Heineken Regatta 2017: part of the events on the French side
An essential event for sailing in the Caribbean, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta will take place from March 2-5 this year. At the moment, there are 50 crews registered, and the organizers expect to exceed 200. The races attract both professional and amateur sailors from around the world. But it is also a festive occasion, where the beer keeps flowing and you can hear concerts from local and international artists. This year, they will take place on March 3 at the Philipsburg waterfront, then on March 4 and 5 at Kim Sha Beach. A legendary group has already confirmed its attendance: UB40 feat. Ali, Astro and Mickey.
Since 2015, the Dutch side has hosted all of the events. The Marigot stage and the waterfront concert have not taken place for the past two years due to lack of funding. Until then, the Saint-Martin tourism office contributed €40 000 (2014 numbers). But it was unable to keep up when the budget increased.
For the 2016 edition, business owners at the Marina Royale negotiated directly with Heineken to organize an After-Sail party, the day after the last athletic competition. "Last year was an experiment. This time, the Marina Royale party is included in the program," states Michelle van der Werff, the Regatta director.
This year, the French side will host not only the last party of this 37th edition, but also the first. On March 1, the eve of the Gill Commodores Cup (GCC), a Pre-Sail Party at the Marina Royale will close the two days of registration for the regatta’s races. Water taxis will leave from Simpson Bay and the St. Maarten Yacht Club to transport those who are not taking their own dinghy. On Monday, March 6, the day after the race, a new event will take place throughout the afternoon at the Sand in Nettlé Bay: a remote control sailboat race. Prizes will be awarded at a Caribbean barbecue party at the Marigot Beach Hotel.
Although the race itineraries go around the whole island, since 2015 the arrivals and departures have been exclusively at Simpson Bay – as well as several at Philipsburg for the GCC. According to Michelle van der Werff, this ultimately had the advantage of being logistically simpler: "the sailors didn’t need to look for a new spot to sail from each day." However, the director confides that she misses the Saint-Martin atmosphere: "we are an island, and the French side has a lot to offer. Marigot Bay, for example, has excellent sailing conditions, and thanks to its beaches, spectators can watch the race directly while celebrating at the same time."
The Heineken Regatta is uncontestably one of the island’s biggest events, and its economic significance has been demonstrated time and again. However, since 2015, neither the Collectivité (via the Tourist Office) nor the government of St. Maarten have contributed financially (the latter was supposed to give $168 000 in total for 2015 and 2016). Private sponsors alone make it possible to hold the event. "If we didn’t have the support of Heineken and all the other sponsors, we would have gone out of business two years ago," notes Michelle van der Werff. However she seems optimistic after a meeting with the Collectivité who confirmed they really want to push it hard to get the Regatta back to Marigot in 2018.
Crédits photo : Heineken Regatta