ROB KENT will be aiming to defend his Round Hayling Island title next month – but fears his biggest threat may come from close to home.
First staged in 1981, the 14-mile Round Hayling Island Windsurfing Race has become an iconic fixture on the sailing calendar since being re-established in 2010.
For the first time, the event will also feature shorter courses for open canoes and stand-up paddleboards.
As five-time winner and reigning champion, Kent will be returning to defend his title on Friday, April 3, as windsurfers from across the country flock to Hayling in an attempt to dethrone him.
The Calshot Activity Centre-based ace will this year be aiming for the course record, which was set at 58 minutes by Guy Cribb in 1992.
Racing alongside him will be his wife, Annette, and daughters Emily and Rebecca.
Annette claimed the first lady prize in 2014, while both daughters are previous winners of the prestigious London Windsurfing Association’s young-windsurfer-of-the-year award.
And Kent fells they may prove to be his biggest challenge on the epic 14-mile course.
‘There are so many obstacles to navigate around the island, from concrete bars below the water to the tidal channels in langstone Harbour,’ explained Kent.
‘It’s a race against the competitors and the island itself.
‘All four of my family have entered this year.
‘We all made it round last year for the first time, which was great.
‘My youngest daughter is now tall enough to tap me on the head so, unfortunately, I feel this year will be the year of change.’
Mayor of Havant, Councillor Marjorie Smallcorn, expressed her excitement for the race, which promises to draw sizeable crowds along Hayling Island seafront.
Cllr Smallcorn said: ‘It’s quite an inconic event and it’s important for Hayling to continue to host events like this, because it’s such a marvellous venue,
‘The race will be fantastic and I can’t wait to watch it.’