Clearwater delivers for the 2018 Kona Worlds!
The 2018 Kona Worlds took place in beautiful Clearwater Beach, Florida, USA on Oct 26-31, 2018. The Clearwater Community Sailing Center took center stage and delivered an event for the memory books!
Clearwater is a technical venue. Tide, frontal systems, side swells, oscillating breezes – the sailing city on the Gulf of Mexico has it all! That’s why so many international sailing teams call Clearwater home for winter training. But that also meant that no one knew for sure what the conditions would be like at the end of October for the 102 competitors who signed up for the 2018 edition of the Kona Worlds. Would there be too little breeze to truly showcase the venue? Too much to even make it through the shore break?
As it turned out, Clearwater showed all its cards! Two days of big breeze (20-25 kts) and 6-ft swell to put everyone on notice from the get-go, followed by three days of flatter, lighter (5-15 kts) and shifting conditions (sideshore, then offshore) to tighten the pack and keep everyone on their toes!
In a battle of wits that lasted all week, young gun Alex Temko (16-yr old, USA) edged out the legend himself, Bjorn Holm (SWE), to win his first world title and make his home club of Clearwater proud! After a week of brilliant racing, it took Alex some serious focus to hold it together and win it all in the 12th and very last race of the championships.
For the third spot on the podium, Alex’s teammate Noah Lyons (USA) barely survived a late charge from Anders Pers (SWE) as well to earn the bronze medal on count backs. What a success story for the youth team in Clearwater: 1-3 on the overall podium, three altogether in the top-ten, and two more juniors in the top-five women and junior rankings. Beyond local knowledge, there’s some serious talent on that team!
On the women’s side, Andree Gauthier (CAN) was steady all week and drove back to Toronto with a world title to her name! Young Swede Johanna Hjertberg improved steadily over the course of the regatta and ended the event with her best race to snatch 2nd place away from Texan Barbara Belt (USA). Another legend, Bruce Matlack (USA), took the Grand Masters (65+) title ahead of his good friend Steve Callaway (USA) and Jerry Caplan (CAN). The Silver fleet was strong this year, and it took plenty of finesse for freestyle master Denis Dagenais (CAN) to lead the pack. The Canadian contingent can always be counted on to deliver the goods, but it was reinforced this time around by young racers from the Toronto Windsurfing Club, led by coach Max Robinson, and their smiles and enthusiasm were the life of the party!
The Kona board is an exciting board to race in all conditions, and it showed its versatility in Clearwater. But the Kona Class’ biggest achievement this week was its ability to bring together racers of all stripes: men and women, Olympians and recreational windsurfers, longtime class members and complete newcomers, all on the same start line. The youngest competitor this week was 12-yr old Sara Tangen from Norway, who competed alongside her dad, and the oldest was 80-yr old Chris Hope from Canada.
Everyone fell in love with Florida and Clearwater Beach and is going home with a hundred new friends to swap stories with until the international Kona community meets again at the 2019 Kona Worlds, which will be hosted next summer (Aug 15-18) by Circolo Club Torbole in beautiful Lake Garda, Italy, and the following Spring in Bermuda for the 2020 Kona Worlds.
Thank you to Heritage Insurance for title sponsorship of the event this year, the Sheraton Sand Key for being such gracious hosts, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the Kona Class and all of its partners for their support leading up to and during the event. The professional staff at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center, with Sailing Director Justin Ahearn at the helm, took on this massive project with key support from the Clearwater Yacht Club and the Pensacola Yacht Club, and delivered beyond expectations!
Recap video (credit: Charles Dasher):