It’s 1986 and Simon Morgan, son of former Olympic medallist Tony Morgan who partnered Keith Musto to silver in the Flying Dutchman Class at the Tokyo 1964 Games, is 29 years old and fed up with his life in London.
Every spare moment that he has, he gets in his car and drives a couple of hours down to Christchurch (England), rigs his Hobie 16 and is out in all weathers - including the tail end of Hurricane Charlie that struck the UK and renamed towns such as Sevenoaks into One Oak!
Early in 1987 Simon’s love affair with the Hobie 16 is about to change his life for good. He’s read about an invitational event called the ‘Hogs Breath 1000’and with the help of many time UK Hobie 16 National Champion (back when the 16 was a really active racing class in the UK) Trevor Annels, and team mate Chris Thomas, Simon submits their entry for approval and seeks sponsorship from Virgin Atlantic to cover at least some of the costs.
Five return flights London – Miami, and $1500 to allay at least some of the costs for the toughest long distance race at that time for cats – some 727 miles from Key Biscayne, Miami to Fort Walton Beach, racing day and night.
Even though the British team finish one place off last, in front of the Dutch team who are the current European Champion, Simon’s eyes have been opened, and when he returns to the UK, Upper class no less, thanks very much Virgin, he has decided to take a sabbatical, competes in the Hobie 16 Worlds in Holland finishing first Brit, then races another long distance cat race from Roscoff to Dinard in France before heading on down with his VW campervan and Hobie 16 on trailer to ‘just somewhere’ in Greece his secretary has read somewhere is good for windsurfing.
And, of course, if it’s windy enough for windsurfing then it’s almost certainly windy enough for Simon’s Hobie 16. After a lengthy drive across Europe, Simon parks his van on the beach, rigs up, borrows a travelling Aussie rugby player for crew and is off revelling in the cross-shore breeze, the turquoise waters and wonderful temperatures. It’s Force 6 + (26 knots +) and he’s in seventh heaven!
A month later he’s still there and has made a decision – sell his house in London and move here for good. His Dad, despite his sailing pedigree, thinks he’s mad!
Fast forward 24 years and Wildwind Holidays is now well known as one of the best independent sailing holiday companies in the world, its base in Vassiliki on the Greek island of Lefkas now has a loyal clientele returning year after year to enjoy the awesome sailing conditions – flat water and Force 4-6 (11-26 knots) most afternoons of the summer and the relaxed Greek island lifestyle.
Lined up on the Wildwind beach are 55 boats ranging from simple Lasers to RS 800’s and 49er on the dinghy front and Hobie 13 foot Dragoons to F18 Tigers and Wildcat and the odd ex Olympic Tornado thrown in for good measure.
Of course the centre is RYA recognised and offers almost all courses available and, unsurprisingly given the conditions the Wildwind instructors are a cut above the average. Previous staff have included Olympic Silver medallist in the 49er class, Chris Draper, as well as a number of British and Irish National Champions. David Graham, former MD of Laser Performance Sailing and now Oman Sail CEO learnt some of his ropes in Vassiliki (including meeting his wife Helen) and almost all the Wildwind staff have some pretty decent racing experience. Simon is himself a former British and Greek National Champion.
As well as the professional but relaxed approach to teaching sailing that Wildwind run throughout the season (May 1st to Oct 15th) they also put on some impressive training weeks at the beginning of the season, for example, Laser training with Skandia Team GBR’s head coach, Chris Gowers, and Catamaran race training and coaching with current Tornado European Champions Kostas Trigonis and Danny Paschalides.
Joe Bennett, who has been Wildwind’s beach manager for the past 15 years is not only a useful sailor, (he won the Tiger class in the Round Texel race in 2006) but comes from a musical family and his guitar licks and ‘interesting’ vocals head up the weekly Wildwind BBQ band – as well as performing for a much larger audience at the annual Vassiliki Watersports Festival, now the biggest such event in Greece, where the band get to play behind a parade of beautiful women at the Festival’s Miss bikini competition. Last year’s event included the EFPT windsurf freestyle event as well as the Greek catamaran cup and dinghy regatta. This years Festival runs from 28 June to July 6th.
As well as the Festival which Simon helps organise in association with the local authorities, Wildwind also hosted the first ever Hobie 16 European championships to be held in Greece – and with 118 teams racing the Gold fleet series in winds of 25-40 kts the event was quite spectacular, with 7 times champion German Detlef Mohr edging out Tornado Olympic medallist Mitch Booth into second place, with Tiger World Champion Alberto Sonino in third.
While Wildwind is obviously an experienced sailor’s paradise, beginners are also made to feel extremely welcome, and the gentler morning on-shore breezes are ideal for getting the hang of the basics…..before trying out trapezing in the afternoons crewing for one of the instructors. After all there’s no better place to learn than at the ‘sharp’ end of a well-sailed boat!
Wildwind also offer a programme aimed at non sailing partners too, offering yoga, Pilates and other fitness classes as well as massage, herbal walks, aqua-safaris, cycling, kayaking and walking, and the island of Lefkas is also one of the most beautiful in Greece so well worth at least a day away from the sailing centre to go exploring the award winning beaches.
Wildwind maintains its extremely personal touch, and Simon is still actively engaged in running the centre and doesn’t expect that to change much either in the future. 'So many of our customers and guests have become such great friends that I see myself as one of the luckiest men in the world…every morning I positively look forward to going to work.