Preview - OK European Championships 2006 - 14. July 2006OK sailors gather in France
by Robert Deaves [802 words]
The 2006 OK Dinghy European Championship opens next weekend in the picturesque seaside town on Loctudy on the Brittany peninsular in north-western France. 56 sailors from eight nations (UK, Denmark, Germany, Poland, New Zealand, France, Belgium and Sweden) will be competing for the chance to take home the Euro Cup and be European Champion for four years.
The winner of the OK European Championship has the special privilege of holding on to the trophy for up to four years because the event is only sailed when the world championships are outside Europe.
Winner of this year’s world championships, held in Belmont, Australia in February and current world ranked number one, Nick Craig (GBR) is one of the strong favourites to retake the title he last won in 2002. The current holder, Bart Bomans (BEL) will not be competing, having moved into Snipes in 2005. Bomans won the European title in Warnemunde in 2003, the year the world championships were in Goa, India.
Although Craig has not sailed an OK Dinghy since his victory in Australia, he has been sailing extensively on the UK and International Finn circuit, so will be race hardened and certainly fit enough. He says, “I haven’t sailed the OK since February but very much looking forward to getting back into it. It’s a great boat and I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends in the OK.”
On switching between classes he said, “The OK and the Finn are quite similar so the switch isn’t too bad but I always find it hard to get the boat in the groove at first. The OK is very sensitive both upwind and downwind with a couple of clicks of mainsheet tension making a big difference. There are a lot of quick sailors in the OK so there will be nowhere to hide if I get it wrong! So am really hoping for a force 5 for the first few days so I can just put my weight over the edge and go quick while I get back into it...!”
The German’s are probably sending the strongest team to Loctudy including Sonke Behrens, Thomas Glas, Oliver Gronholz and Martin von Zimmerman who showed impressive speed to take the both the Pfingsten Regatta and the recent Warnemünde Woche ahead of 2002 World Champion Greg Wilcox (NZL).
From the UK, apart from Craig, Terry Curtis (GBR) looks to be on top form. With a new Delf copy hull this year he has dominated most of the UK events so far, won the Spring Cup in Medemblik and is certainly capable of posting a respectable result in Loctudy.
Meanwhile Dane Jørgen Lindhardtsen is also sporting one of the new Delf copies. Finishing second behind Arndt in Kiel, he had an inconsistent event at Warnemünde to end up 7th. Third in Kiel was Thomas Glas (GER), another sailor with one of the new Delf copies from Australia. Also Thomas Hansson-Mild (SWE) has shown some good speed in events this year and could post a serious challenge.
Craig is still sailing the 2004 Icebreaker hull from New Zealand along with a Dutch built Ceilidh mast and a UK North sail. This combination has won him the past two world championships. Most of the German and Polish team are using German made Hein hulls with Green sails and masts from Seldon in the UK, C-Tech in New Zealand and Ceilidh in Holland.
The Danes generally use a combination of Hylander Hulls and Specialplastic masts along with a Danish Quantum sail. British sailors probably have the most diverse selection of gear choice, with a wide range of hulls and masts, although most opt for UK North or Pinnell & Bax sails.
Meanwhile, Greg Wilcox also President of OKDIA is the only non-European competitor. He is borrowing a Delf-copy hull and using his C-Tech mast and NZL Quantum sail. Looking forward to the event he said, “It has been a long time since we have had a major regatta in France and the fleet is very much looking forward to it. The enticement of good wine and food as well as supposedly a very good sailing venue is tempting for all. The competition will as always be close and of a very high standard with the top three world ranked sailors competing and ranking points available for all. The OK class is pleased to be able to support the French OK sailors by attending this important regatta and I personally am pleased to be able to attend. I’d like to wish good luck to all competitors.”
Racing starts on Monday 24th July, with a 10 race series through to Friday 28th. The European Championship will be preceded by the French Nationals running from 17th to 20th July.
© Robert Deaves, OKDIA
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