By Gavin Menu
Twenty years ago, when Lou Grignon bought the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard on Bay Street, he found a 27-foot, Tartan Marine-made Pride 270 sailboat sitting idle on the property. The Yacht Yard staff worked on the boat over the years, getting it into racing shape, and then on Saturday Grignon and his brother, Michael, sailed the boat named Street Fighter to victory in the second annual Antigua & Barbuda Hamptons Challenge Regatta.
“It was a surprise,” said Grignon, who sailed in the event’s third division, without a spinnaker, against much larger boats. “We knew we sailed the boat well, but we didn’t know until later that we had won.”
Grignon’s reward for winning is an all-expenses paid trip for seven to Antigua including airfare through American Airlines, seven nights lodging at a four-star hotel and an elite charter boat to compete in the 2014 Antigua Sailing Week, one of the premier sailing events in the world, which will take place from April 26 through May 2 of next year.
Joining him will be his wife, Patricia, two daughters, Elizabeth and Camille and Michael and his two sons. Since his brother was Grignon’s only mate on Saturday, racing in Antigua could be a challenge.
“I’m hoping they provide us with a crew,” Grignon said with a laugh on Monday, adding that it would be his first trip to the Caribbean. “But seriously, I have to give thanks to my crew here at the boat yard that did a great job of making the boat go as fast as it could. And to my customers, specifically Chris Dowling, Greg Ames and George Martin, who were always willing to give me a piece of advice, probably not thinking I’d ever need it.”
Dowling, Ames and Martin are regulars in the Breakwater Yacht Club’s Wednesday Night Sailing Series, but none challenged for the win on Saturday in near dead calm conditions, with winds blowing at no more than three knots. James Vos, aboard Skoot, a much larger J-109, was actually the first boat to finish in calm wind on Saturday, crossing in 2:42:20, only to have his time corrected to 2:57:25, good for fifth place overall.
Grignon’s corrected time was 2:50:32, less than two minutes better than Instant Karma, captained by David Betts, who finished in 2:52:17. Fred and Carleton Endemann finished third in 2:52:35 aboard Windsong.
Grignon, whose boat, the Pride 270, was designed by Britton Chance, a naval architect who also designed several America’s Cup contenders, said the light winds made for challenging conditions.
“It gave you a lot of time to think,” he said. “We weren’t moving too quick—pull the sail in and hope for the best boat speed. We had to make the boat go, we had to keep massaging it.”
Michael Canuso, aboard Live Wire, finished second behind Skoot in Division 1 with a corrected time of 2:59:21 while Kenneth B. Wright finished third on Two Potato with a time of 3:03:29.
Instant Karma finished first in Division 2 followed by Skilligalee, with Thomas C. Samuels as captain, in second with a time of 2:57:18 and Jody LoCascio aboard Boogie Van, which finished with a corrected time of 2:58:29.
A Caribbean cocktail party followed the race at Havens Beach and two local charities, the Breakwater Yacht Club’s Junior Sailing Program and I-Tri, a Hamptons-based program that helps young at-risk girls through participating in triathlons, benefited from the event.
The big prize, which event organizers called the biggest sailing prize on the East Coast, was provided by Antigua and Barbuda’s ministry of tourism, which was well represented at the event. The Honorable John Maginly, Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, was on hand Saturday along with other members of the tourism board.
For more information on the event, visit www.antiguabarbudahamptonschallenge.com and for information on the island of Antigua and Barbuda and Antigua Sailing Week, go to www.visitantiguabarbuda.com.