Windsurfing: Guns toast return to Olympics

By Peter White


The windsurfing community around the world is celebrating the news that their sport has been reinstated to the Olympics at the expense of kiteboard racing for Rio de Jeneiro in 2016.

Six months of lobbying by the international windsurfing community has paid off, after the controversial decision in May by the International Sailing Federation to drop windsurfing in favour of kiteboard racing was reversed at the federation's annual meeting in Dublin.

Windsurfing has been an Olympic sport since 1984 and New Zealand has been a world leader in the various classes, winning seven medals at Olympic Games.

The news windsurfing was back as an Olympic sport was greeted with great excitement at the Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club.

The club has a fine record for producing outstanding young sailors, such as London Olympics silver medallist Peter Burling, but is also establishing itself as a production line for talented young windsurfers.

Windsurfing is becoming increasingly popular at secondary school level and last year the club produced two national age group champions in Bradley Nixon and Alex Hart.

Now a new star is on the rise in 14-year-old Coral Headey, who won her first major regatta just 10 months after taking up the sport.

The Year 9 student at Otumoetai College was the first girl home in an 18 board fleet at the New Caledonian Youth Windsurfing Championships held in Noumea earlier this month.

Conditions were extreme at times and the racing was highly competitive over three days, with Noumea enjoying sea breezes of 15-25 knots to really test the young sailors handling large 6.8-7.8 metre rigs.

Headey thrived in the testing conditions in what was her first attempt at the regatta and even had time to take in the interesting array of wildlife attracted by all the commotion on the water.

"On the last day of racing I saw a sea snake, a dolphin and a flying fish," Headey said.

"We did this really long race, the upwind leg was 1.5k and we had to so a slalom downwind and then up to the finish.

"All the races we did on the last day had two slalom legs, then a downwind leg, and we also had to pass through gates at certain times. It was so confusing but nonetheless I did well enough to win."

Headey also took part in a four-day coaching course before the event, run by some fairly laidback French Olympic coaches.

"I got more confident with my board as I wasn't that great with the heavy winds, which is why I went to Noumea to learn how to handle the winds and get better at it.

"We just don't get much heavy wind weather like that constantly so it was a huge learning curve for me."

The Frenchmen were a far cry from the coaching style of Olympic gold medallist Bruce Kendall who has been a major factor in Coral's rapid rise in the sport.

"Bruce was very strict, with what time training starts and getting all the basic technical things right, and that has been of huge importance to my development in the sport.

"The French coaches were pretty slack with timing and had very long breaks for lunch in the afternoons, but it was a good experience to learn from them."

Headey is grateful for the opportunities she has had to get high quality coaching from Kendall, Herve Pruvost and fellow Otumoetai College student Brandon Howard.

"Brandon got me through some of my big milestones and they have all been so helpful. I owe them all a lot."

The next priority for Headey is to continue her speedy immersion into the top levels of windsurfing and knock off regattas along the way, as she pursues her goal of selection for the Australasian team to compete at the 2014 Youth Olympics in China and a gold medal shot.

The recent appointment of international windsurfing coaches over the summer at the Tauranga Yacht Club is a massive boost to the capabilities of young sailors and has opened a pathway for young sailors and windsurfers to develop their potential.

American Taylor Chittick is running the club's learn to sail and learn to windsurf programmes for adults and children, while Pruvost has moved to Tauranga and is helping with the race coaching.

For details on how to get involved with the beginners courses at the Tauranga Yacht Club contact the club manager, Christine Headey, on 578 5512 or email office@yacht.org.nz.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 22 Sep 2014 22:19:29 Processing Time: 469ms