Sailors Remember Roden and Look Toward the Future

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The Honorable Charles Henry Fernandez, the Minister of Tourism and Economic Development for Antigua and Barbuda, center, was joined by Colin C. James, left, and Dean Fenton of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority in Sag Harbor last week. Gavin Menu photo

From Sag Harbor to English Harbour, the synergy between a pair of sailing communities 1,700 miles apart was on full display in Noyac Bay over the weekend.

A total of 24 boats competed on Saturday in the Antigua and Barbuda Hamptons Challenge sailing regatta, an event that pushed forward despite the loss of its organizer, Rob Roden, who passed away exactly one week earlier.

Roden was remembered later that evening during a lively after party at Havens Beach for his efforts to bridge the sailing communities on Long Island with the twin-island Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

Philip Walters, a member of the Lloyd Harbor Yacht Club in Huntington, sailed August Sky to victory and won the grand prize of an all-expenses paid trip to compete in Antigua Sailing Week in April of next year. Walters’ corrected time of 1:38:32 was 11 minutes faster than the second-place finisher, Seventh Heaven, captained by Greg and Jennifer Ames out of the Breakwater Yacht Club.

“Sailing week is important to us. It’s the fifth largest sailing regatta in the world,” said Colin C. James, the chief executive officer of Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism board, who was in Sag Harbor for the weekend. “The fun part is the after-sail parties. There’s parties after parties. This year will be our 52ndSailing Week. It’s a huge part of our economy.”

George Martin and Osprey finished third on Saturday with a corrected time of 1:39:44. Complete results are available online at antiguabarbudahamptonschallenge.com.

“I’ve sailed a bunch of Caribbean regattas and Antigua Sailing Week is, by far, the best Caribbean regatta you will sail,” said Jim Ryan, who won the event twice before. “Antigua has mountains, fantastic restaurants, you can walk to everything. I will be there this year, because my wife said we are going to Antigua whether you win or don’t win.”

Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism minister, the Honorable Charles Henry Fernandez, was in Sag Harbor along with members of his country’s tourism authority and said he was excited to continue the Hamptons partnership, despite the loss of Roden, whose wife, Theresa, managed the event and helped make it a success.

“I was incredibly pleased with the race and the awards party on Saturday,” she said. “I was so moved that both the minister and Colin James honored Rob’s memory and legacy so publicly.”

Roden said that Minister Fernandez was so impressed with the sailing community in Sag Harbor and its commitment to youth sailing that he would spearhead an initiative to bring a team of youth sailors from Sag Harbor to Antigua to compete in the 2019 Optomist World Dingy Sailing Championships in Antigua in July of next year. “I will be working with the government of Antigua as well as Breakwater Yacht Club’s youth sailing and the Sag Harbor sailing team to help make this a reality,” she said.

Minister Fernandez said Antigua was spared the worst of last year’s hurricanes, but said that Barbuda was hit hard and the country is still rebuilding.

“Barbuda was wiped out, but there’s under 2,000 inhabitants,” he said. “We brought all of them to Antigua. We’ve been leading the charge for rebuilding the island and our team did a fantastic job of getting the message out that Antigua is still open for business.”

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