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Jeff Ludes navigates his paddleboard as races begin in the background Wednesday afternoon on Lake Okabena in Worthington. Brian Korthals/Daily Globe

Regatta opens

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WORTHINGTON — After months of preparation and anticipation, the Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival finally set sail Wednesday. 

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Festival-goers can start eating the carnival-type foods many of them have come to love, not to mention enjoy a variety of music, multiple art projects and the spectacle that is the National Windsurfing Championships.

“We had about 40 people pre-register, including racers and non-racers,” said Ashley Goettig, an administrative assistant at the Worthington Chamber of Commerce, on Tuesday. “I’ve had racers from Florida, Ohio, California. They’re coming from around the country.”

More registrants were still arriving Wednesday, and according to Race Director Jeff Hegwer, the quality of windsurfing should be high.

“We are going to have a lot of good windsurfers here — top competition — and some of that top competition are our local sailors,” Hegwer said.

A new addition to the Regatta, as well as to the United States Windsurfers Association, is the addition of the Slalom category.

“Slalom is a lot of fun,” Hegwer said. “It’s a lot like drag racing — the fastest sailor wins — and sometimes the guy who can hold on the longest wins. This is the first time the USWA is doing national ranking for Slalom racing.”

Ron Kern of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., came to Worthington for its two previous national windsurfing championship events, in 2003 and 2008. He’s back again this week, and said that every windsurfer loves coming to Worthington to partake in the event — but it isn’t just about the actual sailing.

“This isn’t the best lake for sailing, but that isn’t why we come.” Kern said. “We come here because of this great community you have. That’s what separates this event from others.”

Kern described how other communities with “better windsurfing conditions” aren’t the most favorite places for competitors to go for the simple fact that those places don’t rally around the windsurfers like Worthington.

“You can go to San Francisco, where there is phenomenal surfing, but the city doesn’t care about the sailors,” Kern said.

“Here people have signs on their yard saying, ‘Put your (windsurfing) stuff here.’ That’s amazing,” he said, pointing to homes on Lake Street. “Another thing we love is the music.”

Ron’s wife, Sue, agreed wholeheartedly with her husband.

“That’s what makes Worthington so special — it’s that the community cares,” she said.

The Johnson family, consisting of sons Kale and Kylan and parents Kelly and Steve, have been coming to the Regatta from their home in Shoreview for years.

“We started coming here a long time ago, when the boys first came they were babies,” Kelly said, laughing. “Now that Kylan is getting older and becoming a better sailor, he’s saying things like, ‘I’m beating you guys now,’ which is kind of fun. He’s getting to be a good sailor.”

Events will kick off today with the skipper’s meeting at 9 a.m., followed by racing on the lake. At 6 p.m. Trefoil will take the stage, followed by Paul Mayasich and the RAMM band at 8 p.m.. Afterward, the Shoreline Jam begins at 10:15 p.m.

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