Monthly Archives: January 2019

Huge fleet to contest Symonite OK Dinghy World Championship in Auckland

Jan Kurfeld took bronze at the 2018 world championship

Preview: Part 2  – Olympic champions, America’s Cup winners, round the world sailors and a host of former world champions will go head to head next week when the Symonite 2019 OK Dinghy World Championship gets underway at Wakatere Boating Club on Auckland’s North Shore.

Around 110 OK Dinghies are expected to be competing in the largest event the class has ever held outside Europe. It has attracted a hugely diverse group of sailors, of all ages and experience. The OK Dinghy class is healthier today than at any time in the past 40 years and this shows with the big numbers and also the calibre of the sailors the class is now attracting.

In Part 1 of this preview we looked at some of the Kiwi sailors anticipating a record-breaking event on home waters, but what of the many visitors?

When talking of favourites, one of the main talking points will be the current European Champion, Fredrik Lööf, from Sweden. Lööf needs little introduction, following his return to the OK Dinghy last year, after a 30-year break. He finished a close second at the 2018 World Championship in Warnemünde, Germany, but followed that up with a win at the European Championship in Bandol, France. He will certainly be looking to go one better in Auckland next week and will start as the favourite, especially with current world champion, André Budzien, from Germany, not defending his title.

Lööf admits to not having done much practice though.

“I have done only one day sailing in the OK since the Europeans when I checked my new Green sails with Jörgen Holm in Denmark before loading the container. I have a new C-Tech mast coming. It’s a very similar bend to the one I had at the Worlds last year, but I also have the Ceilidh mast from the Europeans. This is a good mast too. I also got a new sail for this mast so that should be a very good combo.”
While Wakatere Boating Club is hosting the championship, the racing will take place off Takapuna, a short sail to the north. He remembers training off Takapuna back in his Finn days.

“I sailed a lot in New Zealand from 1994 to 1996. I trained mainly with Dean Barker but was spending time with my old friend Craig Monk too. Leith Armit was also joining us at times. There are two dominating wind directions, a more shifty breeze from the south-west with quite flat water and then the sea breeze direction from the north. I think we will see a variety of conditions and it could be quite a tricky regatta.”

He has also brought his son, Victor, with him. Lööf explained, “As you get older the family gets more and more important. My youngest son Victor has a strong passion for sailing and I want to support him. That’s why we came to New Zealand for five weeks.  I find it hard to stay away nowadays but it’s a completely different story when I can do something together with Victor. What’s important though is that he is driving forward himself. Victor just sailed the Eastern Beach Camp together with 45 other kids. It was a fantastic camp with great coaches and it was nice to spend some time just catching up with Opti parents and get their point of views.”

“I’m not very experienced as a Opti parent or coach but found it really fascinating the different style in coaching and reaching out to the kids in the best way. I have two older kids back home doing show jumping and I find it really interesting to follow them and try to help them as much I can with my experience.”

Maja Hansson-Mild sailing the 2017 European Championship in Faaborg


Lööf will have a hard task to claim the title he came so close to winning in 2018. As well as the strong Kiwi team, the man who so nearly won on home waters in Germany, Jan Kurfeld, will be sailing, as will former European champion, Jørgen Svendsen, from Denmark, and former world champions Roger Blasse, from Australia, Greg Wilcox, also world No.1, and Thomas Hansson-Mild, from Sweden.

The age range of competitors is truly representative of the lifetime sport that is sailing, with sailors from 18 to 72 years old. The youngest sailor is 18-year old Maja Hansson-Mild, who is travelling to New Zealand with her father, the current world ranked No.3, Thomas Hansson-Mild, with whom she has been doing some last minute training in some positively wintry conditions at their club, SS Kasparen, near Gothenburg. Maja is already an experienced sailor, and a Swedish junior champion, but this will be her first OK Dinghy worlds.

“Right now I’m going to the national sports school in Motala where I sail as much as I can. I love to race and try to sail as many classes and boat types as I can, including Laser and 29ers, to get as much experience as possible. My long-term goal is to participate in an Olympic Games, but when the chance came to go down to New Zealand I took it. I have received a lot of support to make it possible.”

She will not just be competing for the Ladies and Junior prizes, but, “It will be super fun to sail in the class but I am sailing to beat many of the old men, and if I get the chance I won’t hesitate to put the squeeze on my dad.”

