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26 January 2006, 03:29 pm
OK's Coming To Austalia
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Toshiba OK Dinghy World Championship 2006
Lake Macquarie, Australia

The Toshiba 2006 OK Dinghy World Championship will be sailed from 11 to the 17 February at the Belmont 16ft Club on Lake Macquarie, Australia, about 150 km north of Sydney. The line up of 80 sailors includes five former World Champions with competitors from New Zealand, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, USA, Great Britain and of course Australia.
The Toshiba 2006 OK Dinghy World Championship will be sailed from 11 to the 17 February at the Belmont 16ft Club on Lake Macquarie, Australia, about 150 km north of Sydney. The line up of 80 sailors includes five former World Champions with competitors from New Zealand, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, USA, Great Britain and of course Australia.

The OK Worlds is traditionally held in the southern hemisphere every four years and oscillates between New Zealand and Australia. This year it is the turn of Australia and the venue is a large salt water lake, just slightly inland from the Tasman Sea, which is expected to provide generally flat water conditions, with the possibility of strong sea breezes.

Venue

Lake Macquarie is the largest salt-water lake in the southern hemisphere and is over four times the size of Sydney Harbour. The event organisers have acquired the services of a very experienced race committee in the shape of Principal Race Officer Kevin WILSON, along with his Sail Melbourne and Sydney 2000 team, while the jury is being headed up by ISAF International Judge Ralph ROBERTS (NZL).

Australia first hosted the OK Worlds in Adelaide South Australia in 1974. In 1982 and in 1990 the OK Worlds were held in Melbourne Victoria. Again in 1998 the event returned to Adelaide South Australia. This year is the first time the OK Worlds will be held in the state of New South Wales.

Event co-ordinator Bill TYLER sums up the expected conditions. 'The sea breeze can kick in up to 25 knots, so we should be sailing in the fresh conditions. There are no sea waves but a short steep chop that will still keep you on your toes downwnd. The southerly change if and when it comes blows straight up the lake and can be very fresh when the front hits, sometimes 25 to 30 knots. Again, not being on open water we will be started in these conditions up to the maximum limit allowed by the sailing instructions. Westerly winds can also be fresh and gusty and very shifty!'

Optimistic

Defending champion Nick CRAIG is relatively optimistic about defending the title he won last year in Denmark. He said 'I think it will be tough. The OK worlds are never easy to win - it took me six long hard failed campaigns to find that out! OK sailing is always moving forward both in terms of rig development and standard, and whereas I have probably stood still at best since Denmark because I've been sailing Finns, others will have gained speed. However, I'll be giving it my best shot and it is always more fun defending than trying to win something for the first time as the pressure is off. An added challenge is that no one from the northern hemisphere has won the title in the southern hemisphere since 1974. '

Other challengers include the 1978 World Champion Jørgen LINDHARTDSEN (DEN), back for another attempt after finishing fifth in Denmark last year. Jørgen is also one of a number of sailors who - in spite of their chronologically challenged bodies - keep coming back year after year. Another aging OK sailor, Class President Greg WILCOX (NZL) says, 'The friends I have made and the social aspects of this class are just unbeatable. There is just a great sense of community.' CRAIG concurs, 'The OK provides great international racing all done in a very friendly spirit - what other class would I be flying into Sydney with fellow OK sailors offering to pick us up from the airport!'

Strong Kiwi team

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Action from the 2005 worlds
© Per Heegaard
Probably the strongest team present is that from New Zealand. WILCOX is one of the firm favourites for a medal. World Champion in 2002, he nearly retired before coming back last year to win the bronze medal. The team of 15 include Mark PERROW, who dominated the recent New Zealand National Championships, Steve MCDOWELL, the current InterDominion Champion and Karl PURDIE, who is sailing in his first OK world championships but has already made a name for himself back home.

Steve MCDOWELL commented on holding the event on a lake, 'Well technically it's not a lake is it as it has an inlet to the sea, but you definitely have to sail the boat differently in these conditions as to what you would normally do. You are never out of the race on a lake and I would expect to see some decent sized shifts resulting in a few upsets. The racing is in this class is extremely competitive, so I don't think the regatta will be won totally on just boatspeed, but on having a good 'high' mode as well as being able to pick which way the wind will go. At this stage definitely Roger BLASSE and Nick CRAIG are the favourites. Nick sailed a superb series last year but I think it will a much closer this time around, Roger definitely sailed well last year even though he didn't have the out right speed of the top 3. I also wouldn't count out one of the Kiwis causing an upset though! '

Meanwhile, the Australian fleet are fielding their strongest team for years. Roger BLASSE has been the top Australia, OK sailor for many years and won the title in 1998, the last time the event was in Australia. Since finishing 4th at the 2004 Worlds in Denmark, he has only competed in Sail Melbourne earlier this year, but he still managed to win. Mike WILLIAMS is right up there too. He narrowly missed winning Sail Melbourne 2006 from BLASSE, but an OCS cost him the title. Others looking to be top local boat include Andre BLASSE, Bruce ASHTON, the NSW State Champion Peter HORNE and Nick GRAY.

Tom BURTON is favourite for the Junior title. At just 15 and weighing 70 kgs, he is sailing like a senior and seems to know exactly what to do when he hits the front.

Racing

The Worlds is preceded by the Australian and Interdominion Championships from Monday 6th to Friday 10 February. The measurement for the Worlds takes place on the weekend of 11/12 of February, with the first race scheduled for 1000 on Monday 13. Ten races will be sailed to decide the Toshiba 2006 OK World Champion with the last race scheduled for on Friday 17 February.

Robert Deaves (As Amended by ISAF) Image: Nick CRAIG in action in 2005 © Per Heegaard
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