A hard day for some
Race five started in 15 to 20 knots from the north-east and partial cloud cover. It was almost a repeat of yesterday except the wind was much stronger. The left side of the course was favoured all day with Jorgen Lindhardtsen (DEN) first into the left hand shift on the left side to lead into the windward mark from Roger Blasse (AUS) and Adrian Mannering (NZL). At the bottom mark the positions were unchanged, but on the next beat Blasse moved ahead and maintained his lead to the finish followed by Lindhardtsen. Nick Craig (GBR), who had sailed most of the course in fourth place, moved up to third on the final beat.
Between races the wind increased further to 25 knots and gusting, with a mass of white horses coming down the course. Again those at the pin end started and headed left. Many came back across too early but those who went far enough were rewarded by a big left-hander into the top mark. Race winner Russell Wood (NZL) takes up the story. “I started near the pin in the second row, put in a few tacks to clear my air and then played the shifts up the left hand side before crossing and leading round the first mark. Apart from Mike Williams (AUS) briefly catching me up after the reaches, I led throughout and stretched away in the breeze to win. It was near ideal conditions for me.”
At the top mark Wood led from Williams, Lindhardtsen and Joe Porebski (NZL). At the gybe mark a large gust caused havoc with many sailors taking a quick swim. The following beats became an epic of endurance as the wind bombarded the fleet with shifts and gusts. Behind Wood, Craig moved through the fleet to finish second on the line from Lindhardtsen.
Overall it couldn’t be closer with Lindhardtsen holding a lead of 4 points over Karl Purdie (NZL) and 5 points over Craig. Only 5 points separate the next two sailors, so there is still all to play for tomorrow.
The OK Class has a long tradition of being a training ground for sailors, who go on to much greater achievements. Probably the most famous recently is Mateusz Kusznierewicz (POL), who won a Gold and Bronze Olympic medal in the Finn class and is now regularly seen at the front on the Star fleet. Mateusz never won an OK Worlds; the closest he got was a second in Napier in 1994, finishing as runner up to four times OK World Champion Leith Armit (NZL). He did though win the Europeans that year. About this time he emerged at a major force within the Finn class and stunned the sailing world by flying home the day after winning the Finn Gold in Savannah in 1996 to compete in the OK Dinghy worlds in Sweden.
The OK Dinghy International website has a long list of famous sailors who have sailed the OK in the past. These include Bjørn Westergard, Stig Westergard, Mike McIntyre, Tony Mutter, Peter Blake, John Cutler, Chris Dickson, Richard Dodson, Tom Dodson, Craig Monk, Jochen Schümann, Fredrik Lööf and Guy Lilljegren to name just a few.
Defending World Champion, Nick Craig is undoubtedly the most successful OK sailor currently competing within the class. His win at last year’s World Championship in Denmark was the culmination of many successful years’ racing the boat and a lot of hard work. Previously, he had come closest to winning in 2004, but finished as runner up to his friend Jim Hunt (GBR). After the 2004 OK Worlds both Hunt and Craig moved into Finns, with Craig winning the UK Nationals at the first attempt, just ahead of Hunt in 2005. Craig is still sailing Finns competitively and now places this as his main boat for the present.
Meanwhile here in Belmont, the Australian OK class is having a reunion of old OK sailors, with many previous sailors present today to enjoy the spectacle. Two more races are scheduled for Thursday, the penultimate day of racing for the world title.