Worthington's Bergh is windsurfer of the year
WORTHINGTON -- Worthington's windy reputation got another boost in windsurfing circles when a local resident was recently named U.S. Windsurfing's Windsurfer of the Year.
Craig Bergh of Worthington is featured on the home page of www.uswindsurfing.org for his contributions to the sport of speed sailing through the Midwest Speed Quest.
"Over the past four years Craig has endeavored to build the sport of speed sailing and make it accessible to all sailors," reads part of the Web tribute. "U.S. Windsurfing thinks he has done precisely that! Each summer for the past four years Craig has offered his time and expertise, inviting sailors from far and wide. To increase the attractiveness of this effort, all sailors receive free use of state-of-the-art GPS systems and state-of-the-art speed sailing gear. ... United States Windsurfing salutes Craig Bergh for his contribution to the world of windsurfing and speed sailing."
Midwest Speed Quest is a contest that offers prize money to the sailors who record the fastest speed -- measured via portable GPS unit -- on the waters of Worthington's Lake Okabena. The event is organized and promoted by Bergh -- all on a volunteer basis.
"It was just an idea I had," explained Bergh. "It's fun to wear a GPS, and I thought it was something people would enjoy doing. Europe is a couple years ahead of us in the sport of speed sailing, and I got the support of the European speed sailors."
In the last few years, the Midwest Speed Quest has drawn sailors from all over the United States to feed their need for speed. Thirty sailors competed in 2008. Bergh maintains a Web site for MSQ and literally welcomes its participants into his home during the speed sailing season, which can encompass 180 days a year, from April 15 to Oct. 15. During the off season, he's busy maintaining and improving the Web site and garnering sponsorships.
"If I'm not there, my wife Pamela or daughter Carissa will meet them with the GPS," Bergh said. "I've had calls from Florida, Georgia and South Carolina so far for commitments for people coming up next year for the first time."
Bergh has also recruited sponsors -- local, regional national and international -- to help fund MSQ and make the sailors feel welcome in Worthington. Local sponsors include the Worthington Convention and Visitors Bureau, Bedford Industries, AmericInn, United Prairie Bank, Sanford Clinic, Deb's Healing Massage and La Azteca restaurant.
"We also provided free on-site child care and pet care. We even provided spousal care for the windsurfing widow," he added with a laugh. "We take care of them while the guys are windsurfing."
A recreational windsurfer himself, Bergh spends more time taking care of the windsurfing visitors than he does on the water. But he enjoys being in on the creation of a new sport and has made many new friends from across the country and even around the world.
"The sport of GPS racing is constantly being refined," he explained. "I work with an international tech committee of 10 GPS specialists, who work all year long, continuously improving GPS technology. I am also the official North American timekeeper for all GPS sailing events. My job is to inspect and verify all speeds recorded in Canada, the USA and Mexico. These speeds are then recorded with the various international speed sailing organizations."
Bergh was one of several candidates considered for the honor of Windsurfer of the Year, according to USW President Jim McGrath of Berkeley, Calif.
"The windsurfer of the year is generally someone not in USW, not in the business," McGrath explained during a phone interview. "The idea is to (recognize) somebody who promotes windsurfing in effective ways, in ways that get more people involved. I don't know Craig that well, but he was there in Worthington and got a lot of people involved in what he was doing. At the end of the day, windsurfing is all about speed, the ability to go on the water fast. ... Anything that increases speed eventually spills over to all the different facets of sailing."
Bergh said he is "most honored" to have been named Windsurfer of the Year, particularly since MSQ is such a new endeavor. But he hopes the award will help to bring more attention to the sport of speed sailing and the community of Worthington as a windsurfing destination.
"I have tried to create another community-based event for Worthington to be proud of," he said.