Matt Stechmann secures OK Dinghy world title after classic Black Rock day

by Robert Deaves

After a week of uncooperative weather at Black Rock, Australia, the OK Dinghy World Championship wrapped up in perfect Port Phillip conditions. Matt Stechmann (NZL) did just enough to take the title by one point from Luke O'Connell (NZL), who won a three way points tie with defending champion, Roger Blasse (AUS), who took third overall, and Greg Wilcox (NZL) in fourth.
Going into the final day, the fleet needed two more races to get in a valid series, so there was audible relief as the sailors arrived on Sunday morning to a sailable 15-20 knots on the bay. The day started damp and grey, following the overnight storm and rain, but by the second race the sky was clear and the sea breeze was pumping. The strong winds of Saturday had also left a large confused sea behind, but this soon moderated along with the wind.

Roger Blasse (AUS), Matt Stechmann (NZL) and Luke O'Connell (NZL). Photo: Robert Deaves
Top three. Photo: Robert Deaves

The first race of the day, race four went to Mike Williams (AUS). He said “It was about 15 knots, so a nice breeze. I got off the line cleanly and just had a good lane and got around the top mark just behind Ben Morrison (NZL). I got through him at the gybe mark and was able to keep the group just behind me, but they were so close to me the whole time, it was a bit nerve racking.

“When the wind started dropping out half way through the race I was a bit concerned the lighter guys might come through. Matt Stechmann (NZL) and Matt Coutts (NZL) got into their own little tacking dual, that was before Matt Coutts knew he was BFD, so that let me sail away a little bit from them.” Coutts was one of eight sailors black flagged at the start, which somewhat hindered his chances of the title. Williams led across the line from Morrison and Greg Wilcox (NZL).

By the time the second race started the dropping wind had been reinforced by a growing sea breeze. The sailors were able to stretch their legs and enjoy the conditions and the sunshine to the full. The main battle was between Stechmann and Luke O'Connell (NZL) for the title, though it was so close it could have gone any of five ways.

Andre Blasse leads race 5. Photo: Lara Blasse
Andre Blasse leads race 5. Photo: Lara Blasse

After a week of drama and waiting, the event then had a poetic ending. Black Rock YC Commodore, Andre Blasse (AUS), had spent the previous two years organising this championship, and dominated the final race to win by a massive margin. It was a very popular win. He said, “It was good fun for me. I came off the start line near the starboard end, tacked, ducked a couple of boats and got the first shift and just went up the middle. I was first to the top mark and thought I was pretty quick downwind and got away. It's beautiful having nice clear air out the front” He took a huge win from Wilcox and Morrison.

However the real drama was playing out behind them as Stechmann tried to stay in touch with O'Connell.Eventually Stechmann crossed in 10th with O'Connell in eighth, to give Stechmann his first ever OK Dinghy World title. O'Connell took the silver while the defending champion Roger Blasse (AUS), from the home club, took the bronze.

Blasse continued. “It was perfect Black Rock conditions with fantastic waves. I wish we'd had a little bit more of that during the regatta, but unfortunately we didn't. It's a shame for the overseas competitors but at least they got to see what it can be like. The race committee did a great job in difficult conditions all week.”

“After two years work it's fantastic for me to finish the week with a race win. I have won a couple of races before but not for a while, so it's nice to do that at home, after all the work.”

The visitors to Black Rock have learned a lot about Australian weather this week. Most came expecting the nice sea breezes that makes sailing in Port Phillip famous. But it was not too be. Of the six days, three were lost through strong westerlies and northerlies and a further race was lost when the wind went away. The 77 sailors feel very fortunate that they were able to complete their championship on the final day.

Photo: Alex McKinnon
Photo: Alex McKinnon

Stechmann's win also completed the hat-trick of Kiwis winning the OK Dinghy World Championship at Black Rock YC after Rick Dodson (NZL) in 1982 and Leith Armit (NZL) in 1990. In fact, no Australian has yet won the title when it has been held at Black Rock.

On his chances today, Stechmann said, “I was quite confident that I could perform good enough today to give myself a chance. But whether I woke up this morning thinking today I would win the worlds, probably not.But I was confident I could put in a good display and let it all unfold.”

