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WISSA 2015 Reflections from Klaus Faisst #001

The following is a Letter written by WISSA Competitor Klaus Faisst, bib #001, from Toronto, Ontario Canada.  Klaus is a veteran WISSA competitor with many Worlds Champs attended.  His expertise, advice and great attitude helped make the WISSA 2015 event a success.  He was very involved in the preparation of Racing as Fond du Lac hosted it’s first World Ice & Snow Sailing Championships.

Gentlemen:

Three weeks have now passed since returning from Fond du Lac … enough time to reflect on the many highlights of WISSA-2015.  Today I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you and the three organizing teams – the Fond du Lac Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Winnebago Association of Kiteboarders (WAK) and the Wind Power Windsurfing & Kite Center – for executing this highly successful international event in your community.

I also want to summarize my own impressions as well as comments from other participants and observers. You and your teams and volunteers with your sponsors and media partners have accomplished so much that it will be impossible for me to account for everything.  Also, many of your activities before, during and after the event took place “behind the curtain”, and remained unnoticed by the competitors.  As a long-time WISSA-participant I now dare to say that you have staged one of the best or perhaps the best event ever in WISSA history.

Your experience from previous Sturgeon Stampede / Winter Kiteboarding Classics had clearly paid full dividends, and so did your numerous meeting discussions and correspondence exchanges with your team members leading up to the event.  Equally beneficial was, without any doubt, the personal experience of  the Gratton-Brothers in national and international competition.  Andy and Kevin had the racing part firmly under control.  Fond du Lac has now set a new standard and will serve as an example for conducting future WISSA world championships.

In addition to the actual competition, participants of WISSA-2015 will also long remember many other highlights and special features from our 35th World’s in Fond du Lac. They include the festive character of the opening and closing ceremonies at the Yacht Club and the Retlaw Hotel, the large snow-free area you had provided for short track slalom (STS) races, the wide-open area for the course races,  delicious and plentiful luncheons in heated shelters, the huge birthday cake for our WISSA-friend Kalev from Estonia (a most thoughtful gesture) and lots more.

Competitors will also be talking for a long time about the Friday evening extravaganza at “WISSA Village” right on the frozen lake, including the gigantic bone fire, the Sturgeon Queen contest, ice boat rides with Andy, lively entertainment by the music band “D-Willy and the Souvenirs” inside the heated tent, and of course the spectacular fireworks.

Equally gratifying, competitors will also have taken home fond memories of spirited camaraderie during the week at the Retlaw Hotel, the educational and entertaining evening at the Thelma Sadoff Center, watching the “Frozen Chosen”, as well as convenient shuttle service, continuous assistance from volunteers, throughout the week plus special gifts from sponsors (I got a nice Cabrinha shoulder bag at the closing ceremony).  Visitors from overseas were especially appreciating the transportation you had provided from and to the airports.  A very special thank you for all your help in this regard.

Your careful attention to so many details could be observed right from the beginning.  The participant’s packages (C’mon in) found on arrival in the hotel rooms contained,  in addition to Craig’s warm welcome-letter, all essential information… event schedule, official area guide, restaurant guide, shuttle service.  The same goes for the registration packages received on Monday at Wind Power Windsurfing & Kiting Center, containing – in addition to a WILLKOMMEN-letter from the three organizing teams – all essential race info, including a really nice name tag with individualized country flag, sailing instructions, WISSA site maps, T-shirt (at last I got one with long sleeves), race bib and plenty of goodies from event sponsors.

This feeling of being well looked after remained with us all week right to the moment of departure. Obviously, a great deal of collective thinking as well as plenty of emotional intelligence has gone into this event, resulting from your early planning and plenty of good will on all sides.  The attractive trophies made by sled sailor Brian Reedy received plenty of admiration as well.  Brian’s creative talent and craftsmanship will now be a discussion topic by the glorious champions from far away places. And one more thing needs mentioning… the event logo, so prominently displayed on the individualized participation diplomas, medallions, race result sheets, bibs and many other event items.

Positive feedback on WISSA-2015 had even arrived from my brothers back in Germany, who were stunned by the event’s world-wide publicity.  The drone video, showing some of the action in WISSA-Village from the birds eye perspective were definitely a hit.  My brothers also talked about the beautifully arranged flags of the 11 participating nations “standing” in a stiff wind.

The race committee and their helpers deserve special recognition for preparing and executing world-class course races and short track slalom (STS) races.  Actually, we learned a few useful things from you guys, including the clever diversion of the kites away from the sleds and wings.  It enabled all three race classes to use the same start and finish. Best of all, to my knowledge, there were no complaints about damaged kite lines from interfering sleds and wings (usually there are plenty).  And what a pleasure it was to watch the flawless 5-minute count-down for the kites and then see them take off towards the upwind mark at full speed. The race course might have been somewhat longer than usual.  However, with the strong winds it only raised the standard for international competition.  Kevin, Andy, Jim and all the other folks who were doing such a great job in the freezing cold… on behalf of all competitors, thanks a million for your dedication and endurance.

