The OK class is traditionally a very competitive class with a large international following across the globe. It is rare for anyone to dominate the World Championship although sailors from Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand have won all but five of the Championships. This year should be no different with a handful of favourites to win overall and another ten to 15 capable of winning races or top five finishes.
This year, 67 competitors from Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, India, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden and Great Britain are entered in the regatta and based on performances so far this year Nick CRAIG (GBR) will start the competition as favourite. Wins at the Medemblik Spring Cup in the Nethelrands, Kieler Woche and Warnemünder Woche in Germany and most recently the Danish Nationals last weekend, have made him the man to beat.
Until 2004, no British sailor had ever won the OK Worlds. Jim HUNT put that right last year at Parkstone on Britain's south coast, but many thought that CRAIG would be the first, such had been his results over the past eight years with a string of podium positions. Having placed runner up last year to HUNT, CRAIG is more determined than ever not to become known as the best sailor never to win the OK Worlds.
CRAIG has shown some extremely consistent form this season, so consistent in fact that he won at Warnemünde without winning a race, and only won one race at the Danish Nationals. He is certainly not the quickest boat out there, but has shown again and again that he is one of the few that can repeatedly put together a solid series of races. As one sailor commented recently, 'My money is on Nick at the moment, but I doubt he'll win a race.'
One thing looks set to be certain, in Skælskør the competition will be tough. The line up includes three past World Champions and many pretenders to the title. Danish sailor Jörgen LINDHARDTSEN may well be the toughest opponent - and a win for him would certainly be a fairy tale. Even at age 60, he is no pushover, having recently won the toughest race at Warnemünder Woche in a new boat only launched that week, and then finished as runner up to CRAIG in the Danish Nationals.
A seasoned Finn campaigner through the 1970s and 1980s, LINDHARDTSEN competed at the 1976 Olympic Games. He is always near the front of the OK fleet, won the OK Worlds in 1978 and has been trying to regain the title for the past twelve years, with several near misses. He also won the OK Europeans in 1998 in Neiuwpoort in Belgium, one of the windiest OK Dinghy championships on record. CRAIG was runner up at that event.
While the conditions in Skælskør are not expected to be extreme, the windier races may favour Roger BLASSE (AUS), the 1998 World Champion. Normally sailing in the strong winds and big waves off Melbourne, BLASSE, along with his brother Andre may be a force to be reckoned with if the breeze does pick up. Meanwhile class president Thomas HANSSON-MILD (SWE) is consistent across the range of conditions and like CRAIG, has won many races and even medalled but never won the title.
And then there are the Kiwis. Rumour has it that they are faster than ever this year. Steve MCDOWELL dominated this year's Interdominion Championships in New Zealand and together with Mark PERROW - who won the practice race at last year's Worlds and finished fourth in the Danish Nationals last week - should put on a good challenge
Another OK sailor proving that age is no barrier is the 2002 World Champion, Greg WILCOX (NZL). This year he is again sailing the boat that won him the 2002 title in Napier, New Zealand, and which he sold straight after the event. If his performance in Warnemünde is anything to go by (two race wins and second overall), then WILCOX looks set to be right in the medal hunt.
Several other sailors are capable of consistent top ten finishes including Martin VON ZIMMERMAN (GER), Hans ELKJAER (SWE) and Ulf BRANDT (DEN) - all of whom have produced solid performances in previous championships. In BRANDT's case this was ten years ago - the last of his three medals. He returned to international competition with a second place at this year's Spring Cup, and his experience may make the difference. This year also sees a return for Christian MIDTGÅRD (DEN) with several World Championship race wins under his belt and a good strong wind competitor.
Last minute preparations and training are nearly complete and the fleet is gathering in Skælskør. Over the coming week, ten races are scheduled for the Championship with the practice race on Sunday 24 July, followed by up to three races each day up to and including Saturday 30 July.