“The first race went incredibly well and I got a good start just up from the pin and managed to get over the little bunch to leeward of me which really gave me the leverage to sail the way I wanted. I could sail low and quick to the left hand corner and we got a shift which popped us up into a nice lead with a few other boats. Though Greg and Luke still had good races, that really set me up to hold all the cards for the final race.”

“I always knew I had the biggest drop, so my game plan for the final race was just to stay close to Luke and shadow him round the track and see how the cards fell. There are so many good guys out there, you just had to sail your own race but Luke and I pushed each other hard to be in the top bunch, and on the line there was just one boat between us, and that was enough to give me the one point lead.”

“I am absolutely over the moon to be honest. My goal for this regatta was top five, I thought that would be a good effort here and just to really focus for 2016 worlds in 18 months times. I am just stoked about this.”

“I am absolutely thrilled for Luke. We work together and we're pretty tight. We do a lot of training together. His day day will come but I am absolutely rapt that if I had to go toe to toe with someone it would be Luke. Could we have planned it any better? Probably not.”

Silver medalist O'Connell paid tribute to Stechmann, “It was a great week. Very challenging conditions, very difficult for the race officer and the competitors, varied conditions and as always great fun. I am thrilled with second place. Thrilled to get my first tie and thrilled to finish second to such a great bloke. I am well happy with the result and Matt is definitely the deserving winner.”

Prizewinners: Photo: Robert Deaves
Prizewinners: Photo: Robert Deaves

Roger Blasse took the bronze. He said, “I think of course the weather could have been better, but I am happy about the guys who won. They have done a lot of work in the last few years with their boats and their sailing, so that's really good. I am happy with third as I don't think I sailed well enough at times, because it was such a short regatta. At times I had a couple of bad first works, so I couldn't get round the top mark how I liked, but that's just sailing sometimes. It doesn't always go your way. So I was a bit surprised to end up third. It was a good week, just a shame we didn't get better weather.”

In accepting his winners' prize Stechmann said, “In the circumstances I think the race team have done a fantastic job. I never came here expecting to win this contest. One of my goals coming here was to win a race just to prove I could, because I don't win many, in fact I have never won an OK regatta before. I could stand here all night and thank people who have had an impact on my sailing career.”

He thanked his New Zealand team mates. “Any one of those guys could win this event, and they will. There's some good men there. They all have a piece of this. It's not just about me winning this. It's a team thing. We share info and have come a long way in a short time. We do some great yachting and have great camaraderie. I wouldn't be standing here tonight if it wasn't for you, so thank you.”

“It's been a wonderful event, not just because I won, but to be here with all my friends from around the world. Every year we all get together and have a great time. It's what it's really all about. This is a really massive moment in my life and I am really pleased to be able to share it with all of you.”

 

