Andy Morrell reports from yet another amazing Hi Ho Adventure..
Antiguan racer Eli Fuller returned in fighting form to compete in the 2007 Highland Spring HIHO event. Fuller, who won the event in 1998, 2001 and 2003, dominated the large Techno 2 one-design fleet with wins in four of the five races that comprised this years event. “I felt strong and sailed fast," he commented. “It helped that the wind conditions were excellent".
The 2007 Highland Spring HIHO event saw the addition of an Open class competing alongside the well attended Techno division. Top honors in the Open class went to St John racer Nat Ford, also a previous event champion with a win in the Junior division back in 1997. Ford edged Ricardy Maricel of St Martin by a quarter point for the Open class win. Jean-Marc Peyronnet also of St Martin finished third.
This years Highland Spring HIHO event saw a slow start with racing on the events first day canceled for lack of wind. By the second day the breeze had built to allow one race. Action was really underway by day three for the event when the racers undertook the 12-mile reach from Virgin Gorda to Anegada. It was a Fuller/Maricel duel with the former hitting the beach first but mistaking the finish line which allowed the French racer to nab the win.
Day three saw the yacht fleet race from Anegada back to Virgin Gorda, followed by a windsurfing race around Necker Island. Fuller sat this race out allowing Martinique competitor Pierre-Francoise Champeval his first class win. The exciting race saw the fleet reach across the Necker Island channel, then tack around the island before returning to the start area off Prickly Pear Island before reaching back to a beach finish. Island owner Sir Richard Branson was amongst the cheering crowd as the finishers ran up the powder sand beach to the finish.
The events penultimate day featured a 27-mile race down the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Not only is this the most grueling race of the event it’s also the morning after the events pirate party hosted by the Last Resort on Bellamy Cay. “The party absolutely rocked," said Necker Island watersports instructor Charlie Smith who was seen slipping off for an hours sleep as the sun rose. From a start off Salt Island the fleet reached to Tortola, across to Deadman’s Chest, back to Tortola, then to Peter Island, back to Nanny Cay then down the bottom of the channel and below Frenchman’s Cay to the finish on Little Thatch. The wind at the start was in the 15-17 knot range with 2-4ft seas, At the bottom of the course the wind buiold but the seas flatten out if you stay close to Tortola’s cliff lined coast. Again, it was Fuller on a Techno who powered in for the win. Nat Ford was 2nd to finish and took the Open class win.
The final day of racing was off Sandy Spit. Fuller needed a strong finish in order to discard his 50th place finish from earlier in the week. The wind built and he took off from the start for an easy win without looking back. It was a toss up as far as who could win the Open class with Ford, Maricel and Peyronnet in the running. Unfortunately, Peyronnet’s mast broke on the beach before the start and he was out, and Ford out sailed his French rival to take top honors.
The competitive team trophy was nabbed by Team Tortola. Moonshadow captained by Bill Price was champion Yacht.
The Techno 2 fleet comprised the bulk of the racers with fifty one registered Techno competitors in six divisions. While Fuller won, it was Martinique racer Pierre-Francoise Champeval in second overall, and winning the Masters division. Third overall, and second in the master division, was UK racer Johnnie Walker representing the 11-strongg Royal Naval windsurfing team.
Sean Anderson from Tortola, BVI won the Junior division with a 6th overall finish. His father Ewan took Grand Master honors with a 9th overall finish.
US racer Al Simmonds finished 11th overall to win the Grand Masters title; his wife Susan was 5 places further back to win the Women’s title.
Top BVI racer was Sean Anderson in 6th in the Techno class. This was good enough for the Junior division title. Eric Spencer finished 8th overall and 2nd in the Junior division. Sean’s father Ewan took the Grand Master title with a 9th overall.
This year’s event saw 60-racers racers competing from 15 countries. Participants were accommodated aboard a fleet of Moorings yachts. The event took in a number of the British Virgin Islands with stops on Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Eustatia Island, Prickly Pear, Anegada, Necker Island, Bellamy Cay, Little Thatch, Jost Van Dyle and Sandy Cay.
Highland spring HIHO is sponsored by Highland Spring Natural Mineral Water, HIHO, The Moorings, and windsurfing industry companies Neil Pryde & BIC Sport. More info at http://www.go-hiho.com