Sailors from as far afield as Belgium and Scotland (and one local-ish Kiwi) descended upon Herne Bay Sailing Club in Kent for the 2017 OK National Championships from 21st to the 24th of September. Due to the last minute change to the event date to avoid the Herne Bay Air Show in August, to still achieve an entry of 27 boats is excellent for the class with competition tight throughout the fleet.
After a pleasant start to the first day with rigging, registration and safety checks to be carried out the fleet readied itself for the first two races of the eight race series. The forecast was for a good F4 and from the beach all looked in order until one of the first boats to launch capsized just off the slip which was an indication of things to come. Once the fleet got offshore to the race course, they found conditions were a bit more boisterous than expected with the PRO David ‘Dougie’ Henshall admitting later on that they had 28-30 knots at one point. Both races on the first day were convincingly won by Richard ‘Burt’ Burton who revelled in the conditions. He was followed home in the first race by Terry Curtis, showing that size didn’t necessarily matter in the breeze and Simon Cowood who showed that ‘staying alive’ counts in the breeze. The second race saw a reduced fleet due to breakages and some wiser sailors who saw no apparent sign of a reduction in the wind strength heading home. The race was decided on the last run when Burt overtook Dave Bourne and then led home followed by Bourne and Ant Osman. The day was rounded out with the first presentation of the new OK yellow jacket – not for being series leader, but for being ‘Dick of the Day’, this being awarded to Tom Lonsdale for that windward capsize off the slip as he launched for the day.
Day two saw the fleet awake, with only minor sore heads, to a light but sunny day. The PRO made it clear that he wasn’t going to send the fleet out until the wind stabilised and he saw at least a constant 6knts across the course. After much coffee, larking about and general fleet boredom, the racing for the day was canned around 2pm. This of course did have the advantage of causing the wind to promptly increase half an hour later! – Who’d be a PRO? The larking about did produce the next winner of the yellow jacket in the shape of ‘Burt’ Burton who had been roundly beaten in a challenge including both press ups and sit ups by the 69 year old class treasurer Paul Pike. The early finish also allowed the AGM to be brought forward before the fleet spent too long at the bar but it didn’t delay them unnecessarily.
With a days racing lost the third day had the option of a third race if conditions and time allowed. The day was light but slightly choppy and the strength of the tide became a large factor to be considered. The first race of the day got off to a faltering start with an initial general recall, followed by the PRO raising his very ISIS like black flag for the second start, which then got abandoned due to a hooter going off a minute early! With the ISIS flag still flying the fleet got away third time with local-ish Kiwi Luke Gower winning followed by Terry Curtis and Andy Osman in his beautifully restored older boat proving that a new hull isn’t necessary to be up at the front of the race. The second race of the day got away cleanly and was one again by Luke, followed home by ‘Burt’ and the ever consistent Curtis. The third race of the day was a bit more controversial. A late wind shift, a drop in wind speed and the running tide saw the fleet unable to cross the start line on starboard, but they got away cleanly. Gower again led and when the wind shifted again on the second beat to turn it into a fetch the fleet expected a shortened course as the committee boat was beside the windward mark. However they didn’t shorten the course and the fleet returned on a reach in the opposite direction for the ‘run’ before a short beat to the finish which had mysteriously(to some) been laid to port of the original windward mark by a few more metres than expected. This saw a protest (or was it request for redress?) against the race committee in protest at the third race of the day, but it was thrown out and the result stood.
The winner of the yellow jacket for the day? – It went to the PRO, ‘Dougie’ Henshall who took it in the good humour it was intended and wore it proudly in the bar for the remainder of the evening, as indeed is required by all winners.
With the series lead now having changed from Burton to Gower with Curtis lying in second the last day of the series got underway with everything to play for. This was indeed true throughout the fleet with very few in a fixed overall position which is an indication of the depth of competitiveness throughout the OK fleet.
Again, in the generally side decking to just hiking conditions Gower was dominant leading home the first race in style followed by Tom Lonsdale and Dave Bourne who had found the speed he seemed to have misplaced the day before. But Gower wasn’t having it all his own way ending up fourth in the final race with Terry Curtis winning, and OK boat builder Alex Scoles coming second with Bourne third again.
This meant the Luke Gower in NZL 573 took the 2017 British OK championship and with it the honour of being able to sail under GBR 1 next year as UK champion! Second was Terry Curtis rounding out a good year after winning the Osprey Nationals and coming second in the Europe Nationals too. Third place went to Alex Scoles who had sailed a consistent series counting a 6th as his worst place and even managed to avoid the usual plight of being a boatbuilder at events by not having to fix any boats – must be the way they build them Alex? Newcomer prize went to Ant Osman competing in his first OK Nationals. The Club team prize went to Overy Staithe Sailing Club in North Norfolk.
With several active OK builders in the UK and Europe at the moment the fleet was a mixture of the new Ovingtons, Idol Composites, Synergy’s along with older hulls proving themselves still quick in the right hands. Rigs were mainly carbon with sails from North, HD and Hyde but a notable mention must to go Tom Lee sailing GBR 1728 which is some 40 years old and the only boat sailing with a metal mast. Not only did he win the vintage prize but he showed bursts of speed, especially downwind, that showed very much it is more to do with the nut on the end of the tiller than the equipment, and that is what makes the OK so great.
A big thank you must go to the Commodore and members of Herne Bay SC who hosted the event and made the fleet feel properly at home and welcome. The OK class certainly cannot speak highly enough of the effort the put in, be it launching the RIBs at 6:00am, the super efficient trolley service, the meals that were put on or the bar being kept stocked up to meet the fleets needs. Thanks must also be given to the Race Team for enabling the racing to happen, for taking part fully in the evenings entertainments and of course for wearing the yellow jacket with such pride.
The OK events continue with the HD Sails inland series continuing with events at Upper Thames, Ardleigh and South Staffs and the North Sails Super Series, of which the Nationals was a part concludes at Northampton at the start of November.
With a huge resurgence in the class in Continental Europe the class is looking forward to the Worlds at the class favourite of Warnmunde in Germany at the start of July next year and the Europeans at Bandol in the south of France at the end of September, so there is plenty of time to get a boat and get involved for next year.
|2017 OK National Championship Results|
|1||573||Luke Gower||Datchet SC||13|
|12||14||Karen Robertson||Loch Earn||76|
|19||248||Joost Rommelaere||KLYC Antwerp||109|
|26||64||Jon Hammond||South Cerney||134|