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Allen Brothers

2022 Allen OK National Championship Gear Review

by Karen Robertson 5 Aug 03:41 PDT 14-17 July 2022

The OK is one of those classes where the sailor has multiple options for their choice of equipment and how to set it up in the way it suits them.

Of course it is entirely possible too buy a full plug-and-play package from the main manufacturers, either here in the UK or from overseas and be ready to win even at the highest levels, but equally there are plenty of options for those wanting something different. The recent UK Nationals saw a range of gear on display with some interesting touches.

UK Manufacturers

Both Ovington Boats and Synergy Marine have enviable records in the OK class. Both offer high quality, ready to win packages with a proven track record. The Phil Morrison designed Ovington is legendary for its upwind speed, whereas the current Synergy Marine hull is a Dave Hollom development from the Skipper hull design, already well known for its downwind speed.

Idol Composites who's Icebreaker based hulls have won World Championships have been quiet in recent years with Alex Scoles concentrating on other projects. However rumours are surfacing of a further development to his Icebreaker derived hull shape for class chairman Richard 'Burt' Burton. We shall have to wait and see what tweaks Burt and Alex come up with.

JJ Boats have produced several top-class hulls in recent years to the Leech Mk4 design, which was originally designed a kit for home build, but with a world class performance record aimed at the heavier sailor and/or fresh water (i.e. Garda).

While each of the main designs have their own pluses and minuses, there is no doubt that all of them are capable of winning in the right hands. To illustrate this at the recent UK Nationals the chocolates were fairly evenly spread with Ovington having four boats in the top 10 (1st, 2nd, 4th,10th) Synergy having three (3rd, 6th, 9th) and Idol two boats (7th and 8th). Just to mix it up a bit there was also one home-built boat taking an excellent 5thplace.

Indeed, the introduction of the Dan Leech designed home build kits from New Zealand has really been revolutionary for the OK class worldwide and for most classes it has probably been decades since home built or semi-home built boats have been considered as a competitive possibility. Not only has it enable competitive boats to be built at home it has allowed the class to expand into other areas where no current builder exist, such as the USA, Italy and South America.

Using a Ikea-like laser-cut jig and laser cut panels, the hull build is quick and accurate using epoxy fillets and is finished off by glass sheathing. Jim Downer had a credible 5th place at the Nationals in the boat he built in his parent's house during the 2020 lockdown, proving the concept is as good in practice as it is in theory.

Rigs

Most European sailors use the Ceilidh masts from The Netherlands, but there are a few C-Tech masts around from New Zealand. Sails in the UK tend to be from North or HD Sails who are both major players in the class, but with a smattering of other sailmakers in the UK fleet including Turtle, ran by Kiwi OK legend Greg Wilcox in Germany and UK Sails in Denmark who have been developing new designs with Bo Petersen from Denmark.

Allen Sailing have made strong moves into the OK Class in recent years with their Ben Harden taking 6th at the Allen Sailing sponsored Nationals. They have produced a new design of boom and kicker lever as well as other OK specific components and the while the top three sailors at the Nationals used AOR booms from New Zealand, we expect to see plenty more Allen booms coming into the fleet.

For many years OKS have tended to universally use fixed rudders due to a mix or performance/ weight and the relatively shallow blade making launching with a fixed rudder potentially less difficult than in some other classes. In recent years more lifting blades have become available with the new alloy stock from Ovington and the gorgeous carbon rudder stock from JJ Boats becoming quite common throughout the fleet.

Set up and tweaks

Walking around many dinghy classes, you would sometimes be hard pushed to tell the difference between most boats, save by the colour of the ropes. The OK fleet can be very different and even on 'standard' boats there is always something interesting to look for. Here are a few examples from the 2022 UK Nationals Fleet Under deck controls were a thing back in the 80s, but are making a comeback with sailors looking for a cleaner, low windage solution. This example is from Idol Composites' Alex Scoles' boat

With the advent of 3D printing we are seeing various components appear on boats. Synergy Marine produced colour coordinated deck ring, mast chocks and controls pads using 3D printing technology to great effect on Patric Mure's boat and Karen Robertson's new Leech Mk 4 had a 3D printed compass bracket made using her son's 3D printer.

Radical

Twice OK World champion Jim Hunt arrived at the nationals with one of the most radical boats seen in several years. Another home built boat with input from Andy Rushworth and based on Dave Bourne's 'Neo' design development of the Skipper hull shape, Jim's boat proved incredibly fast in the first race it had sailed, disappearing into the distance, although no doubt Jim's formidable talents had quite a lot to do with that. The most obvious features include 'cranked' side decks that make it look a bit like a stealth fighter and a solid seat for the traveller which had the fleet wondering if it was for Jim to keep his snacks on upwind. Less obvious touches included carbon and Velcro mast chock retainers in place of the usual shockcord system.

OK Worlds

With the OK worlds coming to Lyme Regis in 2022 the UK fleet is certainly hotting up, with several new sailors in the fleet discovering the joys not only of the boat, but of the possibilities of world class sailing and socialising at the many international events in the OK traveller. The 2021 world championship, the first since 2019 are coming up in Sweden in august, but it appears that the UK fleet are opting to save themselves for the Europeans at what has become the 'must do' location of Bandol in the South of France at the end of September.

The next domestic OK event is alongside the Europeans, who we will again be sharing a stand with at the Dinghy Show, and the RS300s at Stokes Bay at the start of September. With a large UK contingent heading for the Europeans a few weeks later, it is likely to be a well-attended and very competitive event.

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