At the Mercy of Mother Nature

Owen Evans reports from the PWA (Professional Windsurfers' Association) World Cup at the Yelken Yacht Club in Awazain, Turkmenistan.

Patience is one of sport's biggest virtues, and it has certainly needed to be this week at the PWA World Cup.

On one side you have the nation of Turkmenistan, first-time hosts, which is keen to get itself into the global conversation by using its new-found wealth to host the biggest sports events in the world, and this week's World Cup is one of the first steps in that direction.

Such is the excitement around the event, Turkmenistan's president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, made a personal visit to the opening ceremony on Tuesday (July 1), with the accompanying road blocks bringing the area to a standstill. It's difficult to imagine Barack Obama or David Cameron going to quite the same lengths for a windsurfing event.

On the other hand you have the rights-holder and event organiser, the PWA, which is taking its World Cup here for the first time, with Richard Page, PWA tour manager, telling me discussions are taking place to return to Awaza if this week goes well.

Unfortunately, the most important stakeholder this week is neither the host nor the rights-holder but instead Mother Nature. And while sunshine has been in abundance, sadly the wind has not.

Not only is this my first visit to Turkmenistan, but it is also the first major windsurfing event I have reported from, and thoughI have found the lack of action due to light winds frustrating, for the seasoned competitors and organisers it is just part of the course.

After a couple of hours of racing at 6:30am on the second day, there was nothing in terms of competition until 5:15pm that same day. Bleach-haired men instinctively sunk into the sofas in the Yacht Club's lobby and laptops and iPads were brought out to pass the time.

Staying mentally focused while waiting for the right conditions appears to be one of the key skills of top windsurfers. But while they have grown up with this routine, for the local fans in Turkmenistan – where wrestling and football are the popular sports – it is harder to communicate that need for patience and luck.

The sponsors on-the-ground have capitalised on the periods of inactivity to keep fans entertained with music, dance performances and beach volleyball and football tournaments, while national broadcaster Turkmenistan TV has been carrying out vox-pops and features from the beach.

The appetite for sport is clearly here, with waiting fans playing football and many using the on-site trampolines for impromptu wrestling grapples. However, due to the nature of windsurfing, the best introduction for new fans is potentially via digital media, with short-form clips and highlights condensing a full day's action into a few moments, enabling new fans to get up to speed with events before before experiencing the nuances of professional windsurfing up close and in person.

Page says that in the past a one or two minute reel on the country's evening news bulletin has proved more commercially beneficial for event partners, organisers and host venues than a 30-minute online magazine show, so the presidential appearance and Turkmenistan TV's presence here could prove crucial to whether the event comes back to the Yelken Yacht Club next year.

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