Fit Sailors, Fast Action & Comfy Cats: An Ideal Recipe for Summer Fun In the realm of sailing, long-established special events often reach a peak, then fizzle and die. There are a rare few, however, that keep evolving, and by doing so just get better and better. A case in point is the annual Highland Springs HIHO, which celebrated its 25th anniversary early last month in the British Virgin Islands — and was a huge success. Back in the late '70s, windsurfing was the sexiest watersport around. With the promise of high speeds and heartpounding thrills, the sport's flashy, multi-colored sails and planing boards steadily attracted new devotees all over the world. It was against that backdrop that the original HIHO was spawned with a unique concept: It was to be an ambitious, week-long event that would test the endurance of riders through a series of long-distance, inter-island races over open water — hence the event's original full name: Hook In and Hold On. When not out on the water, participants would be accommodated aboard charter boats that would lace through the island chain from one must-see anchorage to the next. As word of this fun-filled enduro spread, it attracted top-flight competitors from Europe, the U.S. and beyond. LikeThe contemporary HIHO's successful formula revolves around island-hopping to a different must-see anchorage every day.
wise, the promise of participants who were young, athletic, and hard-bodied attracted the event's founding sponsor, Johnnie Walker. While the sponsorship money was essential for the event's operation, whiskey and windsurfing seemed an odd pairing. We remember observing back then that probably the last thing a dehydrated athlete wanted after completing a 15-mile sprint was a 'Johnnie Colada' — yeah, they were pretty awful. So after the 1986 contest, Walker & Co. packed up its Colada mix and pulled the plug. That year, a young BV Islander named Andy Morrell tied for top honors, which launched him into a short career as a World Cup contender. But in spite of tasting international notoriety, he always felt the HIHO concept was too good to let die, so in 1992 he bought the name and resurrected the event. Since then, it has been in a constant state of evolution, adapting to include the newest gear on the market, the newest charter boat options and the shifting demographics of the sport. Having been widely publicized in both print and visual media, the HIHO has long been considered the Holy Grail of windsurfing. Or as one elder competitor put it, "It's on every longtime rider's bucket list." This year's event drew about 140 participants from 14 countries, of whom 50 were racers. The rest were along for the ride, so to speak, enjoying the daily race action, lavish shoreside meals and
ALL PHOTOS LATITUDE / ANDY
We depart from our usual format this month, to bring you a special report on what is arguably the most action-packed charter flotilla anywhere, the British Virgin Islands' Highland Springs HIHO.
nightly parties. The entire entourage was accommodated aboard late-model, fourcabin charter cats from The Moorings. This writer was one of five 'California captains' who came out to play skipper while soaking up some summer sun. I was lucky enough to draw a nearly-new Moorings 4600 — the design features a flybridge steering station that pokes through the hardtop bimini — and a very jolly crew. In addition to First Mate Julie, there were the Aussies, Nelle and Monty, and four sailing buddies from Virginia: Al, Susan, Wayne and Doctor Bob. All but Nelle were accomplished recreational sailors who were eager to race. One of the coolest things about the HIHO, both way back when and today, is that you always come away having made new friendships with your crewmembers and others. Because active windsurfers are generally fit and fun-loving, and because the cruise is sold as a handson sailing adventure with fast-paced daily itineraries, it rarely, if ever, attracts whiners or stuffed shirts looking for white-glove service. My crew was typical of the rest of the fleet: 'doers' who were ready to gear up and go sailing as soon as the coffee was brewed, and equally ready to party when the sun began its slide toward the horizon. Within the international mix of par-
The August 2009 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.