Nick Craig (GBR)

Only one man has won five OK Dinghy world titles and he is back after a two year break, unable to resist the temptation to sail in New Zealand during the British winter, despite feeling slightly out of practice.

“I have only sailed an OK just a couple of times since Barbados [in 2017].  I’m doing half the sailing I did in my young and single days, though still a fair bit, but have been mainly focused on two people boats over the last couple of years. I can jump into some boats and be competitive after not too long, but the OK is not one of those boats, which is why it is so satisfying when she is right, but I expect to be well off the leading pack.  Escaping the freezing UK and drinking beer with old friends will ease the pain of the beating that is coming.”

“But I am really looking forward to the Worlds. With 110 pre-entries, New Zealand is set to deliver the fantastic mix of highly competitive racing at an amazing venue in a really friendly fleet, which the OK is famous for. The growth of the OK is remarkable; we could have another 110 entry Worlds in Europe almost with a different set of people. The OK used to be a hidden gem; no longer.”

After winning his previous world titles in three different hulls, Craig has switched to a new hull for this year’s event. “I will be sailing an Ovington hull, with a Ceilidh mast and an HD sail.  My choice was based on chatting to friends and keeping an eye on the results over the last couple of years. The couple of times I have sailed, the Ovington hull was really good and quick out the box. Bring it on.”

Thomas Hansson-Mild

The 2019 Symonite OK Dinghy World Championship runs from the 7-15 February with the first races scheduled for Sunday 10 February. Many of the main challengers here have not met each other so far on an OK Dinghy race course, so it is going to be a fascinating title fight.

However, before all that, there is the New Zealand National Championship to be decided over the coming weekend, with around 70 entries so far, which will give a good indication of form going into the world championship.

by Robert Deaves

Kiwi OK Dinghy fleet anticipating fantastic World Championship

Huge fleets are becoming commonplace in the OK Dinghy fleet – OK Dinghy World Championship © Robert Deaves

The largest ever OK Dinghy event ever to be held outside Europe begins in just over 10 days in Auckland, New Zealand. The Symonite OK Dinghy World Championship has attracted 110 entries and is being held at Wakatere Boating Club on Auckland’s North Shore from 7-15 February.

The fleet is about as diverse and deep as any OK Dinghy fleet in recent years with former world champions, Olympic champions and America’s Cup stars all mixing it up in the huge fleet. Some will be sailing their first world championship, while some are well past 20 editions.

As well as the large number of entries from Australia and New Zealand, there are also entries from Britain, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Sweden and the USA. Containers of boats have arrived from Europe and Australia and are being unloaded ready for racing to start next week. The New Zealand National Championship is being held over the weekend of 2-3 February as a warm up for the world championship, with racing beginning on the 10 February.

Greg Wilcox – OK Dinghy World Championship – photo © Robert Deaves

Simon Probert, the commodore of Wakatere Boating Club, and also competing in the event, said, “The excitement is really starting to build. The first of the containers and the competitors have arrived and some have even been seen on the water. Wakatere is thrilled at the response of the local fleet and around the world at the chance to sail in New Zealand. To have a fleet of 110, or possibly more, is a testament to the growth we have seen locally over the last 10 years and also the strength and growth of the international fleet.”

“The Wakatere OK sailors are some of the friendliest you’ll meet anywhere and the team made sure we had people attending the OK Worlds and Europeans last year to talk to people about coming to New Zealand and joining us in our summer. We think that really made a difference in the numbers we have seen here for this regatta.”

“We have seen huge growth at our club where we have over 40 OKs registered with regular fleets of over 20 out for club racing.”

New Zealand has had its fair share of success at the World Championship over the past 55 years and has hosted the event on six occasions previously though the last time it was in Auckland was 1986. Kiwi sailors have lifted the title a total of 12 times, but only one of these, Greg Wilcox, will be sailing this year.

Wilcox, who was world champion in 2002, and later, served as President of the OK Dinghy Association (OKDIA), commented, “The level in the class at the moment is just huge. I think it will be a struggle just to make the top 10 this year. It is awesome that the class has attracted so many top sailors from other classes but it just makes our work on the water that much harder, but also that much more fun. How many other classes can you say you are racing alongside Olympic champions and America’s Cup winners?”

“OKDIA has put in a huge amount of effort over the last 5-10 years to really build the class and make it attractive to those who want quality, fun and sociable racing, against some of the best sailors in the world. And we have so many really good boat builders these days, that it makes the fleet far more attractive and accessible than 15-20 years ago.”