World Championship 2014 Results
PlNameSail
Num
CountryClubR1R2R3R4R5PtsNet Pts 
1 Matt Stechmann NZL549 NZL Naval Point Club 1 5 11 2 10 29 18 Veterans
2 Luke O'Connell NZL546 NZL Worser Bay BC 8 6 1 4 8 27 19  
3 Roger Blasse AUS749 AUS BRYC 11 2 6 8 3 30 19 Veterans
4 Greg Wilcox NZL544 NZL Potsdamer Seglerverien 3 12 7 5 4 31 19 Veterans
5 Michael Williams AUS730 AUS BRYC 6 8 21 1 6 42 21 Veterans
6 Matt Coutts NZL519 NZL Auckland SC 4 7 5 78
BFD
9 103 25  
7 Ben Morrison NZL530 NZL Wakatere BC 27 3 56 3 2 91 35  
8 Jorgen Svendsen DEN1445 DEN Hellerup Sejlklub 2 14 78
DSQ
9 12 115 37 Veterans
9 Mark Skelton AUS753 AUS   7 19 3 14 14 57 38 Veterans
10 Mark Jackson AUS735 AUS BRYC 9 16 8 24 7 64 40 Veterans
11 Andre Blasse AUS729 AUS BRYC 17 18 19 6 1 61 42 Veterans
12 Christian Olesen DEN1340 DEN VSK 14 17 2 10 78
BFD
121 43  
13 Bradley Douglas NZL369 NZL Wakatere BC 12 20 22 7 5 66 44  
14 Glenn Collings AUS535 AUS Safety Beach SC 5 10 30 12 22 79 49 Veterans
15 Anthony Nossiter AUS765 AUS MHYC 22 1 17 78
BFD
13 131 53 Veterans
16 Tim Davies AUS739 AUS Wangi ASC 10 24 54 11 15 114 60 Veterans
17 Mark Perrow NZL551 NZL Waiuku YC 15 11 34 27 11 98 64  
18 Robert Mcmillan AUS766 AUS WSC/RPAYC 20 4 20 21 33 98 65 Veterans
19 Alistair Deaves NZL542 NZL Wakatere BC 29 37 10 13 16 105 68 Veterans
20 David Hoogenboom NZL303 NZL Waiuku Yacht Club 26 34 9 19 25 113 79 Masters
21 Jonathan Clough NZL498 NZL Wakatere BC 21 38 4 78
BFD
20 161 83  
22 Peter Milne AUS694 AUS BRYC 13 13 38 78
BFD
19 161 83 Veterans
23 Robert Deaves GBR2156 GBR Waldringfield SC 41 33 14 15 29 132 91 Veterans
24 Peter Horne AUS764 AUS Drummoyne SC 25 29 37 23 17 131 94 Veterans
25 Paul Rhodes NZL557 NZL Worser Bay BC 23 23 43 20 28 137 94 Veterans
26 Brent Williams AUS754 AUS ASC 24 26 24 78
BFD
21 173 95 Veterans
27 Steve Mcdowell NZL545 NZL Worser Bay BC 28 31 25 26 18 128 97  
28 Dave Bourne GBR2157 GBR Upriver YC 34 27 15 22 46 144 98 Veterans
29 Daniel Bush NZL478 NZL Wakatere BC 50 9 35 31 26 151 101  
30 Eric Rone USA536 USA Wakatere BC 16 42 78
OCS
16 32 184 106  
31 Gareth Wells AUS742 AUS Wangi ASC 18 28 59 25 38 168 109 Veterans
32 Peter Robinson AUS750 AUS Drummoyne SC 42 41 31 17 24 155 113 Veterans
33 Folkert Janssen AUS733 AUS BRYC 65 25 32 35 27 184 119 Veterans
34 Bruce Ashton AUS728 AUS BRYC 19 78
DNF
16 40 47 200 122 Masters
35 Edward O'Donnell AUS734 AUS Wangi ASC 32 15 40 37 78
BFD
202 124 Veterans
36 Malte Pedersen DEN1407 DEN Royal Danish YC 57 40 12 18 78
BFD
205 127 Masters
37 Adrian Coulthard NZL531 NZL Napier Sailing Club 31 55 29 28 39 182 127 Veterans
38 Chris Fenwick NZL509 NZL Napier SC 30 54 28 43 30 185 131  
39 Adrian Mannering NZL504 NZL Napier SC 36 35 49 32 34 186 137 Veterans
40 David Ketteridge AUS725 AUS Adelaide SC 33 46 18 42 51 190 139 Masters
41 Andrew Baker AUS761 AUS BRYC 44 49 23 33 45 194 145 Veterans
42 Rainer Pospiech GER765 GER Yachtclub Berlin-Grunau 35 44 41 29 40 189 145 Masters
43 Gary Lokum AUS741 AUS BRYC 60 32 46 44 31 213 153 Veterans
44 Glenn Williams AUS719 AUS Big River SC 47 22 52 49 36 206 154 Veterans
