With less than 50 days before the start of the 38th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta (March 1-4), the entry list is rapidly growing, and already 45 teams representing 13 countries are signed up to compete. The regatta has been a key event on the Caribbean race schedule since its inception in 1980, attracting world-class sailors – racing monohulls, maxis and multihulls – to the island of Saint Martin for four days of serious fun both on and off the water.
“Our registration numbers are tracking close to last year at this time, which is great news,” said Regatta Race Director Paul Miller, adding that despite Hurricane Irma hitting Saint Martin this past September, the island is recovering in short order. “We have another great year of racing ahead and are seeing a lot of enthusiasm from local and international sailors alike.”
Coming from the U.K. is Chris Body and his team on the 40-foot J/122 El Ocaso. The boat won its class last year with a Michigan-based team onboard.
“The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta puts on some really good racing, and it’s easy for a team to come in from Europe or the U.S. and charter a boat to compete,” said El Ocaso Boat Captain Bob Hillier, a regatta veteran who will be returning as the team’s tactician this year. “This will be my tenth St. Maarten Heineken Regatta with El Ocaso. The J/122 class is the premier racing boat class in the Caribbean and typically the largest class at the regatta. The CSA ratings are so close that you are finishing within seconds of each other.”
In addition to El Ocaso’s team, the Australian team onboard Morticia and the U.S. based team onboard KHS&S Contractors are among those already committed to returning and defending their 2017 Multihull and Bareboat Class victories, respectively.
For competitors looking for a more relaxed experience, the regatta offers an “Island Time Class.” The Class offers competitors one around-the-buoy race per day with an 11 a.m. start, at a discounted entry rate.
“Enjoying the sailing is a big part of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, and we want to encourage cruising boats out there and show them that it’s very easy to participate,” said Hank Schmitt, a 30-year supporter of Caribbean regattas who sponsored the class last year and will be racing in it again this year with his Swan 48 Avocation. “For competitors who don’t want to worry about stripping their boat down to get it race-ready, they can now compete in the Island Time Class.”
New and Improved Regatta Village Announced
A longtime goal for organizers has been reached this year with the addition of a “Regatta Village” located at Princess Port de Paisance Resort and Casino and the Yacht Club at Port de Plaisance (across from race host St. Maarten Yacht Club). The venue, on the Dutch side of the island of Saint Martin in Cole Bay, will bring all the regatta essentials together: housing registration, shore-side entertainment, regatta offices, docking, food stands and beer tents. In addition, The Yacht Club Port de Plaisance will be offering free dockage in their South Basin for competitors as their way of saying thanks for supporting the regatta this year.
The four-day event kicks off on Thursday, March 1, 2018 with the Gill Commodore’s Cup. The optional event is separately scored and followed by an evening prize giving where winners are awarded Gill gear. On Friday, the fleet embarks on the event’s 26 nautical mile Around the Island Race before taking on a series of windward-leeward races on Saturday and a single coastal race on Sunday. Each day of racing is rounded out with serious shore-side entertainment, including concerts and parties.
The regatta is well known for its large and competitive charter classes, and a number of charter companies are onsite, offering an array of different options to accommodate a range of clients. Whether competitors are looking to book a single crew space on a boat or for the full-service “soup-to-nuts” package, regatta organizers can direct sailors to the best fit.