“I think part of the success has been down to the excellent choice of venues. We went to Barbados, and then last year to Warnemunde where we had 140 entries, and then Bandol for the Europeans, which was an astonishing success. After Auckland we have events lined up in Marstrand, Garda and Lyme Regis. It doesn’t look like I will be retiring any time soon.”

Rod Davis sailing in Bandol in 2018 – OK Dinghy World Championship – photo © Robert Deaves

One of the top local sailors is Ben Morrison, who won the National title two years ago. He said, “With its friendly locals, great weather, beautiful scenery, and high public interest in sailing, New Zealand makes a great venue for a sailing contest.”

He thinks the OK Dinghy is popular because it offers traditional racing and is more accessible than many classes.

“As the foiling generation concentrates on achieving ever longer and more stable flight, there is still a place in many sailors’ hearts for traditional dinghy sailing with its ever-fascinating challenges of tactics, fitness, and boat-handling, and with the simple joy of easily rigging a boat that can sail in almost any conditions, wheeling it into the water and just going sailing.”

Matthew Mason made a name for himself in the Whitbread Round the World Race as well as being involved in six America’s Cup campaigns, including four wins. He is looking forward to the upcoming championship. “Getting back into dinghies after 40 years of not sailing a centreboarder keeps it real. I love the camaraderie of this class, it is like nothing else.”

Wakatere Boating Club OK Dinghy fleet – OK Dinghy World Championship – photo © Robert Deaves

The strong Kiwi team includes three-time Olympian, Dan Slater, who has been in the class for a few years now but yet to win a major event. Also from the home club, America’s Cup star, Rod Davis, has been putting in the hours, while current National champion Luke O’Connell from Worser Bay in Wellington will be looking to go one better than his silver medal in 2014. He also took bronze in 2017.

Probert concluded, “The Devonport community, Wakatere BC members and the NZ OK sailors are ready to welcome our visitors and we are all confident this will be a memorable Ok Worlds and pre-worlds fortnight with many new memories and stories to ad the legacy of the class.”

In Part 2 of this preview we will look at some more of the favourites who will be contesting the world title.

2019.okworlds.org

by Robert Deaves

2019 International WASZP Games – Overall

Rory Hunter with the Scottish flag after winning the 2019 International WASZP Games © Drew Malcolm / 2019 International WASZP Games


The day that promised so much delivered like few events have done before them. With only 3 points separating Rory Hunter and Tom Trotman heading into the final race the atmosphere around the boat park was amazing as the whole fleet waited for the ever reliable Fremantle Doctor to come in.

After a postponement period of around an hour the fleet finally got away in about 12-14knots from the SW. With the starts proving so crucially important across the event the large spectator contingent had all eyes on where the contenders were starting. At the gun Trotman had a belter of a start with Hunter about 4th row and was then interfered with by a powerboat, it was an intense time however thankfully for Hunter the race was to be restarted due to a general recall.

Tom Trotman rounding the bottom gate – photo © Drew Malcolm / 2019 International WASZP Games

The second start was under a black flag however and a similar start occurred with Trotman powering off the middle of the line, he was high and it was ballsy, however he put the foot down and was going for it, Hunter was slightly more conservative and a little further back off the line not wanting to blow the entire regatta on the final start. As they worked upwind Hunter was hanging on to Trotman with a piece of string and not letting him out of his sight. This allowed New Zealander Bruce Curson through to the lead, this was a big story in itself as he was in a battle to get on the podium and looking to displace Alexander Hoghiem from Norway. Tristan Brown and Brad Devine were also having great races in 2nd and 5th only to discover they had been black flagged at the start, this would prove extremely important as the boats turned downwind for the final time with Trotman holding a slender lead over Hunter and Hogheim was back in 7th.

Bruce Curson (New Zealand) heat winner on the final day – photo © Drew Malcolm / 2019 International WASZP Games

The breeze was incredibly patchy down the final run and with Trotman splitting away from Hunter on the final run it looked as if the Aussie and a bunch of boats to the right were going to sail in front of Hunter anything could happen at this stage. Bruce Curson took the race win in emphatic fashion and turned his eyes to the action behind him, Pierre Leboucher enjoying the lighter conditions managed to slip inside Trotman pushing him back to 3rd and losing a valuable point on Hunter. There were then 3 boats out to the right who looked to be in puff although Hunter managed to sneak through by a matter of 10 seconds with a nervous gybe at the death.

