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Worthington site of 2008 windsurfing championships

WORTHINGTON -- The local winds were uncharacteristically mild for the 2003 United States Windsurfing National Championships in Worthington, but the windsurfing contenders and officials were blown away by the community's enthusiasm for their sport and hospitality.

Thus, Worthington has been granted a chance to impress once again -- and for the winds to gust heartily across Lake Okabena -- as the host site for the 2008 National Championships.

The event will coincide with the Worthington Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival during the second week in June, specific dates yet to be determined.

The Worthington Okabena Windsurfers organization, which hosts the annual regatta, was broached by USW about submitting a proposal for the 2008 event and subsequently announced it as the host site during the recent 2007 National Championships in San Francisco. Local windsurfer Lisa Kremer, who is the USW North Central regional director, was on hand for the announcement.

"I heard about it first on the beach," said Kremer, who was also a Nationals competitor and is currently training for the 2008 Olympic trials. "The announcer was talking about how the Nationals were in Hawaii last year, San Francisco this year and would be in Minnesota next year. ... (USW national race director) Steve Sylvester made the official announcement at the awards ceremony, and afterward, everyone was coming up and saying, 'See you in Worthington next year.' It was great for my family to have everybody coming up and be excited about coming to our town."

Since they figured 2003 was a one-time prospect, WOW members are excited to have another shot at hosting the Nationals and want to pull out all the stops in welcoming windsurfers from all over the country. Planning will begin shortly for what will be a five-day competition.

"We are thrilled to host the Nationals again in 2008," said WOW chairwoman Joni Harms. "It's both a pleasure and a privilege to be involved with the Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival, and this year was the most successful event so far. We want to continue to build on that, and we'll do our best to plan an event that accommodates the windsurfers and engages and entertains the community. Our ultimate goal is to have all the elements in place -- wind, weather and a festive atmosphere that brings the windsurfer and local communities together."

Bill Keitel of Worthington, one of the founders of the Worthington Regatta and currently vice president on the USW board, believes hosting the 2008 Nationals will further validate Worthington as the place to windsurf in the Upper Midwest.

"In 2003, the majority of sailors had never heard of Worthington. Those days are over, and Worthington has received very positive publicity on an unprecedented scale," he said in the wake of the site announcement. "Windsurfers now know where Worthington is on the map. Since 2003, it's been very gratifying to see the change in perception within the windsurfing community, and it's also exciting to see the enthusiasm and support from the local community.

"Last year's event was a hallmark year, showcasing the community, the sailing, the music and the arts, resulting in an incredibly enjoyable weekend for everyone," added Keitel. "When the city of Worthington hosted this event in 2003, sailors throughout the U.S. and beyond recognized the hospitality and generosity of the community. The organizations, businesses and people that support this event are to be commended."

Hosting an event like the National Championships can reap many benefits for Worthington, according to Worthington Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Darlene Macklin.

"It is an honor to be the host site of the 2008 USW Nationals. This is a wonderful opportunity for our community with the five-day event" she said. "Whenever we have an event of this magnitude, it is a direct benefit to our business community.