By Bryan Boyhan
East End sailors can mark another event on their summer race schedule, one that could end up sending them to race off the Caribbean island of Antigua.
Organizers this week announced the Antigua & Barbuda Hamptons Challenge Regatta, a race that will start and end in the waters off Sag Harbor. Scheduled to be held on Saturday, August 18, the event’s goals are twofold: to help promote tourism in the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, and to benefit two local non-profit organizations, Breakwater Yacht Club’s Junior Sailing and I-Tri, a Hamptons-based program that helps young at-risk girls through participating in triathlons.
“This is what we hope will be the first annual race,” said organizer Rob Roden. “Since the America’s Cup is no longer in Newport, we want this to become the most prestigious race in the northeast.”
The race is open to any boat that is at least 22-feet in length, with a PHRF rating of 200 or less, said Jim Ryan, who is a race organizer. Depending on conditions the day of the race, it will start off Sag Harbor and sail west into Noyac Bay, returning to finish off Sag Harbor, or head east into Gardiner’s Bay, and return to finish off Sag Harbor. With a course distance of about 15 to 20 miles, Ryan estimated the race to take about three hours.
“For planning purposes the actual course will depend on the wind that day,” said Ryan.
Organizers are expecting upwards of 50 boats to compete, the majority coming from the waters of the East End and the yacht clubs along the Peconic Bay.
The race will be divided into three divisions, with the winning teams from each division receiving a trophy. A perpetual trophy will be awarded to the one overall winning team in the regatta.
Roden said the regatta offers the biggest prize for any sailing event on the East End. Sponsored by the Antigua & Barbuda Ministry of Tourism, the overall winning team will receive an all-expense paid trip to Antigua to compete in the 2013 Antigua Sailing Week, including airfare, lodging and a charter boat to compete in the race.
“Antigua race week is like the Indy 500 of sailing,” said Roden. “It is the premier destination for great sailors from around the world, and attracts thousands each year to the resort.”
The dates for next year’s sailing week are April 28 to May 3.
The event in the Hamptons is an attempt to reach further into one of Antigua & Barbuda’s key markets.
“The Hamptons and New York City represent one of the biggest shares in their tourism base,” said Roden. “About 50 percent of the visitors to Antigua & Barbuda come from New York and lower New England.”
“The Ministry of Tourism recognizes the value of this market,” he added.
Teams can learn more about the event and register for the race by visiting www.AntiguaBarbudaHamptonsChallenge.com. The entry fee is $150 per team, but early entrants — prior to July 18 — receive a $50 discount. The fee also includes two tickets to the gala and awards ceremony following the race at the Breakwater Yacht Club, which is the event’s hosting club. The public is invited to the party, which will include a steel drum band and open bar. Tickets are $40 in advance, or $45 at the door.
To learn more about the beneficiaries of the race, visit www.breakwateryc.org and www.itrigirls.org.