Three very long-standing Australian members of the OK Dinghy class were inducted into the OKDIA Hall of Fame during the opening ceremony of the 2014 World Championship at Black Rock Yacht Club, Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday 28 December. Bill Bell, Roger Blasse and Andre Blasse were all presented with engraved crystal mementoes to mark the occasion.
The rapturous applause and appreciative comments from their contemporaries and combative rivals was proof enough that these awards were appreciated by the class and perhaps long overdue. It has become a tradition of the class that these ceremonies are held at the Word Championship and this was perhaps one of the best yet.
The OKDIA Hall of Fame was conceived in 2007 as a way to acknowledge the success of its top sailors and those who have made an outstanding contribution to the class. Since 2007, 18 sailors have now been inducted into the OKDIA Hall of Fame including World Champions and class administrators from all generations of the class.
Bill Bell (AUS) was introduced by Andre Blasse (AUS). He said, “Bill has been sailing for ever. I think he has won the nationals three times, gone to many worlds, been a member here at Black Rock and been a keen OK Dinghy sailor. He helped set up the Clive Roberts Memorial fund, which we run in Australia to give grants to juniors to attend worlds. He has helped the class forever.”
“It's fantastic to be able to award this to Bill. He is on the jury here and had been on the OK Dinghy Worlds Jury too many times to mention. He also sailed at the worlds here in 1982. Congratulations”
A clearly thrilled Bill Bell replied, “This is a real surprise. I had no idea this was about to happen. Getting back to the Clive Robert fund, it started off with out with $1,500 and since then we have given about 40 grants to about 30 sailors, and I am pretty proud of what has been achieved with it and hope we can do a lot more with it.”
Bill's quiet but authoritative voice has been a constant companion of almost all OK Dinghy world championships in recent memory, bringing with it a lifetime's experience of sailing the boat and being around the sailors of the class. He is one of the unsung heroes of the OK Dinghy class and this award is long overdue for someone who gives so much free time to develop and nurture the OK Dinghy.
Next, Greg Wilcox (NZL) introduced Roger Blasse (AUS). “When we came up with the Hall of Fame in 2007 the OKDIA Committee had a shortlist of people we thought would be in there straightaway and obviously Jørgen Lindhardtsen (DEN) was the first one and deservedly so and there were a few others we thought would be in he pretty quickly, so this has taken a while.”
Roger Blasse was inducted for his lifelong commitment to the OK class in Victoria and Australia and for his outstanding success at all levels of competition. Roger started sailing the OK Dinghy in 1986 and still competes regularly at the highest level. He won his first Australian National title in 1988 and went on to win 10 more which included a remarkable run of five in a row from 2004 to 2008. A regular competitor at World Championships, Roger won the title in 1998 and then again in 2013. He has been actively involved in the class for close to 30 years and acted for many years as Class Measurer.
Wilcox continued, “Roger has given me some pretty good lessons on how to sail when it's windy and especially downwind and I think he'll continue to do that but one of the great things about Roger is that he shares his ideas, is happy to talk to other sailors and is just a great all round guy.”
“His success is the icing on the cake. If you ask Roger then I think he would say the real reason he is still doing it is not to win things but because of all the friends here.”
On receiving his award, Roger Blasse said, “I think Greg has hit the nail on the head. It's always good to reach the top of the fleet but I do it because I really like the class and enjoy sailing the boat so much. It's one of those things that's just in your body. Yesterday, it was a classic Black Rock day, breeze at 18-20 knots and cruising around catching the waves was just the best day. I enjoyed myself immensely.”
“Last year's win [at the worlds] was an immense surprise to me. It shocked me how much fun I had in Thailand. But I just love my sailing if you can compete in the world fleet against the guys around you and you set a goal that you want to finish a few places higher than last year. That's the great thing about the class; you can do that and it's a great feeling when you are up against all the other legends in the class, because you know they are very good sailors.
“So thank you very much. This is just an amazing accolade.”
Then Mark Jackson (AUS) introduced a very surprised Andre Blasse (AUS). Jackson said, “It is a great privilege to announce the next recipient. We've been friends for 45 years and started sailing together in the Sabot.”
“Andre started sailing OK Dinghies at 15 years old and sailed his first nationals in 1981 and first worlds in 1982. This will be his 19th worlds since then, so a fantastic effort. He has been OKDIA president, Australian treasurer, and also important, he was instrumental in the resurgence of the class in Australia. He had a vision of standard professionally built off the shelf OKs, which was fantastic for the class. Congratulations.”
Andre Blasse was inducted for lifelong commitment and outstanding service to the OK Class in Victoria, Australia and the world. Andre commenced sailing the OK Dinghy in 1980 and competed in his first Nationals in 1981. He has won the Australian title on four occasions and been runner up countless times, often to his brother Roger. He competes regularly at World Championships, often finishing in the top ten. Best results have been third in Warnemunde in 2008 and fourth in both Adelaide in 1998 and Sweden in 2009. He is the immediate past President of OKDIA, is a Life Member of the Australian Association and is a National and International Measurer for the class.
In contrast to his brother, Roger, a very emotional Andre Blasse was almost lost for words. With a broken voice he managed to get out. “I can't believe it. I enjoy the class, enjoy all the people, so thank you.”
Members of the OKDIA Hall of Fame
[with year of induction)
Jørgen Lindhardtsen, Denmark, 2007
Leith Armit, New Zealand, 2007
Clive Roberts, New Zealand, 2007
Norbert Petrausch, Germany, 2008
Marian Jankowski, Poland, 2008
Bill Tyler, Australia, 2008
Basil Crosby, Great Britain, 2009
Bo-Staffan Andersson, Sweden, 2009
Nick Craig, Great Britain, 2012
Axel Damgaard, Denmark later USA, 2012
Paul Elvstrøm, Denmark, 2012
Svend Jacobsen, Denmark, 2012
Alf Lock, New Zealand, 2012
Knud Olsen, Denmark, 2012
Greg Wilcox, New Zealand, 2012
Bill Bell, Australia, 2014
Roger Blasse, Australia, 2014
Andre Blasse, Australia, 2014
– Robert Deaves