SIMPSON BAY - Boats are arriving, teams gathering, serious sailing and race tactics discussed and evening plans for serious fun prepared as the countdown to the start of the 39th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta continues with the Grand Opening of the Regatta Village.
Organisers, volunteers, local residents and competitors gathered to witness Race Director Paul Miller formally launch this year’s event, slicing the cork off a bottle of champagne in flamboyant style. Robbie Ferron, one of the founders of the Regatta and a former Commodore of St. Maarten Yacht Club said this year’s event “welcomed in a new era.” He was joined by another former Commodore, Ian Hope Ross, who said, “This year is a highlight for next year’s 40th, and we welcome old friends and new.”
A key event on the Caribbean race schedule, the regatta attracts some of the world’s elite sailors and crews, with fast and furious racing in monohulls, maxis and multihulls with six races held over four days. For those looking for a more relaxed experience, the "Island Time Class" designed for cruisers, offers one race a day, ensuring all the fun of the regatta, without the stress!
Part of the attraction of this regatta is in its variety, both in size of boat, origin and aspirations. Some of the world’s most elite performance race boats, such as Polish-enteredVarsovie, a Swan 100S will be racing head to head againstUmiko. This stunning Nautor Swan Frers 80 is skippered by yacht broker Bill Titus with a crew that collectively have raced in 150 St. Maarten Heineken Regattas, but this is the first time onUmiko. Bill comments, “I first raced in St. Maarten in 1993. The balance of serious sailing, warm waters and lifestyle draws me back and it is great to see the regatta still appealing to professional and amateur sailors from across the world. It’s about having fun together as a team out on the water in a beautiful yacht.”
Some of the tightest and most competitive racing, says Race Director Paul Miller, will be in the CSA 3 (Performance 40) group with 11 entries; meanwhile the five boats from Poland, includingSailing Poland, the Volvo Ocean 65 formerly known as MAPFRE, will be head to head againstI love Poland, a Volvo Open 70. Both these boats demonstrate Poland’s commitment to developing young and promising sailors from Olympic classes into a regular professional Sailing Poland Race Team. “To acquire this boat [Sailing Poland] was a step forward in our mission to become one of the largest sailing organisations in Poland,” said Piotr Zygo, Sailing Poland’s CEO.
At the other end of the scale, the St Maarten Heineken Regatta attracts families and cruising sailors, some of whom are en route to other destinations. Dobro Dani, an Elan 434 owned by Jason and Roberta Bowman, are exactly halfway in their journey from Croatia to Vancouver. “We are really looking forward to the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, and excited to be racing our boat in the Caribbean,” said Jason. “We’re looking forward to tradewind round the can sailing and have heard rave reviews of the nightly parties and entertainment.”
On shore, the legendary parties at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta continue to excel this year with festivities continuing long into the night. The Grand Opening saw live music from Remo and the Barbwire Band, with acts during the week including “Queen of Soca” Alison Hinds, Shermanology, Fatman Scoop with the highlight at the final night being The Jacksons, live on stage.
As skipper Trevor Middleton from UK-based Sun Fast 3600Black Sheepsaid, “We have never done the regatta before, but the reputation precedes it. It sounds like a good mix of sailing, drinking and parties, what is not to like about that?”
Find out more about the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, St. Maarten and island life here:www.heinekenregatta.com