Robert Deaves looks at competitor form at the OK world championship which starts this weekend in Denmark

The venue for the 43rd OK Dinghy World Championship – which starts this Saturday and runs until 30 July – is Skælskør, about 110 km west of Copenhagen on Sjælland, Denmark’s largest island.

Having taken over the local school for a week, the organisers at Skælskør Amatør Sejlklub are hoping for a very social and fun week with all the sailors based on the same site including boat parking, accommodation and meals.

The OK class is traditionally a very competitive class with a large international following across the globe. It is rare for anyone to dominate the world championship although sailors Scandinavia and Australia/New Zealand have won all but five of the championships. This year should be no different with a handful of favourites to win overall and another 10 to 15 capable of winning races or top five finishes.

This year, 67 competitors from Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, India, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden and the UK have entered and, based on performances so far this season, the favourite has to be Nick Craig (GBR). Wins at the Medemblik Spring Cup, Kieler Woche, Warnemünder Woche and most recently the Danish Nationals last weekend, have made him the man to beat.

Until 2004, no British sailor had ever won the OK worlds. Jim Hunt put that right last year at Parkstone on the UK’s south coast, but many thought that Craig would be the first, such had been his results over the past eight years with a string of podium positions. Having placed runner up last year to Hunt, Craig is more determined than ever not to become known as the best sailor never to win the OK worlds.

Craig has shown some extremely consistent form this season, so consistent in fact that he won at Warnemunde without winning a race, and only won one race at the Danish nationals. He is certainly not the quickest competitor out there, but has shown again and again that he is one of the few that can repeatedly put together a solid series of races. As one sailor commented recently: “My money is on Nick at the moment, but I doubt he’ll win a race.”

One thing is for sure, in Skælskør the competition will be tough. The line up includes three past world champions and many pretenders to the title. Danish sailor Jörgen Lindhardtsen may well be the toughest opponent – and a win for him would certainly be a fairy tale. Even at age 60, he is no pushover, having recently won the toughest race at Warnemünder Woche in a new boat only launched that week, and then finished as runner up to Craig in the Danish nationals.

A seasoned Finn campaigner through the 1970s and 1980s, Lindhardtsen competed at the 1976 Olympics. He is always near the front of the OK fleet, won the OK worlds in 1978 and has been trying to regain the title for the past 12 years, with several near misses. He also won the OK Europeans in 1998 in Neiuwpoort in Belgium, one of the windiest OK Dinghy championships on record. Craig was runner up at that event.

While the conditions in Skælskør are not expected to be extreme, the windier races may favour Roger Blasse (AUS), the 1998 world champion. Normally sailing in the strong winds and big waves off Melbourne, Roger, along with his brother Andre may be a force to be reckoned with if the breeze does pick up. Meanwhile class president Thomas Hansson-Mild (SWE) is consistent across the range of conditions and like Craig, has won many races and even medalled but never won the title.

And then there are the Kiwis. Rumour has it that they are faster than ever this year. Steve McDowell dominated this year’s Interdominion Championships in New Zealand and together with Mark Perrow – who won the practice race at last year’s worlds and finished fourth in the Danish nationals last week – should put on a good challenge.

Another OK sailor proving that age is no barrier is the 2002 world champion, Greg Wilcox (NZL). This year he is again sailing the boat that won him the 2002 title in Napier, New Zealand, and which he sold straight after the event. If his performance in Warnemünde is anything to go by (two race wins and second overall), then Wilcox could be up in the chocolates.

Several other sailors are capable of consistent top 10 finishes including Martin von Zimmerman (GER), Hans Elkjaer (SWE) and Ulf Brandt (DEN) – all of whom have produced solid performances in previous championships. In Brandt’s case this was 10 years ago – the last of his three medals. He returned to international competition with a second place at this year’s Spring Cup, and his experience may make the difference. This year also sees a return for Christian Midtgård (DEN) with several world championship race wins under his belt and a good strong wind competitor.

Last minute preparations and training are nearly complete and the fleet is gathering in Skælskør. One thing is sure, the sailors are ensured a week of high quality, very close and very tough racing. Over the coming week, 10 races are scheduled for the championship with the practice race on Sunday 24 July, followed by up to three races each day up to and including Saturday 30 July.

Previous OK Dinghy World Champions

2004 Jim Hunt GBR

2003 Nitin Mongia IND

2002 Greg Wilcox NZL

2001 Karsten Hitz GER

2000 Karsten Hitz GER

1999 Peter Milne AUS

1998 Roger Blasse AUS

1997 Björn Forslund SWE

1996 Christian Carlsson SWE

1995 Björn Forslund SWE

1994 Leith Armit NZL

1993 Bo-Steffan Andersson SWE

1992 Bo-Steffan Andersson SWE

1991 Bo-Steffan Andersson SWE

1990 Leith Armit NZL

1989 Per Haegglund SWE

1988 Bo-Steffan Andersson SWE

1987 Mats Caap SWE

1986 Mark Fisher AUS

1985 Leith Armit NZL

1984 Glen Collings AUS

1983 Leith Armit NZL

1982 Richard Dodson NZL

1981 Peter Gale AUS

1980 Poul Kirketerp DEN

1979 Richard Dodson NZL

1978 Jørgen Lindhardtsen DEN

1977 Peter Lester NZL

1976 Poul Kirketerp DEN

1975 Poul Kirketerp DEN

1974 Torben Andrup DEN

1973 Clive Roberts NZL

1972 Kjell Axerot SWE

1971 Thomas Jungblut GER

1970 Kent Carlsson SWE

1969 Kent Carlsson SWE

1968 Erik Fromell SWE

1967 Bjoern Arnesson SWE

1966 Goeran Andersson SWE

1965 Goeran Andersson SWE

1964 Henning Schachtschnabel DEN

1963 Sven Jakobsen DEN