Wellington dreams of holding a PWA World Tour event

November 4, 2016 | Windsurfing
Wellington: the world's windiest city wants to hold a PWA World Tour event | Photo: Wild Winds

The capital of wind is once again hosting New Zealand's fastest windsurfers at the Eastbourne Slalom Plus event between 10th-11th December 2016.

The event will again attract New Zealand's best sailors competing in the Wellington Round of the North Island Series, as well as preparing for the national competition in February 2017, and the Hutt City Windsurf Cup in March.

The Hutt City event will be the New Zealand leg of the Pacific Windsurf Cup, an exciting new series of events also staged in Australia, Hawaii, Noumea, and Tahiti. The series will attract international sailors from all over the Pacific, including some of the top pro windsurfers currently competing on the PWA World Tour.

Current New Zealand national slalom champion Laurence Carey will be competing after performing well in his first year on the professional circuit in the northern hemisphere. Carey is the main instigator of the Pacific series and sees it as a stepping stone to getting a professional event staged in Wellington in the future.

The Eastbourne event will also host a strong contingent of top Auckland and Tauranga sailors looking to be rewarded with the strong winds and challenging conditions the region is famous for.

Slalom racing is the Formula 1 of windsurfing, with a tight downwind course designed to promote maximum speed and excitement. Boards can reach speeds of over 70 kph, and with few rules, contact is not uncommon, especially rounding buoys.

Foiling windsurfers are also becoming more popular, and it may not be long before these will be appearing at events. Organizer Bruce Spedding says that key to running the event is having a rescue boat capable of operating safely in winds over 50 knots.

"Most yacht clubs are reluctant to launch their boats when winds are over 25 knots, so securing a suitable rescue boat for the event was critical," said Spedding, who is also the president of Windsurfing New Zealand.

"Luckily sponsors Craigs Investment partners have come on board again and made it possible to hire a suitable boat for the two days."

The event is also intended to get Wellington windsurfers back into racing, encourage new windsurfers to push their limits, and showcase the wind sport to spectators.

Racing takes place close to the shore, and there is plenty to see and do at the venue near the HW Shortt Recreation Ground south of Eastbourne Village. A windsurfing simulator will also be set up to allow people including kids to get a feel for windsurfing without getting wet.

"Wellington used to host major windsurfing events when the sport was at its peak. It's making a comeback as part of a movement back onto the water, and the future looks promising," adds Spedding.

Bruce is still keen to explore expanding the event to include other activities under the title "Eastbourne Extreme." Spedding aims to see Wellington included in the PWA World Tour schedule, which would be a huge win for the city.

Its reputation as the world's windiest city would be a magnet for the top windsurfers to travel here, and Eastbourne with its beaches and parks would be well suited to hosting such a major competition. The promotional and tourism benefits would be significant.

A wind meter was installed at the beach last year with funding from the Eastbourne Community Board and has been providing valuable information to local sailors since. Typical of Wellington, the conditions experienced here have led to some design improvements, and a new meter will be installed soon.

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