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Windfoilers getting up to speed at national champs

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The past, present and future of New Zealand windsurfing will come together later this week as the sport continues to experience a rejuvenation due to foiling.

As many as 60 competitors will converge on the Manly Sailing Club on Friday for three days of racing for the Giltrap Audi New Zealand Windfoil Championships. Among them will be some well known names like Aaron McIntosh, JP Tobin, Bruce Trotter, Antonio Cozzolino, Glenn Ashby and Ray Davies, but also a gaggle of youngsters hoping to carry on a legacy of New Zealand windsurfing.

Windfoiling has been included on the programme for the 2024 Paris Olympics, replacing the RS:X, and McIntosh is hoping New Zealand can take its place at the top table of the sport again.

The former world champion might work for the Dutch these days, and last week coached his sailors to another one-two finish at the RS:X world championships, but he's also Windfoil New Zealand president.

"I think we have a very good basis in New Zealand to push off," McIntosh said. "Already we've seen a big jump into the foiling class which has rejuvenated windsurfing in this country. It's really encouraging. 

"For us, completing the pathway is important so you can make it as big as you want. If someone wants to take it all the way to the Olympics, it's there. It's important to have critical mass to help facilitate that and also create the right culture and environment, which is open learning and fun."

Windfoiling and kitefoiling, which will also debut at the Paris Olympics, last year joined the Aon national youth clinics and a handful of youngsters have already made a significant impression.

Lloyd Perratt last month won the Australian windfoiling title, with Thomas Crook fourth overall and second youth.

Crook was then the top youngster at Bay of Islands Foiling Week and second overall, heading off Max van der Zalm and Perratt, but a 48-year-old emerged as winner last month.

"It was cool to keep them honest," McIntosh said. "Having fun and helping them out at the same time is what I get a kick out of. If I can beat them every now and then, that's cool, but it's about these younger guys now.

"Junior, youth and development squads will start to establish themselves. We need to get these guys overseas this year and we are looking for support and funding to get four or five to the world championships later this year.

"The idea is to get them up to a good level as quickly as possible to get access to High Performance Sport New Zealand funding. Right now, it's up to them to want it, and we can help facilitate it."

A handful of Australians will compete this weekend, as well as five from New Caledonia, but a large proportion will be Kiwis, illustrating the growth of the sport. 

Racing can take various shapes and forms and could include classic course racing, slalom sprints, long distance race, point to point, and a time/speed trial.

Competitors self-assess and put themselves into gold, silver or bronze fleet based on their abilities and Madloop will be on site for lessons and to rent equipment.

Entries are still open and the entry form and notice of race can be found here.