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10 February 2006, 09:52 am
BLASSE Makes Sure Of Title
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TOSHIBA OK Dinghy Australian And Interdominion Championships 2006
Lake Macquarie, Australia

After a short postponement to allow the wind to settle, races five and six of the TOSHIBA 2006 OK Dinghy Australian and Interdominion Championship on Lake Macquarie, Australia provided more great racing in winds ranging from 15 to 25 knots and brilliant sunshine. A second and a fifth was enough to Roger BLASSE (AUS) to retain his National title and clinch the Interdominion title with a race to spare.
Race five started in ten to 15 knots with Jorgen LINDHARDTSEN (DEN) emerging from the right of the course to round the first mark with a nice lead. After leading for most of the next lap, Russell WOOD (NZL) ground him down in the increasing wind and went on to win the race. Series leader BLASSE moved up to second place in front of LINDHARDTSEN right on the line.

The wind had increased even more for race six and proved to be too much for some who took an early shower. Steve WILSON (AUS) found himself leading round the first mark after a great start at the committee boat. However Andre BLASSE (AUS) and Mark PERROW (NZL) were close on his heals. By the next lap it had become a two horse race with BLASSE and PERROW battling for the lead. Eventually BLASSE won by 30 seconds from PERROW with Greg WILCOX (NZL) sailing some excellent downwind legs to move up to third.

While brother Andre was winning the race, Roger BLASSE was doing penalty turns after fouling starboard tack boats at the first windward mark. He dropped to the mid 20s, but his superior downwind speed in a breeze soon saw him back in the top ten, eventually fighting his way through to fifth, which was enough to take the series with a day to spare. His form this week in a breeze surely bodes well for the 1998 World Champion BLASSE as he prepares for next week's World Championship.

WOOD Clinches Second Place

The final race of the Championships was sailed in the lightest winds of the week, with large shifts coming through from both sides of the course. With the overall title already decided, the battle for the other medal positions took centre stage. Second and third placed overnight WOOD and Nick CRAIG (GBR) were tied on 17 points with Andre BLASSE just four behind them, while just nine points separated fifth to ninth.

The wind had turned southerly again and the lighter winds at force two to three also brought the shiftiest conditions of the week. While the left seemed favoured most of the time, the right often looked good, bringing boats through the fleet. Those who opted for the middle took a gamble on finding one of the many large holes in the wind.

Both CRAIG and WOOD started near the pin end and headed left, but Mark WILLIAMS (AUS) started the near committee boat and found a large shift to cross the fleet and lead round the first mark. He gradually extended his lead throughout the race to win by a considerable margin.

Behind him the battle for second place was turning into an epic. WOOD rounded the first mark second after reaching in from the left side of the course in a large shift. CRAIG did the same and rounding about twelfth. On the succeeding legs CRAIG gradually pulled through the boats to lead WOOD round the final leeward mark. The final beat turned into a gruelling tacking dual between the two, with CRAIG looking to be in charge. However, within sight of the finish line he dropped his mainsheet and capsized to windward to let WOOD through to take second overall. PERROW took advantage to finish third in the race with Andre BLASSE in fourth. CRAIG finally finished fifth to make sure of third overall.

Roger BLASSE finished in ninth place, having already won the Australian Nationals for the tenth time and the Interdominions for the fourth time. The TOSHIBA OK Dinghy World Championship starts on Monday with the measurement of boats taking place over the weekend, allowing the sailors a well deserved rest.

Robert DEAVES (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Rounding the windward mark:© Lynne BURTON
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