After a hectic world wave tour, Californian Kevin Pritchard (USA) was crowned World Wavesailing Champion 2002 yesterday afternoonat the last event on the World Tour.
The PWA Irish Wave Grand Prix event, presented by Bord Fáilte, has been the climax of a tour where windsurfing's elite athletes have fought for the world champion title and a prize fund of 65,000 Euro. Over the past seven days, the event has attracted a record number of visitors to the beaches of Castlegregory, where the Professional Windsurfers Association (PWA) has staged the event for the third consecutive year. Over 6,000 visitors enjoyed the event activities last weekend alone.
Despite Brandon Bay's reputation as being a windsurfers' paradise, the unprecedented Indian summer over the past week meant that windsurfing conditions never quite matched expectations. The calm weather has kept the competitors off the water for much of the week. They did take to the water on the first day but it was not for long enough to establish a result for the event. However the PWA world tour result is a different matter. Having performed exceptionally throughout the tour this year, 26-year-old Kevin Pritchard (Gaastra, Bic) was crowned PWA World Wavesailing Champion for 2002. Seven-times PWA World champion, Björn Dunkerbeck (Neil Pryde, Proof) of Andorra had to settle for second place this year, with British champion Nik Baker (North Sails, Mistral) in third. Meanwhile in the women's division, Spain's Daida Ruano Moreno (North, Mistral) took the title, ahead of Karin Jaggi (Arrows, F2) of Switzerland and Anne Reichman (North) of Holland.
Kevin Pritchard said: "I'm ecstatic to win this, my first Wave title. I've been wanting and waiting for this for a long time!"
64 of the world's top windsurfers from over 20 countries have spent the past week in Brandon Bay. Irish competitors who qualified for this event included Irish wavesailing champion Oisín Van Gelderen (JP, Neil Pryde), from Skerries, Co.Dublin; Peter Nunan from Courtmacsherry, Co. Cork and brothers Timo and Finn Mullen (both: Arrows, F2) from Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland.
Commenting on the overall success of this year's competition, event organizer Mr. Andrew Owen from Proteus Sports said: "No-one expects to come to County Kerry in October and find it windless, it's extraordinary. It's a great shame to have had the world's best windsurfers on Ireland's shores without giving them a chance to experience the world-class conditions that Brandon Bay is famous for. But we've not been sitting idly by, we've had around 6,000 people visit the event and enjoy the atmosphere just at the weekend alone, so Castlegregory has been buzzing. Everyone loves to see these world-class athletes and there's been a big party scene too. Above all, we've continued the relationship with the PWA and Ireland and the event will be back next year when the wind is sure to blow."
Mr. Niall Reddy, acting Chief Executive of Bord Fáilte said: "The hosting of the PWA Irish Wave Grand Prix underlines once again the attractions of Ireland's coastline to the visiting water sports enthusiasts and to windsurfers in particular. Ireland has excellent year round water sports facilities with over 5,600 km of scenic coastline and hundreds of lakes and rivers. Bord Fáilte has identified water sports as a very important tourism attraction and thus provided sponsorship through Bord Fáilte's International Sports Tourism Initiative for the PWA Irish Wave Grand Prix.