Roger Blasse extends lead after changeable second day at Australian OK Dinghy Nationals

Roger Blasse extended his lead at the 2019 OK Dinghy Australian National Championship at Black Rock YC after two more race wins on Sunday. Mark Jackson remains in second with Brent Williams having a great day to move up to third.

The Melbourne day started with rain and thunderstorms, with the prospect of little wind early in the day. After considering a one-hour postponement, once the rain had cleared, Race Officer Phill Collyer, sent the fleet out on time for a 13.00 start in a 10 knot south-south-easterly. The fleet was too keen at the first attempt under ‘P’ flag, but then got away on the second attempt under ‘U’.

With random oscillations between 10 and 15 degrees, boats were spread across the course on the first beat of Race 3. Tim Davies, AUS 779, rounded first with Brent Williams, AUS 754, and Roger Blasse, AUS 749, close behind.

The race ended up as a match race between Blasse and Davies as they tried to cover and break cover in a shifting breeze, which meant they extended and came back to the fleet on several occasions. In the end they had a tacking duel into the finish with Blasse winning by just one boat length from Davies. Williams crossed in third.

It was also a good race for the lightweights to show their skill. Shane Smith, AUS 33, was close behind in fourth. To round out the 80 kg and under division, Grant Wakefield, AUS 776, was sixth and Daen Dorazio, AUS 735, was seventh.

Andre Blasse pulled the trigger too early, realized he was over and sailed in to fix a broken traveller before the second race.

The fourth heat followed in a breeze that had moved right and the RO set the course at 180, a true Black Rock sea breeze direction, but with no sun to be seen; the famous Port Phillip sea breeze is yet to appear. There was a little more pressure than in the first race and the breeze built to 12 to 16 knots. The RO tried first time under ‘U’ flag and a big bunch was over at the pin which was slightly biased, so the Black Flag was pulled out for the first time in the regatta.

Brent Williams led the fleet out from the left side of the first beat, followed by a bunch including Roger Blasse, Davies, and Peter Robinson, AUS 774, and James Beavis, AUS 778, from Sydney. The group from the right looked great half way up the first beat, but the breeze dialled left and they struggled to get back.

Smith was again in the mix in the top group. Roger Blasse continued to show great downwind speed and led round the first triangle from Williams and Davies. Up the second beat the wind increased in strength and the lighter guys at the front started to struggle, while the bigger guys started to power up. Blasse rounded the last windward in the lead from Williams, Davies, Andre Blasse and Robinson. Andre Blasse powered down the run in 15 to 18 knots of wind strength to round the last mark third and Mark Jackson and Mike Williams passed Robinson to round fifth and sixth.

At the finish it was Roger Blasse, Brent Williams and Jackson. Andre Blasse crossed third, but was again OCS and BFD. Davies also picked up a BFD. Both started next to each other and clearly pushed each other over.

Tim Davies reflected at the end of his day, “I'm having a great time, the racing is unreal and very cut throat. It is very enjoyable racing. I sailed well in the first race of the day in spite of nearly tipping over at the bottom mark first time round, but I put it behind me. I was really pleased to engage in close covering with Roger and at the same time hold out the other boats.”

“In the second race I was BFD, but it is still early in the regatta. I need to be aggressive on the starts with the worlds coming up. My daughter is a very good figure skater and very determined. When I get into a difficult spot I think about the advice I give her to stay focused and put it behind her.”

What will it take to beat Roger? “He is very quick downwind as are all the Black Rock guys, as it is their home waters. Make no mistake, I am here to win, so no mistakes from here. I need to sail well for the next couple of days, but I like the end of regattas as others start to fatigue.”

In the lighter breeze a number of the lighter sailors in the fleet were showing good speed and were well placed, including Shane Smith, AUS 33, from Queensland now up to seventh overall, and Grant Wakefield, AUS 776, from Sydney now up to sixth.

Wakefield explained his day, “In the first race in the lighter breeze I got a reasonable start away in clear air and tried to maintain boat speed to keep in touch with Roger and Tim, with the goal of being in their cohort at the top mark. After that I felt I would be able to gain on the reaches and find clear air up the second work, but those guys are all fast and at best, I didn’t lose ground by the bottom mark.”

“In the second race we started in 8-10 knots and after a very average start I managed to work up to be within the top 15 at the top mark, gaining a few places on the reaches to maybe 10th at the bottom mark. Thereafter the breeze freshened and it was a case of losing a few places to the bigger guys upwind and doing my best to regain them downwind, which I did to finish in 11th, later ninth as Andre and Tim were both black flagged.”

“I am really enjoying sailing in a regatta that has delivered some conditions for a lightweight sailor, while still being able to hang on when the breeze freshens. I am enjoying the new Mackay Icebreaker and the latest lightweight Turtle sail. They seem to be working for me. It has been a seven year apprenticeship to learn how to take advantage of a light breeze and put myself at least close to the big guns.”

Race Officer Phill Collyer is happy to be on schedule. Phill stated, “The sailors are happy, so I am happy. I am hopeful for a range of breezes, so some stronger breezes would be good to make sure we have a champion across all conditions. Having said that I would like the breeze to be a bit steadier, it would make our job easier. I am happy with my team, they are doing a great job and I am keen to get all races in. Tomorrow we will come down and see what we have got and go from there. The competitors have been great, great communication and a great class to work with.”

Two more races are scheduled for Monday before a lay day on New Year’s Day. Then the final two days of racing will be held on 2 and 3 January. Ten races are scheduled, of which five are needed to complete a series.

Results after four races
1 AUS 749 R Blasse 4
2 AUS 768 M Jackson 12
3 AUS 754 B Williams 15
4 AUS 730 M Williams 26
5 AUS 744 M Horvath 27
6 AUS 776 G Wakefield 40
7 AUS 033 S Smith 43
8 AUS 774 P Robinson 46
9 AUS 719 G Williams 49
10 AUS 756 N Bennett 51

Full results: http://bryc.floatingfloors.com.au/BRYC/results/2018/nats/SGrp15.htm

– Robert Deaves

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