New Zealand, National Championship 2008
New Plymouth Club
21. - 24. March
Report by Alistair Deaves and Ben Morrison
The 2008 OK Dinghy National Championships were held at New Plymouth Yacht Club over Easter in varying and sometimes difficult conditions. The fleet was, without too much doubt, one of the most competitive ever assembled in New Zealand outside a World Championship. Competitors included:
- Nick Craig of England, current- and triple- World OK Champion;
- Dan Slater, current NZ Olympic Finn representative and silver medallist in the recent Finn World Championships;
- Alistair Gair, silver medallist in the 2007 Etchell World Championships, silver medallist in the 2002 OK World Championships and 2002 OK National Champion;
- Josh Junior, silver medallist in the Laser class at the most recent Youth World Championships;
- five previous OK World Championship medallists (Paul Rhodes, Alistair Gair, Ben Morrison, Mark Perrow and Karl Purdie); and
- eight previous National and Inter-dominion OK champions.
Also present was Darek Kras from Poland, vice president of the international OK Dinghy class association, OKDIA.
The fleet also included four brand new boats, custom built for Mike Wilde, Ben Morrison, Karl Purdie and Alistair Deaves by Chris Brown and Alistair Deaves. The new boats are a superb product and production is ongoing, so that the standard of the New Zealand equipment will be very good for the 2010 OK World Championship being held in Wellington in February of that year.
The weather forecast for Easter was for mainly light winds. Friday’s first race adhered to the forecast with a slowly backing and variable northerly. Those who chose the left side of the course reaped the benefits of the persistent lefthand shift, never to be headed. The race was led from start to finish by Napier sailor Luke O’Connell with Dan Slater taking 2nd, and Alistair Gair 3rd.
The wind was slightly steadier for the Race 2 as the westerly sea breeze settled in. O’Connell again popped out in front, but after a close battle he had to settle for 2nd while Josh Junior took the win, with Alistair Deaves claiming 3rd.
Saturday produced a steadily building breeze, and in Race 3 Nick Craig showed that he had recovered his jetlag, showing the form that has earned him three consecutive world titles to lead throughout from Junior in 2nd and defending national champion Paul Rhodes in 3rd.
With the wind gusting to 20 knots for Races 4 and 5, and a lengthened course, Dan Slater began to show his skill and race fitness, producing some real speed in his borrowed wooden boat to take two victories. The seas were quite large by this time, providing some exciting downhill rides and a number of spectacular capsizes. Russell Wood also revelled in the breezy conditions, posting a 2nd placing in Race 5. However, by the end of Race 6 the wind was dying fast and many struggled across in the finish line in very little breeze. Steve McDowell hung on to finish 2nd behind Slater, with the consistent Craig taking 3rd.
Overnight after two days of racing, Slater had a healthy lead of nine points from Craig, with Alastair Gair lying 3rd after some consistent sailing.
With a light wind from the east and a large westerly swell coming in, conditions for Sunday’s racing can only be described as testing. The left side of the course paid for most of the upwind legs due to a persistent left hand shift, while running down wind into the large swell frustrated the sailors and required fine control to produce speed. Slater proved his form once again by scoring 3rd, 2nd and 1st places in Races 6, 7 and 8 and extending his lead in the overall standings. With a 9th and two 4th places, Craig hung on to second place overall while Gair closed up with good results of 4th, 3rd and 2nd in the lighter conditions. O’Connell picked up another race win in Race 6, with Worser Bay sailor Karl Purdie winning Race 7 in his new sea blue boat The Flying Torzini.
The event ended in somewhat of an anti-climax on Monday morning in the rain and 4 knots of dying breeze, when it was decided to cancel all racing for the day and bring the series to a close. Thus Dan Slater became 2008 OK National Champion in comprehensive fashion, with current world champion Nick Craig second and Alistair Gair third. First junior was Josh Junior in fourth place overall, and first veteran was Karl Purdie in fifth place overall. A new division was added to the class this year, the 100K Club, for skippers weighing over 100kg, and the 2008 100K Club Champion was the 2004 OK National Champion, Russell Wood.
New Plymouth Yacht Club ran a great event and all sailors enjoyed their time in New Plymouth. The class looks in very good condition with plenty of new faces and new boats at the 2008 nationals, and interest is expected to continue to increase further in the run up to the 2010 World Championships in Wellington.
DNF/DNS/DSQ/RAF : 29 pts, FOT = Finished out of time limit, (V) = Veteran, (J) = Junior