The STS-course was also generously sized which made racing extra thrilling since competitors could gain extra speed between turns.  Only some of us competitors can appreciate the efforts required in preparing and maintaining such a large snow-free surface. Pictures by media partner CNN and the video produced on February 11, show plenty of fast action on the STS-course and will always be a proud reminder of those great moments – with snow blowing horizontally over the ice.  Of course, Richard Liepins from Latvia (the tallest in the WISSA-family) was the key player in the STS-races.  Without him it would not have worked.  I will write to Richard separately and will thank him as soon as I am done with this review here.

In connection with the STS-races I have only one regret: That we could not demonstrate it to a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).  The inclusion of a sailing event in the Winter Olympics has been a long-standing objective by the IOC.  Could anyone imagine the publicity for Fond du Lac from showing STS racing to the world, and the demo eventually leading right up to a future Olympic discipline?   Am I dreaming too big now?  I don’t think so.  Short track slalom racing is Olympic material, containing all the elements of a spectator sport… fast, fluid, graceful action, wild wipe-outs, easy to follow and to score.  Very rarely do we get the combination of conditions we had in Fond du Lac, i.e. a large snow-free surface, clean winds and the best contenders and race master in the world.

To the few participants who were lamenting about the missed marathon race and the big air jumping competition on “Blizzard Saturday” I want to say:  Count your blessings that we had a sensible race committee, fully aware of the risks associated with excessive winds and white-out conditions.  They deserve special praise for assessing the weather and acting accordingly.  Searching for survivors in poor visibility is no fun.

Kudos also for the well prepared substitute program on Saturday, starting with comfortable lunch at the Sunset on the Lake Grill & Bar, followed by a stimulating afternoon at EAA’s Air Venture Museum in Oshkosh.  This visit has been on my “to-do-list” for many years.  By the way, after Andy’s announcement on Blizzard Saturday’s skippers meeting quite a few competitors (including myself) were happy about the day off.  Sled sailor Mike Bierworth (011) was obviously not one of them.  Mike’s reputation is now well established both as an exceptionally tough long distance sailor (57 miles in extreme weather) and as a brilliant help for computer work associated with registration and race results.  Thank you Mike, for also incorporating beautiful action photos in the result sheets.  Plenty of admiration also goes to the folks who were doing speed trials on Blizzard Saturday.  Thank you for enduring it all.  The speed clocked by kite sailor Robert Cook of 55 miles /hour (88 km/h) in those conditions is truly impressive.

The WISSA-success at Fond du Lac may now bring up a fairly obvious question:  Could we do it again?  Perhaps it is too early to ask. You, the organizers need a rest now.  So much time and effort has been consumed in the past year, on top of some uncomfortable periods filled with uncertainty about the event’s outcome.  Of course, projects like these are always extra difficult the first time around.

For WISSA to return to Lake Winnebago in future years would certainly be a “no-brainer” because of the outstanding pre-requisites:  A welcoming community capable of providing a grandiose winter playground for ice & snow sailing with easy access to thick ice, reliable winds,  competent officiating, convenient equipment rentals from Kevin’s shop, comfortable shelters for competitors and equipment, expert help with waxing, super clean toilets, shuttle service between Hotel and race site, manageable transportation from and to airports.  In fact, Fond du Lac may well be one of the best places in North-America.

Furthermore, your model of combining the Sturgeon Stampede with WAK’s sailing races has been working well in past years and staging the two events back to back, like this year, has worked even better.  “WISSA-Village” can easily be turned into “Stampede-Village”.  Many of your preparatory activities would be common to both events.  Naturally, you, the organizers would have to assess the cost/benefit question and what a future WISSA-event would add to local prestige and regional economy.

Kevin, once again, our outmost appreciation goes to you for taking on the task, way back, and for your steadfast determination to turn WISSA-2015 into a such a fantastic event – the best we ever had on this continent.  You fully deserve all the satisfaction associated with our success!  Thank you very much!

Gentlemen, please also convey our gratitude to the volunteers, event sponsors and media partners.  Best regards with a big thank you also to Don Altmeyer, Duane Waltz and Ed Schneider.  I would have loved to spend more time with all of you – on and off the ice.  It was also wonderful to observe that many of you (organizers, volunteers, trophy makers, computer wizards, sponsors) are also avid all-year-round sailors and competitors.  Chances are, some of you have been enjoying more ice sailing after WISSA-2015 than prior to and during the event.

Klaus Faisst, 001 (on behalf of all competitors)

Thank You Klaus for all your efforts making WISSA 2015 a great event!  Please leave a comment for Klaus and everyone to read.

 

 

 

 

 

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