Low winds don’t stop Regatta
Many attend beachside festivities despite weather
BY KATY DEVLIN DAILY GLOBE
June 14, 2009
WORTHINGTON — A light breeze rolled across Lake Okabena early Saturday afternoon, a rare weather condition in the windy city of southwest Minnesota, and one that usually relieves residents and gives them a nice break from the strong gusts.
But on the day of the fifth annual Worthington Windsurfing Regatta, light breezes were the last thing residents and visitors were in the mood for.
However, with the promise of stronger winds Sunday, local residents and visitors from around the country reveled in the cloudless, 80-degree weather, and enjoyed the music and the day-long festivities, including the Unvarnished Music Festival.
“It’s too bad about the wind,” said Worthington resident Michelle Graber. “But this year still seems bigger than the years before. There are more booths, more things to do, particularly for kids. There’s good food, good music … the windsurfers might be disappointed, but people will still have a great time.”
The trace of wind also didn’t seem to bother Regatta and Music Festival co-founder Bill Keitel.
“If the wind blows well, you have the best race you’ve ever seen. If it doesn’t, you’ll still have the best music and entertainment you’ve ever experienced,” Keitel said. “Having 10 to 20 mph winds is fun for great races, but it’s not the most important factor for us. We’ll still end up having a really good festival.”
Keitel said the lower wind speeds actually cater to beginning windsurfers, who are just getting up on the board for the first time.
“It’s a fun way to learn in the light winds — a very easy and non-threatening learning atmosphere,” he said. “And part of our mission statement is to foster beginning instruction — to give back to the sport and bring more people in … What we’re doing here is significant.”
Winds did pick up enough Sunday for three races to be conducted in each division. For Mike Fox, a United States Windsurfing official, the early-afternoon gusts were a case of better late than never.
“I’d say it was definitely worth the wait,” Fox said. “There has only been two regattas out of several hundred I’ve been involved with that didn’t have races. We were looking at that until about 1 p.m., when the winds came up.”
Lines at the on-land windsurfing simulator on both days, as well as the numerous instructors in the water helping beginners seem to show that the Regatta is fulfilling that portion of the mission.
Three-year windsurfer and Worthington native Jay Milbrandt said the Regatta’s focus on developing a new generation of windsurfers is crucial to the sport, which currently has an average participant age of about 40.
Many younger athletes turn to more extreme water sports like wake boarding or kite surfing, Milbrandt said, something that isn’t the case in this community.
“In Worthington, we have a strong group of younger people psyched about windsurfing, and that’s something that the sport doesn’t have in most other places,” Milbrandt said. “I think the program here really speaks for what they’ve done to promote growth and interest in the sport — what the future of windsurfing can be.”