Regatta ready to set sail
WORTHINGTON -- After 12 years of helping to organize the Worthington Windsurfing Regatta, putting it together is "pretty much routine," according to race director Jeff Hegwer. But the snag for Hegwer this year is that he's living more than 150 miles away from Lake Okabena, in Mason City, Iowa.
"It takes a little more effort, a little more time," said Hegwer, who moved south last year. "I've got to work for a living these days. Other years, I had a more flexible schedule, so it didn't affect me, but now I'm working at Menards to make ends meet."
But utilizing his usual crew of helpers, Hegwer promises to once again put on another good series of races, come rain or shine, light wind or gale.
"Through the generosity of the community and efforts Worthington puts into this, we have one of the best programs, the best resources to promote windsurfing," Hegwer said. "Out of all the other events I know of, nobody does a better job than we do."
One of the attributes of the Worthington event of which Hegwer is most proud is the opportunity for people to learn windsurfing. Once again, accomplished instructor Roger Jackson will be on hand to offer windsurfing lessons on Sailboard Beach.
"That makes us one of the most credible teaching destinations in these parts," said Hegwer. "We're promoting the sport, promoting kids and windsurfing, because of Roger and the other people who help out. ... Some of the younger competitors who we started are now racing in their third or fourth year, so we're producing our own racers. They register just like the full racers and are entitled to the full benefits of registering, including the trophy that goes to the fastest person on the race course. I love giving trophies out to kids. For that kid to walk away with a trophy -- that's a lifetime thing they'll probably keep. It would be really cool to give eight or 10 of those away to kids."
As in recent years past, Hegwer is himself fashioning the event trophies.
"Another world-class trophy is being produced for the 12th annual Regatta," Hegwer promised. "It's as good as any of the other ones we've ever seen. I'm officially starting that rumor."
Because he's been busy working and crafting those trophies, Hegwer hasn't been doing much windsurfing himself lately, although he did attend a recent race in Des Moines, Iowa, and heard lots of good chatter about the Worthington Regatta.
"We've got a lot of people coming and a lot of people who wish they could come and can't," he said. "It's being talked about as one of the funnest events. We don't claim to be the best, but we can claim to be the most fun, with all the music and the artists. No one's disputed that yet."
Like many recreational activities, windsurfing has been affected by the economic downturn, Hegwer acknowledged, but there's new excitement building for the sport with the creation of a new class, the Kona class, which will be included in the Worthington Regatta for the first time.
"It basically brings us back to the beginning of windsurfing and levels out the playing field for the windsurfers," he said. "It's a one-design board with appropriately-sized sails in relation to the lake. It takes out all the equipment issues that may make one sailor better than another, takes it down to being the best technician, the best sailor. ... The Kona class really makes it fun; there's no other advantage than being a smart sailor. Otherwise, we'll have the same categories, just a new division -- the Kona class."
Registration for the Worthington Windsurfing Regatta gets under way at noon Friday and will continue through Saturday morning. A skipper's meeting is tentatively set for 9:30 a.m. Saturday with racing to follow. Trophies will be presented after the conclusion of racing on Sunday afternoon.