OK Dinghy Class reborn in the USA
Published on October 14th, 2019
At the 2019 OK Dinghy World Championship, if you scanned the results there was something among the 110 competitors not recently seen – two entries from the USA. It’s not that the 13-foot singlehander doesn’t have history in the USA, it just has been MIA for some time. But not any longer.
Since the US OK Dinghy Racing Association (USOKDRA) was established way back in 1959, the class has been very small for the past 20-30 years. But as with anything it only takes one person to pick it up and make it run, and since February that person has been James Bland who has been working to give the class a sound platform for growth.
“We’ve been working hard, immediately establishing a US OK Dinghy Facebook page, restarting the class organization, writing a US OK Constitution and bylaws [last revision was 1969],” noted Bland.
“We’ve been shipping boats, hiring a lawyer, writing incorporating documents, filing for our tax exemption and putting the USOKDRA on a solid foundation to regain our status with the international class. Each day I think about what will move the ball forward.
“The executive for the OK Dinghy International Association (OKDIA) and US Sailing continue to be very helpful. Through both organizations I was able to locate the last remaining original class documents which saved me a cold start on the writing I needed to do.
“US Sailing, confirmed the road map on process and I was able to re-join the USOKDRA to the US Sailing One Design Class department and re-list the OK on their web page. I continue to communicate with these organizations as our experience is being looked at as a case study / roadmap for others.”
While Bland’s charter boat for the Worlds wasn’t quite up to snuff, he improved the boat and himself during the event, never losing track of his goal to race hard and have fun doing it. And since he shipped a better boat back to the states, his mission now is to get more boats to grow the class.
“I plan to build a boat. While you can call almost any CNC shop to cut Okume plywood, I used Wooden Boat Magazine Classifieds to find boatbuilding shops that would work with us to produce the Dan Leech design. I found several good outfits, but one in particular was interested in helping the OK Dinghy and we continue to discuss co-marketing opportunities, while I let the dust settle a bit.
“I have rough estimates to cut, cut and rough assemble the hull, and a cost to produce a hull ready for finishing. This helps many people decide on how much to take on or buy a used or new composite boat.
“Used OKs are rare now in the USA, so we have an added ‘tax’ for shipping equipment from the rest of the world. Turns out costs are nearly the same from Europe and Asia. I am also talking with boat OEMs on completed hulls for people who want a new ready to sail option.”
Bland is optimistic for the future, having opened a bank account for the USOKDRA and has organized the accounting software. The start-up costs are being absorbed for now, but membership subscriptions have begun and interest around the country is growing.
“It was great to get out sailing when my boat finally arrived and I was able to sail around some junior sailors and their Texas Sailing Association coach, attempting to seduce the coach and catch some attention. A number of Austin Yacht Club members noticed and asked about the OK.
“It’s not going to happen overnight, but the USOKDRA has put down the foundations for the future. In reality our work is just starting, but given the vivacity of the International competition and the state of similar boats, I think the OK can be the boat of choice in its class.”