Rory Hunter downwind on the final day – photo © Drew Malcolm / 2019 International WASZP Games

This meant the podium didn’t change from overnight with Hunter finishing on 30pts, Trotman on 32pts and Alexander Hogheim just pipping Bruce Curson by 1point for 3rd place.

With 7 nations in the top 10 it was a truly special International event, in the other divisions Brad Devine claimed the masters trophy, son Tommy Devine took out the 6.9m rig, Elise Beavis is the number 1 female WASZP sailor in the world and Rory Hunter capped off an amazing event taking the U21 title as well!


Final Standtings after Race 12 with 2 discards (59 entries)


1st GBR 2681 Rory Hunter 4 – – 30 pts
2nd AUS 2453 Tom Trotman 3 – – 32 pts
3rd NOR 2315 Alexander Hogheim 6 – – 41 pts
4th NZL 2248 Bruce Curson 1 – – 42 pts
5th HUN 1 Tamas Szamody 13 – – 59 pts
6th AUS 2509 Tristan Brown BFD – – 63 pts
7th AUS 2506 Jon Holroyd 8 – – 80 pts
8th AUS 2025 Ben Gunther 15 – – 82 pts
9th HKG 2666 Nicolai Jacobsen 10 – – 85 pts
10th AUS 2507 Aaron De Longville 18 – – 88 pts

Full results available here

by Marc Ablett, Waszp Class

Slalom Waszp racing causes a massive buzz

The International WASZP Games kicked off in style yesterday with the first ever International WASZP Slalom event streamed live into households around the world! This event has been a long time in the making with many test events used to get the format absolutely nailed.

64 competitors from 11 countries joined in the fun, with 17 races or flights held in 2hours it really is the 20/20 cricket version of sailing. Thrills, spills and epic racing in glamour Perth conditions made a sensational spectacle. Racing was conducted in Freshwater Bay right in front of the host club creating one of the best natural amphitheatres in the world, there were spectators on boats and in the clubs beer garden set up right above the race track providing an awesome experience for family and friends.

Racing started in around 12-15 knots from the SW perfect for foiling, the first round of 8 heats had all competitors competing with the top 4 in each heat moving through to the quarter finals, this gave everyone an opportunity to gauge the course and not necessarily needing to win but only needing to finish top 4 meaning you could sail conservatively enough to just get through.
The quarter finals claimed some big scalps with reigning Australian Nationals Champion Tom Trotman, runner up Rory Hunter and 5th placed Jack Abbott all succumbing to the pressure of this intense racing.

The fleet was also joined by a couple of gun sailors taking a break from their Sail GP and Americas Cup campaigns in Tom Johnson and Luke Parkinson, deciding only half an hour before the racing that they would enter the event. Due to the user friendly nature of the boats, they were rigged in 10 minutes and on the water. Having never sailed a WASZP didn’t seem to phase these guys as they have had significant experience across a lot of foiling classes and are at the top of the game. Both made it to the semi-finals which again is a great testament to the WASZP and its one-design nature. Tom managed to also get through to the final after having a big spill in the semi final only for Parko to have a swim and let him through to 4th position to just qualify for the finals series.

The Grand Final series was as exciting racing as you could imagine, with 8 boats from 5 countries qualifying it gave a great international feel. It was all to play for with former 470 Olympian Pierre Leboucher having a 1,2 in the best of 3 series to lead by 1pt from Tom Johnson who scored a 1,3. There was also a great battle looming for the 3rd place between Alexander Holgheim of Norway and Alex Mitchell-Barker from NZ only separated by a point also.

The last race was all to play for with Johnson taking the low road to the first mark with Leboucher not far behind, there was 8 boats all within about 50m of each other as they turned to go through the 2nd gate and it was still anyone’s game. Johnson however picked his angles the best to claim a sensational victory and win the overall International WASZP Slalom event, Leboucher was gunning for a 3rd place over the line only to capsize right before the finish finishing 7th letting Alex Mitchell-Barker through to 2nd place, Holgheim also nearly pipped Leboucher for 3rd finishing just 1pt behind.

In the final Johnson paid testament to the diversity in ages with young Mattias Coutts finishing 6th at just 14 years of age while John Holroyd finished 7th and being in his 40s. “To have pro sailors, mixing with gun youth and masters sailors, you just don’t get this in any other class”, Johnson stated.

by Marc Ablett