It happened once again in Garrison, MN, on the shores of Lake Mille Lacs. The first was 25 years ago when 35 windsurfers gathered to take on the first of Minnesot’s Ultimate Challenge. The wind blew 30 mph and limited visibility kept them close to shore. But the cars lined up for over a mile and a half along Hwy 169 to watch Minnesota’s best windsurfers test their skills on a newly-found, inland ocean.
This time, it was the last weekend in September, and in addition to the windsurfers who had carried the event for 25 years, they had extended an invitation to the kiters. A select group of the top twenty kiters in the region joined 45 windsurfers to make history as the first combined long-distance event in this quarter of the world. The Mille Lacs Crossing had already established itself as the longest running, longest in distance and most attended event in windsurfing history. And even more spectators lined up in amazement, watching extreme wind and waves provide the ultimate thrill ride for those who stepped up to take on the new ultimate challenge.
Once again, Mother Nature said “not so easy”. Winds forecasted for 22 mph gusting to 32 actually blew well over 30 while the race committee tried to set the start lines and course marks. It ended up being a very challenging start venue for both kiters and windsurfers, but talent and perseverance was in the majority. While the end result was not a true crossing, 4 miles out and back, two laps, the 16-mile challenge was more than equal to any previous Crossing. And the safety aspect was able to be maintained at one of the highest levels.
Winds had tapered a little by the start, but wave conditions remained challenging keeping the Sport fleet and many others from making it out onto the lake. Windsurfers on longboards were limited to one lap, with Peter Hill first in on his Imco, followed by Jack Wiley, Wayne Anderson and Don Specht. Margot Woodworth was the first and only woman to finish. Winds faded a little more during the second lap creating a real challenge for those that had rigged for the big winds before the start. Jeff Hotvet was the first of the 16 windsurfers to complete the 16-mile, two lap course, barely edging out Rob Evans and Shannon Hill.
As usual, wind dictated most of the event. Four course races were completed on Friday before gathering at the Y-Club for the Welcome party. While the wind gradually faded at the end of the Crossing on Saturday, it quickly rebounded to provide a post-race session that kept both kiters and windsurfers on the water until darkness took over. While many barely dragged themselves to the Y-Club to catch the last of the buffet, even more were missing in action later at the Blue Goose. Sunday’s morning dousing of rain and inconsistent wind forecasts cancelled races for the day and the Awards Party was held three hours earlier to help accommodate the many long-distance returns to home.
It was considered an experiment, the first of it’s kind, kiters and windsurfers taking on the ultimate long-distance challenge. The trump card was huge, a returning support staff with over 15 years average experience backed by the continuing sponsorship of the Garrison Commercial Club and everGreene Jewelers, along with Midwest Mountaineering and Extreme Action Sports. And once again, Lake Mille Lacs demonstrated why it is THE venue for world-class events.
Next up: The Kite Crossing, February 29th thru March 2nd.
Windsurfers – Open Class
1st – Jeff Hotvet (Wayzata, MN)
2nd – Rob Evans (Orono, MN)
3rd – Shannon Hill (Mosier, OR)
4th – Steve Johnson (Shoreview, MN)
5th – Jeff Adamski (Elk River, MN)
1st – Wayne Anderson (Elkhart Lake, WI)
1st – Peter Hill (Minneapolis, MN)
2nd – Jack Wiley (Marshfield, WI)
3rd – Don Specht (Bloomington, MN)
1st – Margot Woodworth (Dryden, Ont)
1st – Chris Bargsten (New Brighton, MN)
2nd – Jon Stroh (Prior Lake, MN)
3rd – Eric Paulson (Aitkin, MN)
4th – Tighe Belden (Minneapolis, MN)
5th – Nathan Borer (Mayer, MN)