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See you at nationals

Racers cross the start line at the beginning of a race Saturday afternoon on Lake Okabena. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)1 / 2
A racer works to gain speed Saturday on the Lake Okabena course. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- The organizers of the Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival may have just wrapped up the 2013 festival, but they are already looking forward to next year when Worthington will host the US Windsurfing National Championships for a third time.

Worthington first hosted the US Windsurfing National Championships in 2003 and then again in 2008. Jeff Hegwer, race director, said he believes the successes of 2003 and 2008 paved the way for having the event in Worthington again.

"The first time around, in 2003, they didn't know who we were, and we had a harder time getting the Nationals here," he said. "But now we have a credible foundation and a good venue here."

As a festival that combines windsurfing, live music and art, the Worthington Regatta provides a unique environment for participants.

"With the music end of it, we're one of the best venues, because it promotes more than just windsurfing," Hegwer said.

The Regatta Committee had been talking about hosting another national championship for a while, but Hegwer encouraged the community to wait until 2014 to ensure they could be ready to host the event again.

"I told them 'Don't be talking about that unless you're serious, because it's a serious thing and it takes a lot of work,'" he said.

The committee decided they were ready to take on the project and submitted their proposal to host the 2014 US Windsurfing National Championships earlier this year.

After two national championships, event organizer Bill Keitel said Worthington is known among windsurfers a top windsurfing destination. In the past 14 years, the Worthington Regatta has had consistently high winds during the Regatta.

"We only had one year where it was calm," he said. "The other 13 years, we've had above average wind speeds -- it's probably the best wind speed regatta in the nation."

Unlike other competitions where windsurfers have to vie for their place on the beach, Worthington offers windsurfers a sectioned off portion of the Lake Okabena beach for their use.

"Unbeknownst to many locals, the sailors that do show up here for the nationals come from great distances," Keitel said. "We are able to create meaningful conditions for them, and that is a very good promotional aspect for inviting people to Worthington. It creates a positive influence. We travel throughout the nation, and people are starting to understand our community from this event. We meet sailors from all over, and if they haven't been here, they have heard of us."

Other windsurfing events are held in communities like Corpus Christi, Texas, St. Petersburg, Fla., and Los Angles, Calif.

"What's exciting to me is that we can lump Worthington's name with that group," Keitel said.

The Daily Globe has been a sponsor of the event since it started 14 years ago and Publisher Joni Harms echoed Hegwer and Keitel's enthusiasm for the 2014 event.

"The Daily Globe has been with this event from the onset, and we were really excited and thrilled to hear that another Windsurfing National Championships will be held in Worthington. Never in our wildest dreams did we think that we could host one national championship, let along three," she said.

Organizers of the event know that it is through volunteer support that next year's event will be a success.

"Everyone realizes that it's going to take a lot of volunteers, and we're happy that the community has embraced the festival and helped it grow year after year," Harms added.

The 2014 US Windsurfing National Championships well be held the second weekend of June and will be a five day event. Windsurfing racers will register on Tuesday and races will be held from Wednesday through Sunday.

Music will once again play a large role in the event, and Keitel said they plan to have live music every day of the competition.

Ultimately, both Hegwer and Keitel attributed the success of the Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival to the community's commitment and involvement.

"It's really the community, the Chamber of Commerce, the Globe and all the support we get. We have some unique capabilities that no one else has. We do it really well, and we do it better than other event on the planet.

"Thank you's go to all the people out there, there are tons, that need to be thank. We're very grateful and appreciate the success of this event. Me and Bill didn't do much more than have a dream. What made it special is the support and help that we got. All we did is guide it. It's no longer our event. It belongs to the community," said Hegwer.

Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.

Alyson Buschena
Alyson joined the Daily Globe newsroom staff after spending a year in Latin America. A native of Fulda and graduate of the University of Northwestern, she has a bachelor's degree in English with a dual concentration in Literature and Writing and a minor in Spanish. At the Daily Globe, Alyson covers the crime beat as well as Pipestone and Murray counties, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. More of Alyson's writing can be found at
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