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Wild about windsurfing

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Race director Jeff Hegwer (bottom left) addresses assembled windsufers during a skipper's meeting at the 2008 Worthington Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival. The first skipper's meeting for the 2010 event is set for 9:30 a.m. Saturday, with racing to commence shortly thereafter.

WORTHINGTON -- With a chance of thunderstorms, the weather pattern looks to be a bit unsettled for the coming weekend, and while that's not the best forecast for the musical portion of the Worthington Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival, unstable weather patterns usually bring wind.

And wind makes windsurfers happy.

"But it doesn't take a lot to satisfy the racers," assured Jeff Hegwer, Regatta race director. "If it's not windy, most of them will still come.

"I think we will have moderate to good winds," he predicted.

Although he recently moved to Mason City, Iowa, and has suffered through shoulder surgery and rehabilitation in the past year, Hegwer has organized the windsurfing events long distance, with frequent visits to Worthington. He plans the Regatta to both accommodate the seasoned racers as well as introduce a new generation to the competition.

"We've been pretty successful at getting new sailors," he said.

"Now it's about encouraging them to sign up and actually race. ... If you start a race, you get a point. If you finish, you get a point. You get a point for every one else you beat to the finish. You could get a trophy or an award, and all you have to do is get past the starting line. It's one of the only sports that gives you credit for attempting."

Weather permitting, Hegwer hopes to get a good number of races in over the weekend. Registration for the event begins at noon Friday, and recreational surfing usually begins as soon as the windsurfers can get their boards out on the water. The official racing gets under way on Saturday morning and will continue into Sunday. The awards ceremony will conclude the racing at about 3 p.m. Sunday.

"The absolute minimum to legitimize a regatta is three races," Hegwer explained, "and the desire is to have one more race than they want. We want to run them to their limit. Sometimes we've gotten six or seven races a day. That's a lot of work, pretty intense."

Because the Worthington Regatta is early in the season, it gives the competitors a chance to get their feet wet, both literally and figuratively. And, Hegwer noted, the windsurfers enjoy all the other amenities Worthington has to offer.

"Worthington is always high on their list to make," he said. "It's the most fun, and one of the best organizations as far as how we do it."

At other locales, spectators just aren't part of the sport, but Worthington's venue actually encourages people to watch the windsurfing action and get to know the windsurfers as they line the shore.

"This is one of the only places in the world where they get this appreciation," Hegwer said. "Everywhere else, they are hardly even noticed, or in other places are perceived as a nuisance. This is one of the few places they get treated as royalty."

Spectators might not always understand what is going on out on the water, Hegwer added, but they can enjoy the spectacle of all the brightly colored sails skimming across Lake Okabena.

"It's always been my goal to educate people about what we're doing out there, but it's a complicated facing process," he explained. "We have people racing all types of fleets and boards at the same time, on the same course with different varieties of skills and ages. The first guy to cross the finish line is obviously first, but after that you don't always know because it depends on fleets and divisions. There's no checkered flag."

Hegwer hopes to provide some race announcing, either from boat or shore, during the Regatta, to enhance the experience for the spectators. For people who would like to get a vantage point of the racing from somewhere other than Sailboard Beach, he recommends Chautauqua Park.

"Chautauqua is a good little secluded spot," he said. "It's not part of the festival, but it's on the north side of the lake, which is good if we have a south wind, and if the wind is slightly east or wet, we will always be going across the wind in front of Chautauqua."

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Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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