- August 31st, 2009
- in Yachting
What makes one seek overseas adventures? It’s simple, really. It’s a journey of exploration and a fascination of things new and exciting. How did I get addicted to this? At the age of three, I sailed with my brother and parents to India on a cruise ship. We returned some five years later. After school at 18 years old, I was ready to travel. I sailed and hitched around the world for the next five years and figured out the world was indeed round.
“Go West, young man,” was my idea and a very necessary one at that as I lived and loved so many places and people on the way. I started by hitchhiking to Cannes, France and landed my first boat job washing dishes as a galley slave on a power yacht. Next, an amazing sail on a 1920s schooner across the Atlantic to Antigua and then the BVI for a two-month stay. The story continued with many boats, oceans, islands and stories until I eventually arrived home in the UK. I remembered the BVI experience later when I had that magical moment one day, that moment when you understand where you would like to live your life.
In the UK, I had been working for Hood Sailmakers in Lymington, Hampshire for three years. In 1981, I came to work at Hood Sailmakers in the BVI for Bill Bullimore as production manager. You work hard on your knees, scissor cutting, chalking, stringing and spiking the varnished floors. The sewing machine becomes a part of you. You breathe the sailing world in the Caribbean.
Once in the BVI, I saw the one and only windsurfer on a boat called Trespasser. The captain, Jim Fuller, was happy to lend it to me. Then I discovered David and Cathy Ross in Trellis Bay. David had arrived in the BVI in 1979 as one of the first bartenders at Last Resort. He loved windsurfng, having built quite a few early prototypes in Canada. He procured a BVI Trade License to bring in the first production “Windsurfers” to the BVI, and Boardsailing BVI was born, established 1981. Cathy and David operated the windsurfing school in Trellis Bay. After three years as a sailmaker, doing the daily grind, I was looking for something else, and I got the job as instructor and manager of Boardsailing BVI. I was windsurfing more and more, and my love of the sport took over.
I would windsurf to Anegada with the BVI Yacht Club Race and sleep wrapped in my Dacron sail on the lounge chairs at the Anegada Reef Hotel. As the yachts would sail away the next day to Tortola, I would wait until they were on the horizon and then jump on my board and overtake them. That was fun.
The eighties were the really special years of the HIHO. I competed in the 1982 through 1986, and the sport was developing every year, new designs of boards and sails every year. After racing the HIHO, I started the Pusser’s Painkiller Thriller, and it lasted for 10 years. A downwind-reaching race from East End Scrub Island to West End Sopers Hole, down the Sir Francis Drake Channel. This was a challenge for not only the sailors but the organiser! It ran each year from 1987 to 1997.
Then we brought the Blue Marlin Windsurf Tour to the BVI. I was the local coordinator for the second year. I was also involved in the Hawaiian Tropic Challenge, a race to St Croix. All the competitors were housed on a 150-foot North Sea pilot boat owned by Chapman and Fuller (original captain of Trespasser). Wow, what fun. It took me seven hours on one tack to reach St Croix.
Catariba was a 75-foot Catamaran that Michael Kusel and I created on a napkin at The First Annual Pusser’s Painkiller Thriller. Designed with windsurfing in mind, he built it in South Africa, and it was an amazing floating hotel. Sadly, it died on White Horse Rock off Anegada early one morning sailing from Antigua.
I have sponsored many a person, and my famous windsurfer is Finian Maynard, protégé and mentor. He has made us all proud from the BVI and is presently sponsored by the BVI Tourist Board.
So now today, here we are at Trellis Bay, still teaching the sport and loving it with a success-guaranteed two-hour lesson. Would you like to get addicted to a natural windblown watersport? New sports come and go, but windsurfing is a very unique sport, and it’s easy to see why it will never fade away—it’s simple and fun with the feel of free wind and water speed controlled by the end of your arms and legs. Do it! Be a fish and a bird all in one package. It’s easy and fun and very much the BVI.