Ten-time Australian OK Dinghy National Champion, Roger Blasse, got off to the perfect start at the 57th Australian OK Dinghy Nationals at Black Rock YC, Melbourne, on Saturday with two race wins from two races. Mark Jackson picked up two seconds while two fourth places for Mike Williams, leaves him third overnight.
The championship opened to some rather unsettled weather and grey, overcast skies, with two races scheduled from 13.00. The day started with morning rain and humid unstable weather. By midday a cold front passed across the bay with a 10 to 15 knot southerly. The forecast was for the breeze to stay south, south east at 10 to 15 knots and the day remained overcast with no prospect of a sea breeze. The southerly system breeze was oscillating up to 20 degrees, which provided some very tactical and challenging racing.
Race Officer, Phill Collyer, made a first attempt to get the fleet away under ‘P’ flag, with the predictable result of a general recall. The restart under ‘U’ also resulted in a general recall. The fleet finally got away cleanly under 'U' at the third attempt. Mike Williams, AUS 730, led round the first mark with a bunch of boats close behind including Roger Blasse, AUS 749, Mark Jackson, AUS 768, and Andre Blasse, AUS 729. By the gybe mark Jackson was in front of Williams and the two Blasses, and then extended down the second reach for a 100-metre lead at the end of the first round.
On the second beat, the leading boats all stayed on the lifting port tack, with Jackson bailing out about half way to the layline. Roger Blasse led the boats on the right side out to the layline, while Jackson paid the price for not covering with a 10 degree right hand shift, putting Blasse into the lead and the rest of the pack bunching up by the second top mark. Blasse held on down the run and final beat to the finish to win from Jackson, while Brent Williams, AUS 754, in a new Icebreaker hull from New Zealand, came through to third. Mike Williams crossed in fourth.
Brent Williams commented, “It was a great day of racing in some tricky conditions. The seas were typically lumpy so there was plenty of opportunity to surf on the reaches and runs if you were good enough. Roger [Blasse] and Mark Jackson were very fast downwind and it was great to see Mike [Williams] and Andre [Blasse] on the water again. I felt I was going pretty well today. I had two good starts and some better speed downwind. I was happy to hold off Mike and Andre for third in Race 1 and was solid in Race 2.”
The second race got away under ‘U’ flag after one unsuccessful attempt, with only one boat UFD, Daen Doarzio, AUS 735, who crossed the fleet on port after starting at the pin end. The leading boats pushed out to the right on the first beat and were surprised with a big left hand shift near the top mark. Michael Horvarth, AUS 744, rounded first, from Andre Blasse, Roger Blasse and Jackson.
Roger Blasse turned on the afterburners in his Delfs hull on the downwind legs to lead round the first triangle with Jackson close behind in second and Horvarth in third. Blasse extended up the second beat and Horvarth passed Jackson to round the second top mark in second place. Horvath and Jackson were within a boat length of each other all the way down the run and up the final beat to the finish. While Blasse won by nearly two minutes, Jackson just took second from Horvarth third, with Mike Williams picking up another fourth.
Mike Williams has returned to the class after an absence since the 2014 World Championships, also at Black Rock. He commented, “I’m happy with a couple of fourths, which is a good way to start a regatta. It is good to know that I am still competitive after a long break, but I also know I am not as fit as I need to be.”
With many sailors using this event to test their equipment and their form before February’s 2019 World Championship in New Zealand, double world champion, Roger Blasse, is setting the early pace with his usual blistering offwind speed.
Brent Williams said, “It’s just unbelievable how quick Roger is going.”
“Looks like a bit more breeze for tomorrow so more good racing to come.”
Four more races are scheduled over the next two days, 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 two races
1 AUS 749 R Blasse 2
2 AUS 768 M Jackson 4
3 AUS 730 M Williams 8
4 AUS 744 M Horvath 10
5 AUS 754 B Williams 10
6 AUS 779 T Davies 11
7 AUS 729 A Blasse 11
8 AUS 719 G Williams 17
9 AUS 774 P Robinson 19
10 AUS 756 N Bennett 20
– Robert Deaves