OK Dinghy 50th World Championship Preview
No sailor has ever won five OK Dinghy World titles. Three sailors have won four titles and two of them called it a day after that. The third sailor in question is the current World Champion Nick Craig (GBR) and he is about to try for a record fifth title at the 2012 OK Dinghy World Championship, which starts in Vallensbaek, near Copenhagen, in Denmark next week.
But it won't be easy. This will be the hardest world championship to win in the history of the class. Being the 50th world championship, the class decided to make it an open event. Usually the entry is limited to around 80 boats, but this year the event has attracted more than 150 pre-entries, including an interesting mix of old and new faces.
While Craig is undoubtedly one of the favourites, there is a long list of notable sailors from within the class as well as newcomers willing to have a crack at the title.
Craig commented, “I'm really looking forward to the Worlds this year. It always provides high quality and close racing, good socials and some great locations at a truly international event. This year will be like no other with an incredible 150 boats entered, which will be the biggest fleet I've sailed in. With line starts we'll no doubt have plenty of general recalls and thrills and spills but what fantastic fun such a huge start will be.”
What of the competition this year? “I think the competition is looking as intense as ever with six former world champions competing plus some hot new talent joining the fun. André Budzien of Germany, Jorgen Svendsen of Denmark and Björn Allansson of Sweden have all shown early form so will surely be among the contenders.”
And the key to the event? “I think consistency will be the name of the game - last year a fourth place average was enough to win in a fleet half the size so anyone staying near the top 10 across the week will be looking good.”
The current world number one is Greg Wilcox (NZL), the 2002 World Champion. Despite threatening to retire several years ago he is still bringing home some great results and is expected to be near the top. Jørgen Lindhardtsen (DEN) won the OK Worlds in 1978 before a successful Finn career. He has been back in the OK Dinghy since 1993 and even at the age of 67 is still showing sailors 40 years his junior how to sail an OK, having won races at several major event this year already.
Another former OK Dinghy World Champion making a comeback of sorts is Mats Caap (SWE). Caap won the title in 1987, at a time when Swedish sailors demoralised the rest of the OK community, filling nine out of the top 10 places. The other sailor in the top 10 that year was Wilcox. And then there is Roger Blasse (AUS) the 1998 World Champion, back in a new boat, and always a threat. Together with Mark Jackson (AUS), he has been putting in a lot of time in the boat before heading to Denmark.
The 2009 World Champion Thomas Hansson-Mild (SWE) will be looking to put right his mistake last year when he virtually threw away the title after finding himself too far from the start line when the final race was started. He ended up third, just behind Craig and past European Champion Martin von Zimmerman (GER), who sailed his best worlds ever in the light winds of Largs last year. The current European Champion Bartosz Rakocy (POL) is also improving all the time and will be looking to improve on a fifth place at last year's championship.
And then there are the unknowns. It is the first time in the class for André Budzien (GER) and Björn Allansson (SWE), both successful Finn sailors trying their hand in the OK Dinghy. Budzien of course is the three times Finn World Masters Champion and seasoned campaigner, and has just won Warnemunde Week in a fleet of 60 boats where Craig could only manage third. Allansson, meanwhile, just missed out on selection for the 2012 Olympics in the Finn but is now focused on 2016. Both could pose a serious challenge for the OK World title.
At the Pre-Worlds in Hvidovre this weekend, Allansson showed some form with two race wins to end up fifth overall. The top four were all within three points of each other with Svendsen winning from Hansson-Mild, Stefan Myralf (DEN) and Craig.
And the rest? Well there are lots of other sailors capable of winning races and making their mark. It is going to be the most interesting and competitive OK Dinghy World Championship for a long time.
Vallensbaek Sailing Club is well versed in staging big regattas and is pulling out the stops to make the OK fleet welcome. Jakob Nybroe from the organising committee said, “We are extremely excited about the number of participants for the event. Being the 50th World Championship what better way to celebrate the anniversary than having a record number of sailors attending? Since around two thirds of the participants are expected to be camping at the venue it will definitely be a lively place during the 10 days.”
“Obviously this type of event and such a large gathering of sailors – many of whom will bring their families – is a big challenge for a small sailing club, but collecting on our experience from similar events, and with the help of a large group of volunteers from the club, we feel really good about taking it on. Approximately 40 volunteers will do their best to take good care of the OK community throughout the week.”
“The planning of this event only started last year, so we’ve been busy getting everything in place – the primary support comes from the municipality of Vallensbaek and Sport Event Denmark – without which it would not have been possible in any way to arrange such a large event.”
“We’re also really pleased with the cooperation and commitment from the Danish OK Federation. Having all parties fully committed is the first step in securing a success.”
The OK Dinghy fleet is famous for its social competence and this year will be no different. Nybroe continued, “The sailors will be treated to an opening reception hosted by the municipality, daily wet bar with food and drink, free breakfast, a couple of dinners, and of course we’re hoping for a great party come Saturday 28 July. Everything will take place within the harbour area, making life as convenient as possible for everyone.”
OK Dinghy International President Andre Blasse added, “As the International OK Dinghy President, I am delighted to have so many boats competing in the 50th OK World Championships. Who would of thought that opening up the regatta would attract almost double the normal allocation. The fleet will be hot with six former World Champions, with nine titles between them and at least 20 other place getters.”
“With Nick Craig looking to make it five OK Dinghy World Championships, he will have to defend his crown from some hot contenders, headed up by two former champions, Thomas Hansson-Mild and Greg Wilcox who both narrowly missed out on the crown last year. As well as the usual contenders, there are also some new and returning faces. It will be good to have them all on the water for what I hope will be a great anniversary championship.”
After measurement and registration from July 21-23, the racing gets under way on July 24 with 10 races scheduled until July 28. All 150 participants will carry tracking devices allowing everyone with internet access to follow the races live or via playback. The event will be extensively covered by still and video photographers, and there will also be daily reports distributed. During the week there will be some special guests turning up and more inductees into the OKDIA Hall of Fame to celebrate 50 years of the OK Dinghy World Championship.