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The tiny island of Tiree is set to play host to the top windsurfers in the country at the Tiree Wave Classic. Lorraine Wakefield looks forward to the spectacular sporting action in store.

Stunning beaches, clear blue seas, fantastic waves and great wind conditions all combine to create the ideal windsurfing venue on the island of Tiree off the west coast of Scotland.

The often wet and windy western isles may not be the obvious location of a sporting haven but with the accolade of being the windiest place in the UK Tiree is the perfect location.

It is nearly 20 years since the concept of the Tiree Wave Classic competition was born and after a five year absence from the island the National Wavesailing Championships return for a week of top class competition from 12 - 19 October 2002.

Tiree was first discovered as a premier windsurfing location in the early 1980s and quickly became the venue for the UK national championships but the competition was lost to Ireland and Cornwall the late 1990s.

That was until the new owner of the Tiree Lodge Hotel Colin Beattie started a campaign to have the championships returned to the island a year ago and after enlisting the help of former organiser Andy Groom the championships were soon heading north once more.

Their efforts were successful in bringing a whole host of backers on board including worldwide TV coverage, VisitScotland, local councillors and other funding bodies and now everyone is looking forward to welcoming the event back home.

"It has taken a year (to get the championships)," explained Andy.

"Colin Beattie realised that raising the profile of the island and increased footfall was good for business for him and the whole island.

"I said it was not as easy as that but ten months later here we are.

"Local councillors Ian Gillies from Tiree and Campbell Cameron from Oban drove it forward from their end and managed to help us get funding from VisitScotland. That enabled us to secure the TV broadcast deal and once we had that secure it was a lot easier to fill in the building blocks.

"The difficult part was getting the national body (UK Windsurfing Association) to accept it as the national championships again and hopefully it is going to be the start of a regular return to Tiree."

The cream of windsurfing talent will be travelling to Tiree to take part in the event and with three from the top six in the world currently hailing from the UK the very best standards of competition are guaranteed.

"We always keep it to 32 competitors and to get an entry is difficult as you have to go to a lot of qualifying rounds," continued Andy.

"It is the cream of the sport and without doubt competition will be at the top level as three of the top six in the world at the moment are British and the standard of windsurfing is incredibly high.

"There is also a fun flight so people can just turn up and compete and there will be another 20 - 30 taking part in that," he added.

The return of the Tiree Wave Classic will help provide a boost to the island which has seen a downturn in windsurfing visitors in recent years and Andy said they aimed to give potential visitors as much information as possible on the area.

"The website is set up with travel very much in mind with details of how to get there etc." said Andy.

"The number of windsurfing visitors to Tiree has gone down over the past few years and we just need to keep getting the message across.

"The championships will bring a threefold boost for tourism. Firstly it is just at the close of the season and secondly raising the profile especially by TV coverage and that will make a huge difference to the area's tourism.

"Thirdly and more importantly probably is that in an area as remote as Tiree the kids don't have a lot of facilities to do sport, there is no swimming pool, tennis courts or pitches, so why not get them involved in a sport on their doorstep?"

Andy says that everyone is excited and enthusiastic at the prospect of Tiree once more becoming the home of the UK Wavesailing Championships and they were all "without question" looking forward to a fantastic event.

"The difference in running the event this year is that everyone is enthusiastic about getting it off the ground and giving support. For the first time everyone was pro the event instead of anti it which was very, very refreshing," Andy added.

More information about the Tiree Wave Classic is on the website



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Action from the 1997 Tiree Wave Classic

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Ferocious waves ensure challenging conditions

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Chris Calthorp battles with the wind in 1997

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Stu Holland taking part in the last competition

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Nik Baker makes air at Tiree the last time around

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One of this year's favourites Robby Swift doing a back loop at the recent Dragon Wave Event in Cornwall

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Andy King doing his thing at the Dragon Wave

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Chris Audsley riding the waves in Cornwall

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