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Friday 31st August 2012

Jim Ryan, winner of the Antigua and Barbuda Hamptons Challenge held on Saturday, August 18, 2012 in the Hamptons, New York, tells us his story about his involvement in the event and how he won!

‘In January of 2012 I received a call from Rob Roden, publisher of the Captains Guide, asking me if I was interested in helping him organize some sort of regatta involving Antigua and Barbuda and the Hamptons.  Rob called me because he had been given my name as a person who is very involved in sailing in Eastern Long Island.  I have been sailing for 30 years and have owned and raced a Pearson 26, a J22, a J27, a J80, and now a Melges 24.  I have also been tactician on a J109 and a J122 and have crewed on many boats large and small.  I also race a JY15 in the winter in New York and recently won the season trophy in our frostbite fleet.  I am also a US sailing judge and hear protests all over Long Island.

‘Getting back to where I started, Rob Roden called me and I met him for lunch along with representatives of all the Eastern Long Island yacht clubs and Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of Tourism, John Maginley.  Mr. Maginley proposed the idea of having a trip to Antigua as the first prize for a regatta to be run in the Hamptons.  Everyone at the luncheon was enthusiastic.  Following that meeting I, along with four or five others, helped Rob in the organization of the event and I had told Rob all along that there was the possibility that I could win this event.  I knew that I had a chance, but also knew that with a prize like this all of the best people would be there.

‘I assembled what I felt was my strongest crew which was my brother George, my fiancée Mindy Vitale, and my friend Dan Cameron.  As we got closer to race day, anticipation was growing and this event, with this huge prize, was being talked about by everyone involved in sailing.  Antigua Sailing Week has long been known as one of the premier sailing events in the world and certainly any New Yorker would much rather be in Antigua in April than in New York.  I was lucky this year to have seen Antigua for the first time as I crewed on a boat in the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.  The island seems to be all about sailing and beaches and I loved it.  It was windy the whole time I was there and the classic yachts were spectacular. 

‘When race day finally came on August 18, the weather was not what we had hoped for.  A nice sunny breezy Hamptons day would have been perfect for us. Even extremely light wind would have been good for us as the Melges is strongest I feel, in big breeze or light breeze, but what we got was 6 to 10 knots, cool temperatures, and pouring rain.  However, the cold and rain didn’t dampen our enthusiasm.

‘There were 10 boats in our division and we looked over the starting line and found the pin end to be heavily favoured.  We thought all of the boats would be there by the start gun, but we were able to start on port and jump out ahead of the whole fleet.  As one of the slower boats in our division we were handicapped, so getting a jump on everyone at the start was a big advantage.  We got to the first mark in the lead with a J109 that owed us 25 seconds a minute. We had much faster boats behind us.  We set our spinnaker and were able to keep up with most of the boats on the next leg.  After that we had a five-mile upwind leg where we just worked hard to stay in the breeze. Unfortunately, the breeze was where it was raining, so we stayed in the rain.  Throughout the race, we tried to judge where we were in relation to the faster boats in our division and felt towards the end that we were still close to the top, but we had no idea what was going on in the other two divisions.  When my team and I arrived at the club many friends said “good race” so I thought we were in contention.  As the results were read, I found out we won our division, but I still didn’t know where we stood on the overall win until Minister Maginley announced it.  Needless to say we were ecstatic.

‘George, Mindy, Dan and I absolutely cannot wait until next April arrives and we seem so fortunate to each have had 30 or 40 people offer to fill in the other three crew spots.  Seriously, we can’t wait to go to Antigua and sail a big boat in big breeze on the beautiful seas of wonderful Antigua.

‘We look forward to seeing everyone in Antigua in the Spring.’

Article by Jim Ryan

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