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OK Dinghy Worlds in Melbourne, Australia: Preview 1 - Last but not least
It may be the last world championship of 2014, but it is certainly not the least. The 2014 OK Dinghy World Championship opens at Black Rock Yacht Club on Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne, Australia, on December 28th and so far there are around 80 entries, with perhaps a few more before registration closes.

This 52nd OK Dinghy World Championship will be the third time that Black Rock YC has hosted the event, following 1982 and 1990. Traditionally the class brings its world championship 'down under' once every four years and this is split between Australia and New Zealand, so Australia only gets to host the event every eight years, and they are making the most of it with half the entries coming from the host nation.

One of the main favourites will be the host club's defending World Champion Roger Blasse (AUS). He took his second title last year in Thailand, so a third at his home club would be a significant achievement.

Last week’s Sail Melbourne was a good indicator of form with Blasse coming in just one point behind Mark Jackson (AUS), but comfortably ahead of another strong competitor, Mike Williams (AUS), who has taken medals in his last two OK Dinghy World titles

However, Blasse is not as prepared as he’d like to be. “I’ve been racing the Int. 14 in preparation for worlds in Geelong, which has cut into my OK preparation a bit. I’ve been training 2-3 times a week, and not much racing, but Mike and Mark will be among the main challengers from Australia.”

“Obviously being able to sail in the weeks leading up to the Worlds will be an advantage though. I also think the waves will suit the local sailors.”

“Of course it’s great to be defending at my home club, and I hope I can live up to expectations. Either way it will be a great event at the home of OKs in Melbourne.”

On the conditions he said, “The conditions could be anything depending on the weather system in place at the time, but we should get some of the classic sea breezes and the Port Phillip waves to enjoy.”

Blasse is one of several former Australia world champions taking part. Also competing will be the 1999 World Champion, Peter Milne (AUS) and the 1984 World Champion, Glen Collings (AUS).

Neighbouring New Zealand is also fielding a strong team which includes the Germany based World No. 1 and 2002 World Champion, Greg Wilcox (NZL). He won the Interdominion Championship in Melbourne exactly a year ago across a range of conditions, and has been World No. 1 for the whole of 2014.

He said, “Coming out of winter and having done no sailing for nearly three months means I have no real expectations of doing well. There are too many guys from down under who have been practicing hard for this.”

“Being World No. 1 never seems to help me much. I think this will be the third worlds I have gone into in that spot. I still haven't managed to win any of those.”

“I think the conditions will be varied, but the hospitality will be excellent as the Aussies know how to put on a good event.”

And then there are the newcomers. Chief among these is the three time Olympian in the Finn class Anthony Nossiter (AUS). He got an OK Dinghy late last year and should post a significant challenge to the established class sailors. He is just one of a raft of former Finn sailors who are moving into the OK Dinghy class; more are expected to be up to speed and competing in the 2015 World Championship in Puck, Poland.

Wilcox added, “Newcomers to the class like Anthony Nossiter, and Matt Coutts, will be very competitive. Nocka went to three Olympics in the Finn so knows his way around a race course.”

Nossiter also competed in last year’s Interdominions at Black Rock and showed some form on the last day’s with convincing race wins when the breeze came in.

However, he said, “I’ve bought a new sail, but I haven't sailed an OK Dinghy before last years Interdominions or since...I have a month at home from Artemis, so hope to have a solo week training in Sydney before the Sydney to Hobart Race.” He is competing on BlackJack, the old Telefonica.

How does he find the OK Dinghy compared to the Finn? “The two boats certainly have similarities. Knowing how to set up the kit is very similar in principles to the Finn... though the boat is probably a bit more tippy than the Finn. Rule42 applies as does the traditional triangle windward return courses. I enjoy this traditional racing in my own little boat... more tacking on wind shifts than boundaries.”

Coutts is also a largely unknown quantity in the OK. “I've been sailing a lot recently but pretty much all of it has been in the 18ft skiff; so time will tell whether any of it can translate to the OK Dinghy. Jim Turner has been very kind and let me use his boat in the lead up to the worlds. I plan to get out a bit more in these last few weeks.”

A small but strong team from Europe includes the 2014 European Champion Jørgen Svendsen (DEN). “It’s very cold and dark in Denmark during winter time and sailing is not one of our preferred pleasures. So for us it’s a gigantic jump - in a positive direction - participating in Melbourne, and I am really looking forward to it.”

He said he would not have much time to prepare. “I will be last in and first out, as usual. We will just be in Black Rock soon enough to hopefully get rid of the jet lag. “

“This time it’s planned as a joint trip with a focus on racing and also a family trip. For the first time I am travelling together with my wife and son to a sailing event. So I expect more focus on the social side. I still hope I will have enough resources left to finish as well as last year – I end in the top seven in Thailand.”

“I can see at least three fast Black Rock OK Dinghy sailors. And they surely have the advantage of knowing the local wind conditions. And the Kiwis look stronger than ever including some fast Finn sailors. It's looks like a strong challenge for me.”

“But its going to be fun racing down under over six days with some of the best sailors in the world.”

Racing commences on Tuesday 30 December after the practice race on Monday 29 December. A pre-worlds regatta is scheduled for 26 and 27 December.

We’ll bring you more of these conversations over the coming week as the OK Dinghy fleet prepares to do battle on Port Phillip Bay.

Class website: www.okdia.org
Event website: www.okworlds2014.com
Club website: www.bryc.yachting.org.au

Photo : Alex McKinnon
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