What does winning a yacht race out of Sag Harbor in The Hamptons have to do with taking part in Antigua Sailing Week? Everything, if you are Jim Ryan and Mindy Vitale
An all-expenses paid trip to Antigua for Antigua Sailing Week 2013, including the charter of a boat, was the prize when Jim and Mindy sailed to victory in the first Antigua and Barbuda Hampton Challenge on Long Island Sound.
All At Sea asked Jim how he felt about winning such an amazing prize. “I’m totally thrilled,” he tells. “It was a handicap race, so, although I knew that we had done well, I didn’t know we won until it was announced. I jumped so high, my cell phone flew out of my pocket.”
The couple won the race on their Melges 24, Wasn’t Me, which is nothing like the boat they will sail during race week. This, however, shouldn’t be a problem. Both are experienced racers and Jim Ryan’s CV is impressive. “I’ve raced all kinds of boats over the last 30 years. I’ve owned and raced Sunfish, Laser, JY15, J22, Pearson 26, J27, J80, and Melges 24s. In addition, I’ve crewed or steered or been tactician on larger boats including J109, J122, J145 and a Gunboat 62, so I think I’ll be pretty comfortable on whatever boat they put me on.”
The man who came up with the idea for the Antigua and Barbuda Hampton Challenge was Antigua’s Minister of Tourism, John Maginley. In an interview with All At Sea, he said he was looking for a way to promote Antigua and Barbuda in The Hamptons and “sailing came to mind right away.”
Having pitched the idea for a yacht race, the minister was delighted with the response, both in Antigua and The Hamptons.
“The key thing for this is the prize,” said Mr Maginley. “We’re bringing a crew, all expenses paid, to race in our Race Week. And it’s something nobody else could offer.”
Jim and Mindy are no strangers to Caribbean racing. “My biggest challenge the last time I raced on a chartered boat in the Caribbean was trying to avoid cracking my head on the darn Bimini,” said Mindy. “You would think I would have learned after the first five times. So look for me out there … I’ll be the tall girl with the crash helmet on!”
Conditions around The Hamptons and Long Island are very different to those around Antigua but according to Jim, this won’t be a problem. “I love racing in the Caribbean—big seas, big wind, and beautiful surroundings. Sailing in the Long Island area is usually in protected waters, so, although we’ll get waves, we don’t get the big swells. In the Caribbean, we have big waves and swells and they’re not necessarily coming from the same direction as the wind. It’s much more interesting sailing.”
For Mindy, winning the inaugural ‘Challenge’ has made it possible to fulfill a long-held ambition to visit Antigua. “Some 15-plus years ago I sat and watched a promotional video of Antigua Sailing Week and I was so in awe that to this day I vividly remember the amazing color of the Caribbean water and the beauty of all those boats!” she said. “I also remember some shots of ladies without tops although I don’t recall what the circumstances for that were. Being on a boat is an excellent way to get a different view of a new place. My only hope is that our schedule will allow a little time to explore on land”
Teams from numerous Eastern Long Island Yacht Clubs competed in the new event, which is expected to grow.
“It was really rewarding, the response that we got from the people who participated,” said John Maginley. “We look forward to having another one next year.”
Gary E. Brown is the Editorial Director of All At Sea and a presenter on Island 92, 91.9 FM, St. Maarten. He is the author of the sailing thriller Caribbean High and the Lucky Lady Cookbook. Details at: garyebrown.net