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Belgian OK Dinghy Nationals at Koninklijke Liberty Yacht Club

by Robert Deaves 12 Sep 2016 19:49 BST 10-11 September 2016
Belgian OK Dinghy Nationals © Erwin Van Iseghem

Richard Burton secures the title

Without winning a single race, yes that's right, not a single race, Richard Burton took out the Belgian OK Dinghy championship hosted by the Koninklijke Liberty Yacht Club on the Galgenweel in Antwerp over the weekend of 10 and 11 September. Greg Wilcox took second place with Robert Deaves in third.

Always a hugely popular end of season event, this year the Belgian championship attracted visitors from Netherlands, Germany, France, New Zealand and the UK, to join the Belgian fleet for a bumper turnout of 40 boats. The Galgenweel is only 40 hectares in size and located in the centre of Antwerp, making for the close and interesting racing.

Saturday involved a gargantuan amount of sailing with four races sailed in very hot and sunny conditions in a shifty 8-12 knots that meant it was never over until it was over with many comebacks, drops and funny situations that kept much of the fleet entertained, laughing or cursing the wind.

Fortunately the club bar was very close to the finish line, so after each race there was second race to gather some cooling liquid refreshment. The committee boat brought a not insignificant quantity of empty bottles back to shore at the end of the day.

So what of the racing? Each race was a double Olympic course with five upwind legs, so the gathered fleet had 20 chances to get it right or get it to wrong.

Ralf Mackmann showed his rear end to the fleet in first race to record an impressive victory and set the scene for the day, with the beats using almost the entire length of the lake. Dave Bourne then took the second race after a close battle with Burton as the fleet started to learn the vagaries of the lake. Sometimes the right was paying and sometimes the left, but only if you went far enough... nearly to the club bar in fact.

Simon Cox used that knowledge well in the third race keeping closer to the club bar than anyone else, but Mackmann had other ideas on the right and just found enough good shifts and pressure to win his second race. Wilcox made the best of the final race leading most of the way but fighting off strong challenges from Bourne and Stephan Veldman.

The sailors returned to shore tired, happy, and some slightly worse for wear. Overnight, Burton led from Mackmann and Bourne, with the top four sailors separated by just one point.

The evening festivities soon commenced because it was already early in the evening. A lavish barbecue with free beer lasted until the small hours with various sailors cooling off in the Galgenweel while attached to wheeled objects such as shopping trolleys and skateboards. The assembled OK fanatics also celebrated Rod Andrew's 70th birthday, who still occasionally popped up in the leading bunch in the water in his antique wooden OK with its wooden rig. He had generously supplied the event with enough specially branded bottles of wine to keep the thirsty sailors occupied until breakfast. Breakfast was part of the hospitality package and served when everyone returned to consciousness, although in some cases it was hard to tell the difference.

Sunday's forecast was always looking doubtful but a light wind did appear on time from the grey skies. In race five, Deaves emerged from the middle to lead round the top and apart from a little attention from Mackmann on the first reach sailed away to a huge lead and an easy win.

An attempt was made for the sixth race but then the wind started its games and there was a long delay while the fleet waited for the wind to die. Die it did but the sixth race eventually got away and again Deaves led round the top mark to extend on the fleet. As the wind further deteriorated the course was shortened on the second triangle and the fleet sent ashore with the last race not sailed. The second win for Deaves moved him up to third overall.

Burton may have spent the morning regretting his activities of the night before but did he recover from some challenging situations to do just enough to win his first ever national title, albeit in the wrong country. Wilcox made fewer mistakes than Bourne, Mackmann or Veldman to take second place.

The event ended with prizes for everyone, ironically, after the previous night's activities, alcohol and towels, along with promises to return next year to one of the best-organised events and most hospitable clubs on the European OK Dinghy circuit.

Overall Results: (40 entries)

1 GBR 17, Richard Burton, 14pts
2 NZL 544, Greg Wilcox, 15pts
3 GBR 2156, Robert Deaves, 17pts
4 GER 800, Ralf Mackmann, 19pts
5 NED 663, Stephan Velman, 24pts
6 GBR 2183, David Bourne, 30pts
7 GER 737, Christian Heinze, 40pts
8 BEL 220, Ronny Poelman, 42pts
9 GER 790, Torsten Schmidt, 43pts
10 GBR 2120, Simon Cox, 46pts

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