HIHO regatta

“Take your time, nice and slow,” said our captain ever time anybody stepped on the dinghy, and it soon became the motto of Bonac Witch, a Moorings 4300 catamaran that served as one of the spectator boats for the 24th annual Highland Spring HIHO Regatta in the British Virgin Islands. For my girlfriend, Taylor, and me, taking it nice and slow was exactly what we intended, but for the HIHO competition, slow was nowhere on their agenda.

Since it began in 1979, the Highland Spring HIHO, short for Hook-In-Hold-On, has been bringing together sailing and windsurfing for an amazing summer week in the BVI. Windsurfers of all experience levels come seeking adventure; non-windsurfers come too, simply for the experience and a berth on the 4300.

Ten captained Moorings 4300s met the racers and guests at The Moorings base in Road Town, Tortola. My girlfriend, Taylor, and I were assigned to Bonac Witch, a name that to this day I don’t know the meaning of. Having never even slept on a boat and never sailed on a catamaran, I was a little concerned about committing to a full week, but after seeing the accommodations and meeting our boatmates, Julian from South Africa and Kode from New York, I chilled out.

We motored out to Saba Rock, opposite the Bitter End Yacht Club, on Virgin Gorda. This tiny island has a restaurant and gift shop, and after a brief orientation by Andy Morrell, who runs HIHO and is a world-class windsurfer himself, the party began with a huge buffet. When we heard that the entire fleet would meet up for a race briefing at 8:30 the next morning, Taylor and I cut our partying short.

After the race meetings each morning, we non-racers would sail to the finish line, always at a secluded beach, and enjoy lunch while waiting for the fleet to arrive. Spectators swam and lay in the sun, while the racers sailed their boards right up to the beach, then jumped offf and ran to touch the finish mark, a flag placed in the sand. More than once, first place came down to a foot race.

The first race finished on Eustacia Island, in Eustacis Sound, and subsequent races took us to The Baths, Little Thatch, Peter Island, Norman Island, Sandy Spit, and more. We spent each night in a different cove and enjoyed dinners at local hotspots throughout the islands. The racecourses involved a mix of difficulty levels. The winds and conditions changed along with the terrain and location in the islands. For me, the second day was especially memorable. The race started near Saba Rock and ended 13 nautical miles away in Anegada. I was very impressed with the racers, who, standing on their boards, were not much taller than the swells as they looked for a flat island whose trees were the only objects in sight. After lunch on the white beaches, the competitive spirit kicked in and the cats raced to Leverick Bay, on Virgin Gorda (our boat won, through no fault of my own).

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