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New Prodigy Windsurfing Class

A new windsurfing one-design race class has been developed, and will hold its first North American Championship regatta. From: Nathaniel Siddall, Secretary, U.S. Prodigy Class Association

(phone: 734 475 6758, email: nsiddall@earthlink.net)

The newly-formed Prodigy Class Association has chosen the Suncoast Classic, in St Petersburg, Florida, November 2-3, as the 2002 class championship event. This event, hosted by the Fleet 12 Tampa Bay Windsurfers, and sponsored by Watersports West, has been a Mistral Championship in previous years, and is also a stop on the US Windsurfing National Tour.

The Prodigy windsurfer is a new sailboard from Mistral, first sold in 2001. It was designed for beginners to learn on, as well as sailors of all levels to race. With 255 liters of volume and a width of 87 centimeters, it is very stable, which makes uphauling easy for learners. This also allows the board to be sailed in very light wind conditions, and makes it more competitive for heavier sailors. The Prodigy is equipped with a centerboard, which means it can be sailed around a course, upwind and downwind, in any wind conditions. In higher wind, with the centerboard retracted and the mast track moved back, it performs much like a modern “shortboard,” and is much faster and easier to sail than a traditional “longboard.”

Prodigy is a recognized class at the thirteen US Windsurfing National Tour regattas in 2002, and has also been raced at a number of other regattas around the country. It has attracted interest from experienced windsurfers, as well as first-timers. At the US Windsurfing National Championship, a multi-class championship held in Texas earlier this year, the Prodigy fleet included the first national champion in the original Windsurfer class, as well as former participants in windsurfing Olympic trials and other high level racers.

Interest in windsurfer racing has declined in recent years, as the equipment has become more advanced but more specialized. Prodigy class racing may broaden the appeal of racing once again, by making it more accessible. It can be done in all conditions, including at small inland lakes all over the country, rather than just at the windsurfing centers with consistent high wind. Because of the forgiving nature of the board, intermediate sailors can focus on the racing, without paying too high a penalty for board-handling mistakes. This makes it an ideal format for experienced dinghy racers who would like to move into windsurfing competition. It is also a developing international class and is applying for "Recognised" status from ISAF at their Conference, with rapidly growing fleets in Europe.

Windsurfer racing has been done in both open class and one-design formats since the sport was first developed in the 70s. In one-design racing, competitors use identical hulls, sails, and components. This keeps expenses down, and makes it more feasible to borrow or charter gear, or to get into racing with a relatively small investment; and it also encourages sailors to focus on technique, rather than equipment. Olympic windsurfing competition is currently held on a windsurfing one-design class called IMCO. IMCO has been a very successful class since the 80s, but it is now sailed only by elite sailors. Although the IMCO boards can be sailed in a wide range of conditions, they are difficult to sail well, and they provide a substantial advantage to lightweight competitors. Prodigy class is now appealing to recreational racers as a successor to the IMCO.

The acting secretary of the U.S. Prodigy Class Association is Nathaniel Siddall, who can be reached at nsiddall@earthlink.net. A class association meeting will be held November 1st, prior to the Suncoast Classic regatta. For information on the regatta contact the commodore of Fleet 12, Jim Mills, at james_mills@atk.com. Prodigy charter boards will be available for use at the regatta, and for information on that, visit www.watersportswest.com.

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