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Open Bic Worlds

O'pen Bic the first in series of world champs in NZ

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The Christmas holidays is supposed to be a time to feel relaxed but it wasn't the reason Harold Bennett was feeling content on Boxing Day.

The long-time race officer was satisfied because everything seemed to be in order on the eve of the O'pen Bic world championships being held from today at the Manly Sailing Club, which Bennett happens to be vice commodore of.

He's also the principal race officer for an event that has attracted 133 competitors from eight countries, including about 25 from Australia, double figures from the likes of Japan, Italy and France and even one sailor from Bermuda.

"As we stand today, we are not panicking," Bennett said yesterday. "A lot of events I've been involved with in the past it has been panic stations on the eve of the regatta. We are in good shape."

The O'pen Bic world championships is the first in a series of world championships being hosted in this country over the summer.

The Tornado world championships are being held at the Takapuna Boating Club (January 4-10), followed by the OK Dinghy world championships at the Wakatere Boating Club (February 7-15) and Flying Dutchman world championships at the Nelson Yacht Club (February 13-21).

New Zealand was awarded the 2019 O’pen Bic world championships largely because of Sir Russell Coutts’ involvement in the class – he’s been a big supporter of the O’pen Bic over the last couple of years and his son Mattias is a former world champion – but it came as a surprise to Bennett when he found out.

“He rang me up one morning when he was at an event and said that we had got the worlds [at Manly],” said Bennett, who has been principal race officer for a number of top international regattas including the America’s Cups. “We didn’t send him away with a mission, he just did it.

“It was magnificent. We got it without any promotion on the international scene. They just gave it to us. It came down to the fact it was Russell and I and a few others who have been around the scene for a while.

“It’s huge for a club like Manly, as well as businesses who will benefit from the event and locals who have rented out their houses. Now it’s our job to deliver.”

New Zealand sailors have delivered at the O’pen Bic world championships previously and they’re once again expected to be at the fore this time around in both the under-13 and under-17 divisions.

Moderate breezes greeted the sailors on the first day of racing today but lighter conditions are expected for the next few days, which should favour the lighters sailors.

“Some of the European sailors are pretty big,” Bennett said. “Some of our flyweights, if they get light winds as it’s forecast, could prosper. I would like to think New Zealand sailors will do well and there are some good Kiwi kids competing.”