Challenging conditions at Hjertmans OK Sprint at Gottskär

OK class sailing

Billed as a fun, entertaining, arena sailing event for OK Dinghies, the Hjertmans OK Sprint 2017 at Gottskär on April 22 was all that and a lot more.

Strong winds may have shortened the series but the enthusiasm of the sailors towards the sailing and the social side was in no way diminished. The mobile sauna alongside the slip also helped keep spirits high, and the OK Dinghy 60th Anniversary flag flying high on the club mast reminded everyone the OK Dinghy is a great class to be involved with.

The OK Sprint is an open one-day event with tight short racing in provided boats with a barbecue, music and a regatta dinner at the local pub. It is open to sailors who have sailed the OK in the past, current OK sailors and especially those who are keen on trying it out.

This year overall honours were shared between first time OK sailor Patrik Rohlin and former world champion Mats Caap, while third place went to 17-year-old Maja Hansson-Mild, the lightest and youngest sailor in the fleet after an outstanding performance considering the extreme conditions.

It had been six years since the first OK Sprint, but the enormous effort by OK Dinghy sailors at the home club resulted in 32 entries from three countries, including a host of former Swedish Champions, many of who were attracted back by the possibility of borrowing a boat for a day of short, sharp races in a very convivial and social atmosphere.

The format was 12-15 minute races in heats of eight boats. Four round robins were scheduled before the quarters, semis and finals. Everything was held just outside the clubhouse of SS Kaparen.

Combining exciting sailing with social extravagances is nothing new for the OK Dinghy class but the 2017 Hjertmans OK Sprint was something special. It was made all the more special by the many sponsors brought on board including Båths, Vejle Yacht Service, Raaco and Comfortex, in addition to Hjertmans as title sponsor.

The cold Swedish spring didn’t really help proceedings, but partly made up for the strong winds and icy temperatures by providing brilliant sunshine all day. And for those that succumbed to the cold there was the absolutely brilliant idea of the mobile sauna conveniently placed next to where the sailors were shuttled to and from the stormy waters. If any indication was needed about the ferocity of the conditions it was the sauna. Not so much the need for it but the fact that as you sat it in fully wetsuited, it was being buffeted by the vicious gusts and was bouncing around like a boat on the sea.

From before the first race, the conditions on the sheltered waters in front of the Segelsällskapet Kaparen looked pretty brutal, and in the end a slightly reduced fleet of 28 brave and hardy, some may say foolhardy, sailors ventured afloat to borrow one of the eight boats lent out by even braver sailors for the event.

With a solid 20-25 knots in the starting area, combined with 40-50 degree shifts, the first round of four races began followed by repeated oohs and aahs from those gathered in the relative shelter of the club house, knowing that it would be their turn soon.  Many of them had not sailed an OK Dinghy for quite some time and would struggle to get to grips with the conditions.

The course was just metres off the club with a double windward loop providing plenty of opportunity to provide entertainment for the waiting crowds. The racing was covered live online and in the clubhouse by TracTrac while onshore commentary was provided by Marie Björling-Duell, the new director of the Swedish Sailing Federation.

After the first round there were understandably a few drop-outs with the four race wins going to Rohlin, Caap, Thomas Hansson-Mild and Håken Tornquist.

The wind steadily increased during the morning, but PRO HP Hylander persevered and went into the second round of four races. Caap and Rohlin both repeated their first round success, while the young Emil Alnebeck, who attends the sailing gymnasium in Lerum, also won his race.

By the time the eighth heat was sailed it was gusting over 30 knots and boats were starting to break. Several race leaders dropped out or fell in but the smallest and youngest competitor got the better of the experienced sailors and took the lead on the final downwind of what ended up as the final race. As the front three boats screamed across the finish line barely under control, Maja Hansson-Mild, daughter of the former world champion Thomas Hansson-Mild, sneaked through to take the win, which was undoubtedly the most popular of the day, and when added to her second place in the first race, gave her third overall, ahead of her father. Maja is also a student of a sailing gymnasium, but in Motala.

At this point, HP sent everyone ashore. The wind continued to increase with the bay now a mass of breaking waves and fierce gusts. The fleet sought shelter in the club with hot soup and snacks provided and tried to keep warm in the sauna. The wind slightly abated and a new start time was set for 16.00, but just as the first boats for the semi-final were about to go out the wind picked up again and further racing was wisely abandoned. The second part of the day, the drinking, could begin. There was relief all round.

1 SWE Patrik Rohlin 2
2 SWE Mats Caap 2
3 SWE Maja Hansson-Mild 3
4 SWE Thomas Hansson-Mild 3
5 SWE Jan Erik Engholm 4
6 SWE Håkan Tornquist 4
7 NZL Greg Wilcox 5
8 SWE Stefan Jarudd 6
9 SWE Tomas Berg 6
10 GBR Robert Deaves 7

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