Fredrik Lööf, from Sweden, has secured his second successive OK Dinghy European title in Kiel with a race to spare after winning the first race of the day on the final day on Tuesday. Valerian Lebrun, from France took silver, while Thomas Hansson-Mild, from Sweden took a late bronze after his best day of the championship. Bo Petersen, from Denmark, won the final race. The 2019 OK Dinghy European Championship was sailed within Kieler Woche.
Lööf only needed a top 12 placing to secure the title and wrap up his second title. His performance this week has been almost flawless, but he has had to fight for every boat length against a fleet that is increasing in talent and numbers. In only his second season back in the class, he has twice finished second in the world championship, but aims to put that right next year, and if this week’s performance is anything to go by, he will go in as favourite.
The whole event has been blessed by amazing and untypical weather, and on Tuesday the temperatures soared to 30 degrees on shore. Though the forecast for the day was good, the fleet set off for the final day in a very light breeze with a more than an hour’s sail to the start line. Race 9 got away under black flag in 6-8 knots but the wind soon began to freshen and by the time Race 10 started, also under black flag, there was a beautiful 10-12 knots.
Greg Wilcox, from New Zealand led around the top mark in Race 9, but he had Petersen and Lööf just behind him. Wilcox maintained his lead until the first leeward gate, but then both Lööf and Petersen passed him. The three extended on the fleet and finished in that order. Lööf then sailed in for an early celebration.
Petersen was first to tack at the pin end in Race 10 and never looked back, opening up a comfortable lead from Chris Turner, of Britain, and Wolfgang Höfener, of Germany. Petersen never looked under threat despite several place changes on the final upwind he crossed ahead of Turner and Hansson-Mild, to record the best performance on the final day.
Lebrun was happy with the silver medal, but knows he missed some chances. “I was pretty surprised, after Bandol last year, with lots of new sailors here and a lot of them were very good. Of course the Swedish was still impressive and making very few mistakes. You needed to sail your best to pass and unfortunately I had quite a tricky first day including a UFD and I had to sail the whole regatta taking care at the start and that was quite difficult.”
On the week, “We had extremely good conditions and pretty varied. So it was a very complete regatta with 10 races and pretty exhausting too. I’m already looking forward to the OK event. For sure I really like the boat and it’s very exciting sailing in such a fleet with so many nice sailors, so for sure I will be back and will try to train a bit more. I am very happy with my boat and I think I was one of the fastest in the fleet, so for the next regatta I need to train, especially in the light winds.”
Lööf summed up his week. “It was really good sailing with four days of tough sailing,” he said. “I had a bit of slow start as I got a new boat just before the regatta, but really close racing with tough downwind sailing and all in all I am quite happy with my own sailing and the fleet was pushing me hard. Good week all in all.”
“If you look at the results I had firsts and seconds all week apart from the first race but it wasn’t an easy task and I really pushed myself and I think I was sailing on a really high level, so I am quite pleased with my sailing. I was keeping myself calm and not pushing it in the starts. I have been sailing a bit more recently with the Star and the Dragon and now I am starting to reach a better performance level and am very happy to win the Europeans.”
Lööf’s first Kieler Woche was 1986 in the OK Dinghy, before moving into the Finn. He explained why he is sailing the OK Dinghy again, “It’s the beauty of the simplicity. And that’s what drives me back. I am often asked, why do I do this, you can only lose? Well I can’t because I gain every time. I have a lot of good friends in the class and enjoy sailing it so that’s my drive to sail the OK.”
On next year, “We have an exciting time ahead in the Ok class because I am pushing hard for the world championship in Marstrand next year and that’s a big goal for the future, so I hope Dan Slater will come and push me hard as well, because he was too good for me in New Zealand.”
Now is the time to start planning a 2020 campaign. The worlds in Marstrand will be big, but the following year the class world championship goes to Lake Garda for the first time and that is already expected to be huge.
With two of Europe’s major boat builders working on new moulds for 2020, there has never been a better time to begin or reignite an OK Dinghy career. For many it is a return to a first love, a rediscovered delight in proper, sociable, competitive, simple but intensely fun racing that the OK Dinghy class seems to excel at. For others it the attraction of racing against some the biggest names and best sailors in the sport, and that list is getting bigger year by year, with several more high profile sailors rumoured to be joining in the fun sometime soon. Watch this space.
Final results after 10 races
1 SWE 69 Fredrik LÖÖF 16
2 FRA 11 Valerian LEBRUN 40
3 SWE 1 Thomas HANSSON-MILD 59
4 DEN 1507 Bo PETERSEN 61
5 NED 680 Stefan de VRIES 63
6 DEN 1528 Mads BENDIX 68
7 NOR 428 Lars Johan BRODTKORB 85
8 NZL 595 Greg WILCOX 89
9 POL 1 Tomasz GAJ 99
10 GER 71 André BUDZIEN 102
U23: Jamie Harris GBR
Veteran: Fredrik Lööf SWE
Master: Bo Petersen DEN
Grand Master: Bob Buchanan AUS
Lady: Jessica Finke GER