Jørgen Svendsen (DEN) is the new OK Dinghy European Champion after all racing was cancelled on the final day as the find failed to appear for the second day in a row. André Budzien (GER) took the silver while defending champion Bo Petersen (DEN) had to settle for the bronze.
The forecast was never that encouraging for the final day on Steinhuder Meer in Germany. It had rained almost non-stop for the previous 36 hours, and it finally abated early Saturday morning. As the sailors rose from their slumber the lake was shrouded in a low mist with barely a breath of wind breaking the surface. Breakfast started at 7.00 to allow a start to be made at 10.00. However, though the visibility improved, the wind did not and the hours ticked away with AP flying. Eventually the sun came out and the sailors could dry out, though some started on the beer rather early as there seemed little prospect of racing. Finally at 14.00 the race officer came ashore and put everyone out of their misery and the task of packing up could begin in earnest.
Svendsen's win, and Petersen's failure to retain it, continues the curse of the OK Dinghy European title. No one has ever successfully defended the European title in this class. In fact no sailor has ever won it twice. Svendsen has won several Danish titles, and was ranked No.1 in the world in the OK Dinghy last year, but this is his first major international title, and it was perhaps a long time coming. He won four out of the six race sailed, but ironically never sailed against the defending champion due to none of the gold/silver fleet races being sailed.
In contrast he did beat second placed Budzien several times, including the two important race wins on Thursday in what many sailors acknowledge was the best racing they have done all year. Budzien, of course is better known as a multiple Finn Masters World Champion, but also won the OK Dinghy World title in 2012.
Defending champion Petersen sailed an impressive series, and but for gear failure on Thursday would probably have taken silver. He has only been in the class for two years, but is always challenging the front of the fleet, especially in lighter winds.
It has been a memorable event, not least because of the hospitality of the two host clubs, Segler-Verein Großenheidorn and Yachtclub Steinhuder Meer and the organisational prowess of Ralf 'Ossi' Tietje (GER) who has worked tirelessly for the last two years to bring it all together and received a standing ovation at the closing ceremony tonight. The Germans are famous for their hospitality but this year it has far exceeded everyone's expectations. The 110 sailors who arrived in Steinhude have had a fabulous time, and leave with some great memories of close racing, great friendships, new and old, and probably far too much beer. The word is that 1,200 litres have been consumed this week.
However, not content with organising the perfect event, the hosts also organised the most lavish prizegiving probably ever seen in the fleet. Every sailor was given an embroidered towel and framed photo of themselves sailing. The top 20 received engraved glass decanters, and the top 3 were filled with whiskey.
OK Dinghy Europeans Prize Giving ©Robert Deaves
Svendsen's summed up the feelings of the sailors after taking his first international title. “I feel that we had three good days racing. Light winds the first day, medium wind on the second and a lot of wind on the third. All kinds of conditions. I especially enjoyed day 2 when my son and I were best but the one I will remember the best was day 3. It was fantastic. I was in the fleet with all the favourites and it was so close we had a very good fight and all the top sailors were very friendly to each other and we actually spoke and joked when we turned marks and mostly it was 'good luck' on the next leg. I was also very glad to meet Jim Hunt. He is an amazing sailor but most of all he was a very good sportsman.”
“The arrangements here have just been fantastic, from the breakfasts, evening meals to the help getting off the water when we are all tired. Thanks to everyone for all the effort and the sailors for coming.”
There is now just six months to the next OK Dinghy major championship. The 2014 World Championship will take place in Melbourne, Australia just after Christmas.
– Robert Deaves