Hook-In-Hold-On was conceived back in the late 1970s during the quintessential Caribbean think session- Happy Hour. Mark “Smitty” Schmidt and friends surmised it would be fun to set sail upwind to the British Virgin Islands and then back to St Thomas aboard windsurfers. Smitty’s friends agreed and Kenny Klein, Chris Thompson, Steve Rothman and a few others soon signed aboard.
In 1980, Molson Golden stepped to the plate and Hook-In-Hold-On became a sponsored event. The course was small back then and the intrepid fleet of racers went from St Thomas to St John, over to Jost Van Dyke, up to Cane Garden Bay on Tortola and then to West End before dipping back into the USVI. These were the haydays of the Windsurfer class and HIHO was virtually a one-design event with the competitors rumored to have carried their belongings on their backs and camped. Kenny Klein won and began his hegemony as one of the Virgin Islands’ hottest sailboarders of the 1980s.
The following year, Hook-In-Hold-On entered the international arena under the patronage of Johnnie Walker and skillful guidance of Craig & Nancy Anderson. The event grew considerably to encompass all the British Virgin Islands.
In a short time, Hook-In-Hold-On was pulling in competitors and press from around the globe. It became the windsurfing event. It was certainly the most unique event in the world- a competition where you literally ate and drank your way through the BVI with each race pointing you towards the next fiesta.
Between 1982 and 1984, Chris Thompson battled it out with Puerto Rican Kiko Dalmau. Chris won in 1982 on a Ken Winner board (a Dufour wing with footstraps). Kiko came back the next year and snatched victory riding a Mistral Pan Am (sort of an Equipe from the dinosaur age). In 1984, the Thompsons- Chris and his wife Christine- took double bullet on Mistral Superlights.
Actually, 1984 was a weird year. Perennial challenger David Ross aced Open class on a hollow Division II hull but opted out of Freestyle and didn’t figure into the overall standings. Meanwhile, Kenny Klein, in preparation for the Olympic Games, raced the entire event on a Windglider without a harness, and a nubile Joyce D’Ottavio showed up representing HiFly and sporting a new sail design called an RAF. Joyce didn’t win any races but she sure looked good!
Early female participation was excellent in those old Hook-In-Hold-On days. In the early 1980s, Lisa Penfield from St Croix was a paid professional sailor and HIHO was a home game. She notched up a few victories and always won Freestyle. Her nemesis was Kathy Ross from Tortola.
In those Hook-In-Hold-On days, the top Virgin Island and Puerto Rican racers dominated the event – until 1985 when a Euro named Peter Brockhaus from F2 saw to it that his F2 team was present in force to lay down the law that the Lightening was the superior longboard of its day.
Brockhaus and his F2 team dominated in 1985 with a young Brit named David Perks winning followed by Austrian Bernie Brandstatter. David Ross from Tortola- 2nd in every Hook-In-Hold-On to date- slipped to 3rd.
The former Hook-In-Hold-On was last run in 1986. The event had stabilized itself to include only two classes: Open & Cruising; The F2 Lightening was passé – the new board of choice was the Mistral Equipe; and a record 148 competitors sailed over 100 miles through the British Virgin Islands for a week. A youngish racer from Tortola named Andy Morrell made his mark by tying for first place with Austrian speed merchant Erich Maderthaner. At the awards, the Austrian touchingly gave Morrell his first prize of an entry to Weymouth Speed Week, the then premier speed sailing event in the World. Pan Am threw in airline tickets but Morrell, who had a semester of university to complete in Spain, used the tickets to fly back to school.
By all accounts, Johnnie Walker was ecstatic with their event. Then, suddenly, Guinness PLC purchased Johnnie Walker and cut all promotional spending. The Johnnie Walker Hook-In-Hold-On was history and organisers Craig and Nancy Anderson shuffled over to the real estate business.
Wow, no more HIHO. It was a drag. Hardcores still came down in the summer, rented charterboats and retraced the event. The local windsurfing talent poured their energies into pro racing and national championships and flourished.
In 1992, a couple of interesting turns of event took place. Bruce White, reputedly one of the original Hook-In-Hold-On boys, roped Paul Ehman into pitching the return of this great event to the PWA’s de facto patron, a travel company representing Peter Stuyvesant. Voila, the Peter Stuyvesant Travel Blue Marlin Surf Tour was born.
The Blue Marlin Surf Tour (immediately dubbed the “Tunafish Tour” by the locals) billed itself as the “return of HIHO”. For the inaugural event in 1992 they flew in a smattering of professional racers, a few French amateur sailors and plenty of press. A Dane named Martin Jenson trounced the likes of Eric Thieme and Pascal Maka, both big-time Peter Stuyvesant teamriders. The amateur racing rested, again, with the locals. The incomparable Sally Snell took the Women’s division, while John Phillips won Masters and a young Paul Stoeken emerged as the Men’s winner.
The new HIHO, run by Ocean Promotions, started in 1993. In its ninth year now, HIHO is the biggest event in the sport of windsurfing.