After a long wait, the 2023 OK Dinghy European Championship has opened at Circolo Vela Arco (CVA) on Sunday evening with a star-studded line up. 115 sailors from 15 nations will race a 10-race series over the next four days.
The 2021 World Championship at CVA was cancelled because of the pandemic, and because of other scheduled events could not be rescheduled until 2025, so to fill the gap the club agreed to hold a European Championship. It is set to be the largest European Championship ever held for the class and also marks the first year ever that the OK Dinghy class has gathered more than 100 boats at both its world and European championships.
The defending and three-time champion is Denmark’s Bo Petersen, but the queue lining up to snatch the title is as long as it is wide, and includes former world champions, Nick Craig and Charlie Cumbley from Britain, three time world champion André Budzien from Germany, new Nordic champion and world No. 2 Thomas Hansson-Mild from Sweden, and many others.
The entry also includes Denmark’s World No 10, Jens Eckardt, Germany’s Jan Kurfeld, Britain’s Andy Davis and Matt Howard, France’s Valerian Lebrun as well as Ireland’s Tim Goodbody, racing for Spain, who has not done a major OK Dinghy regatta for more than a decade.
Conditions on Lake Garda over the last few days have produced very high temperatures and afternoon winds of 12-15 knots. Some of the fleet have been here for days preparing and enjoyed the fabulous weather and sailing.
At the opening ceremony the President of Circolo Vela Arco, Carlo Pompili, welcomed the participants to the club and Garda and wished all a great championship.
Pontis Gäbel, vice president of OKDIA spoke for the class. After thanking the club, the officials and the helpers, he said, “It is great to be here on Lago di Garda, this spectacular lake. I’m sure that a few of you are like me – you have racing on Garda in the No. 1 spot in your bucket list. Entering Arco from the north and seeing all the sails dot the lake as far as you can see is magical.
“This is an extraordinary year for OK sailing. It is the first year we have over 100 boats in both worlds and Europeans. This is the sign of a strong and growing OK class. Thank you for coming and making this event a success.”
The event has also attracted a recent record number of entries with 15 nations represented including many of the new members of OKDIA – Thailand, Spain, and Italy, the first two Italian boats taking part in a major event in living memory. Similar to an increasing number of new sailors in the class, both boats were recently home built and it has been a long road to get them ready to race and here in Arco.
Racing begins on Monday with a 10-race series through to Thursday. The racing will be sailed in two groups, and after two days, or four races, will be split into gold and silver fleets for the final series.
Event website: 2023.okeuropeans.org