In the countdown to the 38th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, anticipation is building with a number of world-class maxi, multihull and monohull teams having signed up early to race. Scheduled for March 1-4, 2018 and staged out of the St. Maarten Yacht Club in Simpson Bay, the regatta is a staple on the Caribbean racing calendar each year, attracting seasoned sailors from around the world with its perfect blend of top-tier racing and lively shore side entertainment.
Solstice racing in the 2017 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta (Photo Credit: Laurens Morel)
“The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is a big destination regatta for racers from the U.S.,” said Jordan Mindich (Huntington, N.Y.) who will be returning with his J/105 Solstice. “Up in Long Island, we generally race one design, but down in the Caribbean we always race under CSA handicap, which we find to be competitive and very even. That, coupled with consistent breeze and great weather, makes for a great time.”
At least five teams are returning to defend their 2017 class wins, including KHS&S Contractors, led by Mike Cannon (Clearwater Beach, Fla.) and Neil Harvey (Belleair, Fla.), in the venerable Bareboat Division.
KHS&S Contractors racing in the 2017 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta (Photo Credit: Laurens Morel)
“The Heineken Regatta no doubt has a strong turnout of bareboat teams,” said Harvey, who has raced in the regatta for the past 15 years with the same core group of sailors. On occasion, part of the team’s crew is comprised of one or two junior sailors from the St. Maarten Yacht Club. “We have really enjoyed the uptick in the competition over the last few years and typically have 60 to 70 boats in the division, making up almost a third of the overall fleet at the Heineken Regatta.”
The appeal of bareboat charter racing is that the boat and all associated services are provided on-site. All a team has to do is show up and sail, and plenty of boats are available to reserve for charter through companies such as The Moorings, Sunsail and Dream Yacht Charter.
Gill Race Team racing in the 2017 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta (Photo Credit: Laurens Morel)
David Pritchard (Atlanta, Ga.), current President of Gill North America and longtime Heineken Regatta competitor and supporter, has raced in St. Martin post-Hurricane Irma and looks forward to returning again in March.
“The thing that St. Martin offers most is great sailing,” said Pritchard. “The wind is still there, the island is still there, the ocean is still there, and that’s what the regatta is all about. A lot has happened since Hurricane Irma, and the island is coming back. In three more months when the Heineken Regatta comes around, there will be even more recovery. The sailing will always be great, and the parties have always been beyond anything you ever see at any other regatta.”
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 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.