The Hobie 16 World Championships continued in Weihai, China with the start of the Open Championship. The format of a Hobie 16 Worlds is quite different to most other events with 60 brand new Hobie 16's supplied and rigged ready to sail by the manufacturers, and competitors fly in with only a wet suit, life jacket and trapeze harness.
With more teams than boats, the format for the Open is similar to a Tennis event where there is a pre-event Qualifiers tournament, followed by the main draw. The Qualifying Round is an open competition for all sailors on a first come first serve basis. At the end of the Qualifying round, the top 30+ teams will advance to the next round, the semi-finals. For the teams that move on from the Qualifying round, none of their scores are carried forward.
The semi-finals are where the "pre-seeded" teams join the competition. These are the top teams selected from their respective regional championships. For example, the top 15 teams from the European Championship, the top 15 from the North American Championship, etc. In the semi-finals, there will be the "pre-seeded" teams, plus the top 30+ competitors from Qualifying to top up to a total of 112 teams. Racing is run in a round robin format with each sailor sailing in every second race and coming ashore between races to change boats. At the end of the semi-finals, the top 56 teams advance to the Finals where each team sails every race, again changing boats between races. The World Championship is decided on the combined results of the semi-finals and the Finals Series.
Overnight the strong onshore breeze had built up the sea state greeting sailors with a solid shore chop on the beach, making launching an interesting exercise in itself. After the briefing and boat assignments were taken care of, the sailors were obviously very keen with general recalls the order of the day on the first race before most teams settled down and got away for the first race. Unfortunately a couple of competitors were still a little too keen with three teams being scored OCS in the first race, including the eventual winner of the race Cam Owen
and Susan Ferris of Australia. "Off the start line we had a boat underneath us who went early and a boat over the top of us who did the same, so we just had to go
" said Ferris. However, in the second race they got off the line cleanly and once in front, the clear air allowed them to extend their lead and win comfortably in a fading breeze.
The overnight leader overall is former Hobie 16 World Champion Aaron Worrall
and Bradly "Worse News" Willson from Australia who sailed consistently and conservatively to record a third and a second. Worrall commented that "We came off the line well but went the wrong way up the first beat. However, with the chop being almost the same as where I grew up and learnt to sail, we managed to pick up several boats on each downwind leg
". Worrall is a second generation Hobie sailor, with his father, Bill, being one of the original Hobie Dealers in Australia and himself a former Australian Champion.
Another second generation team are the brother/sister duo of Andy and Lisa Dinsdale from France. Unfortunately their day did not produce the results they would have liked. "The start is 60% of the race and we didn't start well in either race. If you don't take your opportunities then your race is done. There were some opportunities out there with the wind a bit shifty and also with some changes in the strength of the wind across the course
" commented Andy.
Another European team, the husband and wife team of Nathalie De keyser
and Gaetan Verhegge
of Belgium also struggled in the lighter conditions and larger than normal waves. In a switch on the normal husband/wife combination, the skipper of their boat is Nathalie, while husband Gaetan crews. Nathalie complained that "Gaetan wouldn't shutup the whole way around the course. We are not the lightest crew out there and with the bigger waves and the wind dropping out, we struggled to even tack the boat, let alone make it go fast
The real winners of the day were the Korean teams in general with six of the top twelve teams from the nearby Korean peninsula. Not normally fielding strong teams, the finishing positions and the depth of the team surprised most observers at the event. Time will tell if they can maintain their strong positions over the remainder of the event.
After two solid races in the morning, crews came ashore for lunch and to change boats. Just as they were starting to leave the beach for the afternoon session, the wind died and unfortunately failed to materialise for the rest of the day.
Racing continues in the Qualifying series Tuesday and Wednesday.