Sun-Soaked Celebration for Antigua-Barbuda Hamptons Challenge 2013

A perfect summer sun was shining down upon the boats setting sail from the Breakwater Yacht Club in the second annual Antigua-Barbuda Hamptons Challenge in the waters off Sag Harbor on Saturday, August 17, the kind of day they make postcards from (or at least used to—do they actually make postcards anymore?). It was a far cry from the rain-driven day that welcomed the inaugural Antigua-Barbuda Hamptons Challenge last summer, and that sun-soaked air was buoying the mood at the post-regatta party at Havens Beach as the sailors and their supporters entered the tent to the steel-drum serenade of the Caribbean.

Out on the dance floor, a crowd was already staring to form. Guests loudly toasted one another with wine and rum and shared stories from the day’s race. Pink-clad young ladies from iTri Triathlon, one of the local charities benefitting from the event, bustled about, selling chances for guests to win such prizes as chartered boat trips, dining extravaganzas in the Hamptons and trips to Antigua and Barbuda. Only one thing was in short supply.

“Wind,” said Antigua and Barbuda Minister of Tourism John Maginley, who has been instrumental in bringing this event to the East End since the idea was conceived some three years ago, as he recalled last year’s weather with a slight smile. “It was a wonderful day today, but very little wind makes it difficult to sail.”

Regardless, the 35 entrants in the regatta—up from 25 last year—found enough pluck in their sails on this calm day to engage in a spirited battle for what is one of the most coveted prizes anywhere in sailing: an all-expenses-paid trip to Antigua and Barbuda to compete in Antigua Sailing Week 2014.

“This is the best prize you will ever win sailing a boat—ever,” said Jim Ryan, whose boat Wasn’t Me took the top prize last August in the inaugural Antigua-Barbuda Hamptons Challenge. Rules of the race made him ineligible to win again this year—

“I wrote that rule, actually, that we couldn’t have the same winner two years in a row” Ryan added, noting that such a caveat would help spur competition and interest in the long run —but he and his crew were still out there again, this time driven by perhaps the most valued of currency sailors trade among one another. “Bragging rights,” he said with a laugh.

With the party crown buzzing, Maginley took the microphone to reveal who would take the baton from Ryan and represent the East End sailing community in Antigua next spring. The silver trophies glinting off to the side, a great cheer arose as he announced that Louis and Mike Grignon had sailed to victory aboard the boat Streetfighter. Just a two-man crew, the Grignon brothers’ achievement was all the more impressive given the sibling’s sailing history—or, more to the point, lack thereof. “He sails, and I sail, but today is the first time we’ve sailed together like that,” said Mike, his excitement barely contained.

Camera flashes popped as the newly crowned champs soaked in their win. There was a marked increase in frenzied reaction, compared with last year’s announcement of the winners, a testament to what next year should hold for the Antigua-Barbuda Hamptons Challenge

“Each year it’s going to get bigger and better,” said Maginley as he looked out at the crowd. “We are still just at the beginning.”

For more, go to visitantiguabarbuda.com

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