SINT MAARTEN - Destination Sint Maarten’s association with the America’s Cup comes from the Sint Maarten 12 Metre Challenge. This is a very popular tour with cruise passengers which has won numerous cruise line awards of recognition for being one of the best tours.
The America’s Cup Yacht Racing Sint Maarten 12 Metre Challenge has been voted the number one shore excursion in the Caribbean for 10-years. Dennis Conner’s America’s Cup winning Stars & Stripes, Canada II and True North vessels have been described as a once in a lifetime adventure.
Cruise passengers and stay-over visitors to the ‘Friendly Island’ get to experience racing a multi-million dollar America’s Cup Race Boat.
Destination Sint Maarten should move a step up to host the America’s Cup. A bid for such is not out of reach. With the now operation Sint Maarten Tourism Authority (STA) Foundation – the private sector body to market the country to (potential) visitor markets abroad – should strongly consider such a challenge.
Bermuda is the host of the 35th America’s Cup Challenge in June 2017. The Bermuda Tourism Authority was involved in the bidding process. Contributions to the British dependency’s economy have been estimated to be close to US$300 million when the island nation hosts the event. Business leaders and tourism reps expect to see a big jump in tourist arrivals and hotel occupancy leading up to and during the competition.
The America’s Cup is a trophy awarded to the winner of the America’s Cup match races between two sailing yachts each represented by yacht clubs. The America’s Cup is the oldest international sporting trophy originally awarded in 1851 by the Royal Yacht Squadron for a race around the Isle of Wright in England, which was won by the schooner America.
In more than 150 years since the first race off England, only four nations have won the trophy. Looking at things in perspective, consider that there had been nine contests for the America’s Cup before the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece in 1896.
The trophy was renamed the America’s Cup after the yacht and was donated to the New York Yacht Club under the terms of the Deed of Gift, which made the cup available for perpetual international competition. Any yacht club that meets the requirements specified in the Deed of Gift has the right to challenge the yacht club that holds the Cup. If the challenging club wins the match, it gains stewardship of the cup.
In 2017, the defending club is Golden Gate Yacht Club to be defended by Oracle Team USA, and the challenging yacht club is Circolo della Vela Sicilia to be challenged by Luna Rossa Challenge. The last or 34th America’s Cup was held in 2013 in San Francisco, California.
Bermuda is embracing the event and sees it as an opportunity to revitalize its tourism sector; to bring in more money for the Government in revenues; to strengthen the island’s international brand; and for the abundance of small business and entrepreneurial opportunities that will be created for Bermudians to put their skills and ambitions to work.
Bermuda hotels have been inquiring how they can participate in the event and cruise ships could also be used to provide additional accommodations for visitors. Work is underway to create a central booking organization, which will contact hotels to provide details of room requirements.
Bermuda hosting the America’s Cup Challenge is seen as a once in a lifetime opportunity, and with Sint Maarten/St. Martin’s yachting and regatta experience along with the existing marine sectors/ancillary services, the island as a whole should bid for the 36th or 37th America’s Cup.
COMMENTARY - Roddy Heyliger