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Sense of OKasion

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Sense of OKasion

2010 OK Dinghy World Championship

In just over a week the much awaited 2010 OK Dinghy World Championship opens in ‘windy’ Wellington, New Zealand. For the 2008 World Champion, Karl Purdie (NZL), the 2010 championship has a special significance that few sailors ever get to experience – it is being sailed in his home town and he is the favourite. After losing the Interdominion and National Championships held in Wellington this time last year by just two points, he is determined to leave no stone unturned in the hunt for his second world title.

"I’ve tried to work hard on getting fitter. I’ve also spent some time using a velocitek speed puck to analyse speed data from my training sessions which has helped me with further rig/sail development. I haven’t stopped sailing since the 2009 worlds as I have tried to keep the momentum going from then and to build on my fitness levels. This has meant I’ve dropped some weight but I’m hoping that will be more than offset by working the boat harder downwind and hiking harder upwind. I have also worked on developing a two rig programme (we are allowed to measure in two masts and two sails during the worlds) to increase sailing performance over the wind range of 3-28 knots."

But Purdie will have some strong opposition, not least from his club mates and fellow Kiwis. He said, "The past year has seen a lot more training and rig development work here. Our ranking regattas have also seen great fleets of 30+ boats as the guys strive for every point they can get to qualify for the New Zealand team. This has seen a huge leap in overall fleet standard with the gap between first and last diminishing rapidly with every contest held. So essentially the key elements have been an emphasis on boat tuning and race/physical fitness. I believe the team will perform extremely well. If there was a team trophy at this event I wouldn’t be unhappy to lay out a bit of cash on a victory for it."

"Typically the winds will be either from the north or south with probably 70 per cent of the time the speed exceeding 15 knots. However in February it is not unknown for a few days of light wind conditions (say 3-8 knots) to occur as well. Out on the worlds course the wind can be very shifty so consistency, as always, is going to be key. For American readers the conditions here would most closely approximate San Francisco."

The defending champion is Thomas Hansson-Mild (SWE) who captured the title last year in Kalmar, Sweden in an enthralling race-off with Purdie. The Swede had been trying to claim the title for nearly two decades and was justifiably pleased with himself after last year’s epic contest, though remains very introspective at his success.

"Sailing is very much based on experiences and I have collected them in what I call ‘my experience binders’. There are no ‘common files’ but memorised experiences that I have structured in different disciplines. For example, starting, mark rounding, strategy, tactics and how to trim in various sea and wind conditions, etc. Some binders are well stocked, while others are thinner. No binder is full, but I fill in all the time with more. Each ‘page’ is a recollection of the facts and circumstances, and how I solved it. It can be good experiences I can reuse, or bad ones I want to avoid. The pages are replaced when there are new experiences. It is important to never get stuck in old patterns of thinking, and you must constantly re-evaluate and think in new ways in order to get better and better. To follow others’ examples is another way. If you share your experiences with others, you can get impulses that lead you forward."

But he clearly enjoys the class and the camaraderie that goes along with it. "I enjoy the class and the great sailors in it. And of course the demanding skills required to keep this boat going fast. It’s a great shape and you see modern designs as 49’ers and the new D-One and RS100 looking very much like the OK shape. That tells us very much of how good the hull lines on this boat are."

The battle of Wellington should prove fascinating to watch. Along with Purdie and Hansson-Mild there are perhaps 10 other sailors in with a shot at the title and another 10-15 capable of winning races. And if New Zealand’s capital lives up to its reputation, it should also be some spectacle.

A full social and sailing programme includes the New Zealand National Championships and Interdominion Championships, being sailed from 1 to 3 February at the same venue. The practice race for the World Championship is on 5 February followed by an intended 10 race series for the 2010 OK Dinghy World Championship from 6 to 11 February.

Robert Deaves, 2010

Class website: www.okdia.org
Event website: www.okworlds2010.com