Jorgen Svendsen (DEN) has taken a three point lead at the OK Dinghy European Championship in Steinhude, Germany after two race wins as the winds peaked out at 26 knots on a tough day for the fleet. Andre Budzien (GER) is still in second with defending champion Bo Petersen (DEN) down to third.
Just when the OK Dinghy fleet thought it couldn’t get any better, Steinhude turned it up again. The forecast 12-15 knots turned into 15-20 knots at the end of the first race and then increased further for the start of race two. The sun was also out for most of the day for a near perfect day’s sailing. Of course it was still as shifty as ever and the short, steep chop tested the stamina of the sailors with more than a few going for an unscheduled swim/walk in the shallow waters of the lake.
Defending champion Bo Petersen (DEN) dominated race 5 in the Yellow fleet, rounding the top mark just behind Pawel Pawlaczyk (POL). Petersen was leading by the gybe mark and extended for an easy win. Will Turner (GBR) occupied second for much of the race, though he was almost caught by Robert Deaves (GBR) who crossed third, after defending from Pawlaczyk in a very close fourth. Petersen pulled out of race 6 with a broken kicker on the first reach and the battle at the front was beween Pawlaczyk, Oliver Gronholz (GER) and early leader Gunter Arndt (GER). With the wind now well over 20 knots it was a gruelling race with spectacular downwinds. On the final beat Gronholz went slightly further to the left and crossed back to win from Arndt who went right and Pawlaczyk, who was more in the middle.
The Blue fleet was great preparation for the gold fleet racing starting tomorrow with most of the favourites racing each other at the front. Jim Hunt (GBR) led race 5 from Greg Wilcox (NZL) and Andre Budzien (GER). Along with Jorgen Svendsen (DEN) and Jorgen Lindhardtsen (DEN) they sailed their own race ahead of the pack, always very close. On the final upwind Svendsen and Budzien took a risk on the right and came back on a 40 degree shift for first and second while Hunt took third. The same five were at the front in race 6, with Hunt again leading for much of the race. However he got stuck on the downwind and passed by Svendsen. All five finished within 10 boatlengths with Svendsen taking his second bullet of the day from Budzien and Lindhardtsen.
The fleet is now split into Gold and Silver fleets for the remaining four races overFriday and Saturday. Svendsen has a three point lead, while just 27 points separate the top 10, so there is still plenty of racing to come. Five of the top 10 are already discarding a high or letter score, so there could be some movement if they are not too careful. There are also only four points from 10th to 15th which should produce an exciting conclusion.
This championship has highlighted the diversity within the class. For example there are seven women competing this year, probably a record for a major OK Dinghy class championship. The highest placed is Juliane Hofmann (GER) in 51st place and in the Gold fleet. She is also the new secretary of OKDIA. There are also three aged, all wooden boats, including spars, competing, often mixing it with modern boats and rigs. Though likened to pieces of furniture by those sailors they have overtaken, they remain reasonably competitive in the right conditions and the right hands. It can be rather disconcerting to find yourself behind a dinghy built before you were born, as many have found out this week. The sailors here range from 17 to 72 and every age in between and from 60kg to 120kg. If the OK Dinghy is one thing is it inclusive.
As this goes out Steinhude is recovering from a massive storm which flooded the boat park and camping areas. It is still and very quiet apart from another free banquet in the tent by the lake, with a band providing entertainent. The forecast for the coming days suggests not a lot of wind, but every day so far there has been more than has been forecast. Racing continues Friday from 12.00.
Results after six races (one discard)