Here Comes the Antigua-Barbuda Hamptons Challenge

“Ships are the nearest things to dreams that hands have ever made,” said Robert N. Rose. And boats from yacht clubs across Long Island are dreaming big as they prepare to set sail in the inaugural Antigua & Barbuda Hamptons Challenge, a regatta promising to bring some Caribbean flair to the Breakwater Yacht Club in Sag Harbor on August 18.

“This is going to be a sailing event like no other,” says Antigua-Barbuda Tourism Minister John Maginley, clearly excited about the notion of merging the sailing passion of the East End with the rich maritime tradition of his island home many latitudes south of here. “The prize, the location in the Hamptons, and that it welcomes almost anyone.”

Almost anyone. That inflatable kayak in the back of your SUV isn’t going to cut it here, but you needn’t be an America’s Cup qualifier, either. Little guys have more than a shot at taking on the big boys. The Antigua & Barbuda Hamptons Challenge is open monohull sailboats no less than 22 feet LOA (length overall) and a PHRF of 200 or less. In landlubber speak, that’s Performance Handicap Racing Fleet, a handicapping system that allows boats of different classes to compete against one another. And what they are competing for goes well beyond a nifty piece of hardware for the trophy case.

“This will be the most prestigious and biggest prize in the Northeast,” reveals Rob Roden, CEO of Captains Guide Magazine, who first spoke with Maginley about creating the Antigua & Barbuda Hamptons Challenge two years ago. The grand prize will send the skipper of the winning boat and six crew members to compete in Antigua Sailing Week 2013—one of the largest sailing events in the world. The flights, accommodations, entry fees, even a yacht, are the spoils slated for the victors. “There’s nothing else like it,” Roden says.

The goal with this first Antigua & Barbuda Hamptons Challenge is to build for the future, both within the sailing community and the community at large. To that end, the event supports two charitable organizations on the East End—the Breakwater Yacht Club’s Junior Sailing Program and the I-tri Transformation Through Triathlon, an organization rooted in teaching sixth, seventh and eighth grade girls skills for setting goals and working to achieve them in and out of athletic arenas.

“Girls have their own difficulties in life, and here they find people who have an interest in them, who will spend time with them, come out and give them guidance,” Maginley says. “And they also get to participate in a sport together, showing them the importance of working together, keeping yourself healthy, and having fun while doing it.”

Dedication and sheer enjoyment are a running theme, it seems, in worlds touched by Antigua-Barbuda’s sailing spirit. Launched in 1967 as a ten-boat competition “and a way to extend the tourism season by another week,” tells Maginley, Antigua Sailing Week has evolved into a massive international gathering of not just top sailors but revelers enjoying the myriad parties and festivals taking place ashore throughout the sailing extravaganza. “During racing regattas, you have other sorts of things going on,” Maginley says with a knowing smile. “Beer drinking contests and windsurfing events, and at night you have concerts, people cooking lobster and crab, Antiguans coming out and joining in the fun.”

Maginley hopes that very same convivial air will come flowing up to the Hamptons with the Challenge. To that end, even people who don’t know starboard from Starbucks are welcome to the awards gala following the race, a night sure to be awash in steel drums and stories from a glorious day on the water. “This is going to be a party,” he says, emphasis on that last word. “We want people in the Hamptons to celebrate this.”

The registration deadline to compete in the Antigua & Barbuda Hamptons Challenge is noon on Saturday, August 11, 2012. To register and/or purchase tickets for the awards gala at the Breakwater Yacht Club, visit www.antiguabarbudahamptonschallenge.com.

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