45 Dirk Dame GER750 GER Segler-Vereinigung Mannheim 37 58 33 34 78
BFD
240 162 Veterans
46 Rob Hengst NZL533 NZL Napier SC 48 39 47 41 42 217 169 Veterans
47 Jorg Sylvester GER726 GER Segeberger Segel-Club 39 63 50 36 48 236 173 Veterans
48 Ronald Foest GER688 GER DRS 55 68 13 56 59 251 183 Veterans
49 Christopher Visick AUS758 AUS BRYC 45 47 64 39 52 247 183 Veterans
50 Mark Roberts AUS762 AUS ASC 54 78
DNF
78
OCS
30 23 263 185 Veterans
51 Elizabeth Williams AUS759 AUS Sandgate YC /BRYC 40 78
DNF
26 57 62 263 185 Women
Veterans
52 Gavin Waldron GBR756 GBR Morecambe SC 43 53 44 48 50 238 185 Veterans
53 Martin Pike NZL554 NZL Napier SC 63 50 42 59 37 251 188 Masters
54 Samuel Haines AUS708 AUS BRYC 59 43 48 78
BFD
43 271 193  
55 Grant Wakefield AUS736 AUS DSC 38 61 58 46 55 258 197 Veterans
56 Peter Lynch AUS726 AUS Wangi ASC 56 30 78
DNF
78
BFD
35 277 199 Veterans
57 Dirk Gericke GER735 GER SG Einheit Brandenburg e.V. 61 59 27 62 53 262 200 Veterans
58 Chris Devine NZL548 NZL Napier SC 67 36 62 58 44 267 200 Veterans
59 Sefton Powrie NZL547 NZL Wakatere BC 49 56 55 47 49 256 200 Masters
60 Chris Hall AUS757 AUS Ballarat YC 46 48 57 55 56 262 205  
61 Mitchell Wilson AUS695 AUS Wangi ASC 53 64 39 52 67 275 208 Youth
62 Tim Smith AUS740 AUS BRYC 70 52 61 54 41 278 208  
63 Mads Brockhuus DEN1419 DEN Skaelskor Amator Sejlklub 58 60 53 50 54 275 215 Veterans
64 Ashley Parkinson GBR711 GBR London Corinthian SC 74 78
DNF
36 45 65 298 220 Veterans
65 Nils Troland DEN1391 DEN HSS 52 45 45 78
BFD
78
BFD
298 220 Veterans
66 Michael Horvath AUS744 AUS BRYC 62 21 63 78
DNF
78
DNC
302 224 Veterans
67 Richard Furneaux AUS737 AUS BRYC 66 57 67 38 78
BFD
306 228 Masters
68 Glenn Yates AUS767 AUS Wangi ASC 64 62 51 53 64 294 230 Masters
69 Ron Fergusson AUS618 AUS Albert SC 51 66 66 60 68 311 243 Veterans
70 Neil Williamson USA678 USA   68 78
DNF
71 51 60 328 250 Veterans
71 Erik Thompson AUS706 AUS Sandgate YC / BRYC 72 67 60 66 57 322 250 Masters
72 Luke Cromie AUS672 AUS BRYC 73 65 73 63 58 332 259 Veterans
73 Michael Walker AUS655 AUS Drummoyne SC 71 78
DNF
68 61 61 339 261 Masters
74 Stephen Moore AUS755 AUS BRYC 69 51 65 78
DNC
78
DNF
341 263 Masters
75 John Henderson AUS715 AUS BRYC 76 69 72 64 63 344 268  
76 Slava Ustovytski AUS760 AUS BRYC 77 78
DNC
69 67 66 357 279  
77 Mike Flavell AUS543 AUS BRYC 75 70 70 65 78
DNF
358 280 Masters
Gear used by the top ten
 NameSailnoDesignBuilderMastSail
1 Matt Stechmann NZL 549 Dan Leech Stechmann Ctech North NZ
2 Luke O'Connell NZL 546 Dan Leech O'Connell Ctech North NZ
3 Roger Blasse AUS 749 Delf Jason King Ctech Turtle/AUS
4 Greg Wilcox NZL 544 Icebreaker Icebreaker Boats NZ Ctech Turtle
5 Mike Williams AUS 730 Delf Jason King Ctech North NZ
6 Matt Coutts NZL 519 Icebreaker Garry Lock/Cookson Ctech North NZ
7 Ben Morrison NZL 530 Icebreaker Icebreaker Boats NZ Ctech North NZ
8 Jorgen Svendsen DEN 1445 Sota Strandberg Ctech Green
9 Mark Skelton AUS 753 Icebreaker Icebreaker Boats NZ Ctech Turtle
10 Mark Jackson AUS 735 Delf Jason King Ctech Turtle



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