Six more sailors inducted into the OK Dinghy Hall of Fame
At the prizegiving ceremony of the OK Dinghy World Championship in Vallensbaek, Denmark last month, six more sailors were inducted into the OK Dinghy Hall of Fame.
The OK Dinghy Hall of Fame was set up in 2007, on the classes 50th anniversary, to recognise outstanding contributions and achievements by individuals in the class, both on and off the water. The nominees for 2012 came from both ends of the classes history and in some ways completed the initial task of establishing a solid base of names that can be extended in future years.
This year the class acknowledged those who brought the OK Dinghy into being and helped it along the way, together with others who excelled on the water from the first world championship in 1963 right up to the current time.
In addition to these six, the late Alf Lock (NZL) was also inducted to the Hall of Fame during the Interdominion championship in New Zealand in April for his work on measurement issues and designing the Icebreaker hull that has won many world championships.
Greg Wilcox (NZL)
Greg Wilcox was inducted by Rob Hengst (NZL). Wilcox first started sailing the OK Dinghy in 1980 and over the intervening 22 years has performed with distinction at both national and international level including being the 2002 World Champion, with bronze in 2005 and 2006 (and now silver in 2012), five times New Zealand national champion, three times Interdominion champion, Danish national championship winner, Swedish national championship winner, three times Kiel week champion, and once Warnemunde week champion. He has also finished 13 times in the top ten at World Championships.
Wilcox has also contributed in an outstanding manner to the class off the water, through his presidency of OKDIA 2005-2009 and his sail-making skills. As a joint owner of Port Nicholson Sails and lately Quantum Sails (Potsdam loft) Wilcox has designed the sails which have won the world championship in 2002, 2008, 2009, 2010, and now, 2012.
Never reticent in sharing his knowledge, Wilcox is one of the most recognisable personalities of the international OK community. One of his perhaps under-recognised skills is his willingness to socialise, not only with his fellow top-performing sailors and long-term acquaintances but also newcomers to the class. He goes out of his way to ensure they feel welcome and receive any boat tuning/handling knowledge they require. He has undoubtedly been an inspiration to many OK sailors.
On receiving his award Wilcox said, “It really is a great honour. I am just really proud that I have had such a great time in this class and that's the reason that I am still sailing it.”
Nick Craig (GBR)
Nick Craig was inducted by his arch-rival Jørgen Lindhardtsen (DEN). Four times a world champion, Craig has done so much to raise the profile of the OK Dinghy, particularly in the UK. He has been incredibly successful in other dinghy classes as well and is considered the best amateur dinghy sailor in the UK. His talent and success was rewarded earlier this year when he won the Yachting Journalists Association Pantaenius Yachtsman of the Year Award 2011.
As well as his world titles in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2011, he has also won the Europeans in 2003, eight UK National Championships and six UK Inland titles. Domestically Craig has been at the top of the OK Class in the UK for more than a decade. Abroad, he has won the OK Dinghy National titles in Denmark, Germany and Belgium and countless other events across Europe. He is also officially the ‘Best OK Dinghy Sailor of all time.’
Craig said, “ I am have been sailing OKs for 21 years now. I sail lots of other boats but always come back to the OK because it's just great racing and great sailing. I look at Jørgen and think I've got another 30 years to go at this, but he never stops so I've still got another 30 years. So respect to Jørgen, and thank you very much.”
After Wilcox and and Craig were presented with their awards, the first ever OK Dinghy World Champion Svend Jacobsen (DEN) was brought onto the stage to announce a trio of inductees from the host country. However before he could start, Jacobsen himself was presented with an award as the first inductee of the night from Denmark.
Svend Jacobsen (DEN)
Jacobsen said, “Thank you for inviting me to these OK Dinghy world championships. It's many many years ago since I won it but I still feel very happy to be here with you. I have been asked to propose three others for the Hall of Fame. The first two are Knud Olsen the designer of the OK Dinghy and Axel Damgaard, who some of you will know.”
Knud Olsen (DEN) and Axel Damgaard (DEN)
The design of the OK Dinghy can be traced back to two people; without them then class would not exist. Axel Damgaard had the idea and Knud Olsen put it onto paper. Damgaard then promoted the class throughout Denmark and Europe.
Jacobsen continued, “In the mid 1950s Axel realised that maybe they should have another dinghy in Denmark [in addition to the Pirat], smaller, cheaper, and with only one person, and he approached Knud who was a naval designer and talked to him and consulted with a lot of Pirat dinghy sailors and also Paul Elvstrøm who advised him about the rig and sail. And that was the birth of the OK Dinghy. It grew very quickly in Denmark and in 1957 we held the first unofficial Danish Championship.”
“Another interesting thing is that if you had been sailing in my time then it would have been a completely different set of people. There would be no children here and no wives, because we were too young for that. It was only young people. The first five Danish championships the average age was 21.1 years and in the first championships there was only one who was more than 30. On the other hand we were not as skilled as you are today. But I think we owe a big thanks to Knud and Axel and all the people from those days who helped to develop this fantastic boat.”
Paul Elvstrøm (DEN)
The last inductee on the night was the great Paul Elvstrøm. Many people know little of his involvement in the class but he had a big influence in design of OK Dinghy rig as well as encouraging growth of class in Denmark and across Europe.
To commemorate the occasion he donated one of his many trophies to the OK Dinghy class to be used at the world championship for the sailor with the least score when counting all the races. Earlier in the evening the trophy had been presented to Andre Budzien, who not only won the 2012 OK Dinghy World Championship with a discard, but also without it. The class is very grateful to Paul for honouring the championship in this way and his daughter Trine was there receive Paul's award for the Hall of Fame.
Jacobsen concluded a long and interesting talk about Elvstrøm, “I can talk about this all evening but I think he really really deserves to be on the Hall of Fame. He helped the OK Dinghy for years and years with people like Pierre Poulain and Richard Creagh-Osborne, who was was the key person spreading the boats. He should be included for all the support he gave the class. He never really raced it but helped to get it started at the very beginning.”
The OK Dinghy Hall of Fame now includes 15 sailors spanning more than 50 years from the designer right through to the recent world champions. The kind of people on this list says much about the class – not just sailors who performed on the water, but also those that made a contribution in the back rooms, ensuring that the class had, and still has, a fantastic future.
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