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15 February 2006, 11:59 am
A Hard Day For Some
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TOSHIBA OK Dinghy World Championship 2006
Lake Macquarie, Australia

The fleet at the Toshiba 2006 OK Dinghy World Championship will take a well earned rest tonight after sailing two gruelling races in strong winds on Lake Macquarie, Australia. Winner of last week's Interdominion Championship, Roger BLASSE (AUS) took race five whilst Russell WOOD (NZL) dominated race six by leading all the way round, but it is Jorgen LINDHARDTSEN (DEN) who holds on to the overall lead.
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Race five started in 15 to 20 knots from the northeast and partial cloud cover. It was almost a repeat of yesterday except the wind was much stronger. The left side of the course was favoured all day with LINDHARDTSEN first into the left hand shift on the left side to lead into the windward mark from BLASSE and Adrian MANNERING (NZL). At the bottom mark the positions were unchanged, but on the next beat BLASSE moved ahead and maintained his lead to the finish followed by LINDHARDTSEN. Nick CRAIG (GBR), who had sailed most of the course in fourth place, moved up to third on the final beat.

Between races the wind increased further to 25 knots and gusting, with a mass of white horses coming down the course. Again those at the pin end started and headed left. Many came back across too early but those who went far enough were rewarded by a big left hander into the top mark. Race winner WOOD takes up the story. 'I started near the pin in the second row, put in a few tacks to clear my air and then played the shifts up the left hand side before crossing and leading round the first mark. Apart from Mike WILLIAMS [(AUS)] briefly catching me up after the reaches, I led throughout and stretched away in the breeze to win. It was near ideal conditions for me.'

At the top mark WOOD led from WILLIAMS, LINDHARDTSEN and Joe POREBSKI (NZL). At the gybe mark a large gust caused havoc with many sailors taking a quick swim. The following beats became an epic of endurance as the wind bombarded the fleet with shifts and gusts. Behind WOOD, CRAIG moved through the fleet to finish second on the line from LINDHARDTSEN.

Tight At The Top

Overall it could not be closer with LINDHARDTSEN holding a lead of four points over Karl PURDIE (NZL) and five points over CRAIG. Only five points separate the next two sailors, so there is still all to play for tomorrow.

The OK Class has a long tradition of being a training ground for sailors, who go on to greater achievements. Probably the most famous recently is Mateusz KUSZNIEREWICZ (POL), who won a gold and bronze Olympic medal in the Finn in 1996 and 2004 and is now regularly seen at the front of the Star fleet. KUSZNIEREWICZ never won an OK Worlds; the closest he got was a second in Napier, New Zealand in 1994, finishing as runner up to four times OK World Champion Leith ARMIT (NZL). He did though win the Europeans that year. About this time he emerged at a major force within the Finn and stunned the sailing world by flying home the day after winning the Finn Gold in Savannah, USA in 1996 to compete in the OK Dinghy Worlds in Sweden.

A Famous Past

The OK Dinghy International website has a long list of famous sailors who have sailed the OK in the past. These include Bjørn WESTERGARD (DEN), Stig WESTERGARD (DEN), Mike MCINTYRE (GBR), Tony MUTTER (NZL), Peter BLAKE (NZL), John CUTLER (NZL), Chris DICKSON (NZL), Richard DODSON (NZL), Tom DODSON (NZL), Craig MONK (NZL), Jochen SCHUEMANN (GER), Fredrik LÖÖF (SWE) and Guy LILLJEGREN (SWE) to name just a few.

Defending World Champion, CRAIG is undoubtedly the most successful OK sailor currently competing within the class. His win at last year's World Championship in Denmark was the culmination of many successful years' racing the boat and a lot of hard work. Previously, he had come closest to winning in 2004, but finished as runner up to his friend Jim HUNT (GBR). After the 2004 OK Worlds both HUNT and CRAIG moved into Finns, with CRAIG winning the UK Nationals at the first attempt, just ahead of HUNT in 2005. CRAIG is still sailing Finns competitively and now places this as his main boat for the present.

Meanwhile here in Belmont, the Australian OK class is having a reunion of old OK sailors, with many previous sailors present today to enjoy the spectacle. Two more races are scheduled for Thursday, the penultimate day of racing for the World title.

Top Ten

Pos Nation Skipper R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 Pts
1 DEN Jorgen LINDHARDTSEN 1 3 7 (8) 2 3 16
2 NZL Karl PURDIE 7 (9) 2 3 4 4 20
3 GBR Nick CRAIG (9) 7 3 6 3 2 21
4 AUS Roger BLASSE 6 4 (12) 5 1 9 25
5 NZL Greg WILCOX (13) 6 1 1 12 6 26
6 AUS Andre BLASSE 3 1 (39) 10 7 12 33
7 AUS Mike WILLIAMS 10 2 (28) 15 5 5 37
8 NZL Russell WOOD 8 14 (22) 4 11 1 38
9 NZL Adrian MANNAERING 4 11 4 (16) 6 16 41
10 NZL Mark PERROW 5 20 (36) 2 10 11 48
Robert DEAVES (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Action from Lake Macquarie:© Lynne BURTON
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