This internet photo shows an OK Dinghy that is pretty much identical to my new boat in colour and setup.
Well shipmates. This season, I ended up being the only Zephyr sailing dinghy sailor in Northland. One of the two other Zephyrs I have been racing against got sold, the other is on the market. So I had been sailing pretty much all season in a mixed fleet and got fed up with the lack of competition. So I went out and bought myself an OK Dinghy. Four reasons:
1 - There are three other OK Dinghies in Northland to race against. Doesn't sound like a big fleet, but it's much better competition and more fun than racing in a mixed handicap fleet.
2 - The OK Dinghy was the second boat I owned. I graduated from my 7 foot long NZ 'P Class' yacht straight into an OK Dinghy at 16 years of age. My OK was KZ 29 - with a bright red hull, varnished deck and wooden spars. So the OK is a boat I know well.
3 - Despite my delight in owning a beautiful, recently renovated and well sorted Zephyr the OK Dinghy has always been able to turn my head - all that was required was a new context to provide a reason to change.
4 - The OK Dinghy is a bigger, more powerful and challenging boat to sail. It has over 20 square feet more sail area and requires a bit of specialist knowledge and nuanced skills to get the best out the boat. Skills that I will have to relearn. The big bendy rig requires de-powering as the breeze builds and can be a real handful downwind in big winds.
My new boat - NZL 563 is a Dan Leech hull 'tweak' of the original Knud Olsen* design. (There are various versions of the OK that have been designed over the years, all within the tolerances of the original design measurement parameters). She is built in plywood, is a light boat (with corrector weights to bring the hull up to the minimum class weight), has a carbon fibre mast, rudder and centerboard and is well set up with a couple of good sails - one, a North brand sail well matched to the masts bend characteristics.
[* The OK gets its name from the reversal of the OKs designer Knud Olsens initials.]
My first foray into battle with my new OK dinghy was a couple of weeks ago in the last of the OYC twilight series. I managed to beat the other two OK dinghies boat for boat and was first boat home in the fleets last race beating all the Lasers home which was particularly pleasing.
I love competing and learning how to get small boats sailing fast. The OK Dinghy provides a great challenge and will take a lot of practise and learning on my part to get the best out of boat and myself.
Getting the best out of the boat is not executed by belting oneself on the head twice on the very first sail, once when tacking and once when gybing in high winds - a belt from the mainsail boom that required a dozen stitches to the head - but that's another story. Suffice to say, yesterday I became the proud owner of a bright blue well padded sailing helmet.
This excellent publication edited by Robert Deaves is of particular use as the section on technique has advice written by a range of OK Dinghy sailors regarding tuning the rig and sailing the boat in a range of conditions. A similar publication called 'Finnatics' also edited by Robert Deaves focuses on the Olympic Finn. This book is also of great use as the Finn rig is simply a larger edition of the Ok Dinghy rig.