problem as you can get a mast and sail combination to suit you.

KR: British Sailing Team (BST) Finns sailors are famed for their physical fitness and hiking ability. Do you have any key exercises or routines that you'd recommend others do to improve their hiking fitness.

HW: I recommend cycling to build your aerobic capacity and help yourself recover day in and day out. Also hitting the gym to build your strength but the only exercise really to get better at hiking... is hiking.

KR: The OK Nationals were sailed in Weymouth Bay, which must be a venue you've spent a lot of time sailing at with the BST, but the places we have spent the most time sailing at are not always our favourites. So what are your all time favourite sailing venues both here in the UK and abroad and why?

I've had some epic days sailing at Highcliffe in the summer but my favourites abroad are Lake Garda and Sydney, that was pretty cool having to dodge thousands of boats on a Saturday afternoon.

KR: I see from Instagram you've been doing some Moth and J70 sailing as well this year. Both look exciting classes to be in. Are you involved in any other classes as well?

HW: I also sail Etchells from time to time but mostly those two right now. I'm still involved in the Finn class doing some coaching whenever possible.

KR: Looking beyond singlehanders are smaller racing yachts, do you have any ambitions or plans to follow the pro-sailor path towards the Americas Cup? There's certainly a few Kiwis who sail OKs for fun, so you'd be in good company there.

HW: I'd love to, but as of right now it's quite hard to get into a team. I'm sailing my Moth down in Portland as much as I can to improve my foiling and I hope I have some racing skills that could transfer over. Who knows what the future will hold but I would definitely like to do be part of an Americas cup team.

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