2014 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta - There may not be a dedicated 'United Nations of Sailing,' but on March six - nine in the waters off St. Maarten, the next best thing will occur. For those are the dates for this year's running of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, and once again it will a truly international affair with sailors competing from every cardinal point on the compass.
With just over two weeks to go until competition begins, a world-class fleet of nearly 200 boats has already entered the 34th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, and they'll be flying the flags of over a dozen nations. With a nod towards the ongoing Winter Olympics, roughly a half-dozen Russian crews will be on hand, and so too will teams from the following countries: Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, France, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Uruguay and the United States.
And that's not even counting the talented sailors from the Caribbean, with entries from Antigua, Anguilla, Barbados, St. Maarten, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. and British Virgins among the many islands represented.
Among those foreign entrants, some will have crossed vast oceans to sail in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. Others will have delivered their boats to the islands as deck cargo on transoceanic freighters. And at least one boat will have arrived in a 40-foot shipping container! Every St. Maarten Heineken Regatta sailor has a story. Here are three of them:
Jan Olesen's Oyster one-off, Essex Girl, is currently in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, and will soon sail to St. Thomas to obtain a CSA rating certificate, which is necessary to compete in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. But for Olesen and his fellow Danes, the short trip to the Virgins will be just another chapter in an adventure that first started on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
That's because, in last year's running of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), from the Canary Islands to St. Lucia, the 46-foot Essex Girl finished a close second on handicap in Class A - only 37 minutes behind the winner - after a fantastic 17d, 6h, 13m crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. After that fine showing, Essex Girl is now ready to make her Caribbean racing debut.
Olesen was justifiably proud of what he and his crew accomplished. 'Once you are out there in the Atlantic, you cannot just turn and sail into harbor if it gets a little uncomfortable,' he said. 'But if you've sailed around the Zealand many times and have the courage for something bigger, to sail across the Atlantic is an ultimate sailing experience, one that's hard to express to friends, acquaintances and colleagues.' Now Essex Girl faces another maritime challenge: Racing against strong competitors in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.
The same test awaits the crew of Batacuda, which will sail under the Uruguayan colors of the Yacht Club Punta del Este. Like Olesen, skipper Jorge Born has a transatlantic passage under his belt aboard his 57-footer. But Born may have one advantage, in that he's already campaigned his boat in the Caribbean trade winds.
'My boat is a Jeanneau 57,' he said. 'I took deliver of it in France, and after sailing extensively in the Caribbean, we crossed the Atlantic in 2011. We have sailed extensively in the Leewards and Windwards, and last year race for the first time at Antigua Sailing Week. We were fortunate to win our class at that regatta. Our crew is mainly from Argentina, but some of us come from Paraguay, Cuba and Brazil. A truly international crew!'
Unlike Olesen and Born, Swedish skipper Calle Hennix is a veteran of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, aboard one of the swift SeaCart catamarans that he builds back home. This year, with a team of 'All Stars,' Hennix will race his new SeaCart 26, which is also coming to the event after a transatlantic trip. But Hennix's boat is coming inside a 40-foot container!
'The SeaCart 26 is a new one-design class made for inshore and coastal racing,' said Hennix. 'She is mighty fun and easy to sail and race. As we are from Sweden and we just made the decision to race in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta in January, it's handy that the boat fit in a 40-foot container right on our road trailer. For the crew all waters are new experiences, even if you've been there before. We think that's the beauty of sailing.'
Hennix has the right attitude, as do all the entrants of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. For each and every sailor, new experiences await. This March six - nine, they will all unfold on St. Maarten's gorgeous turquoise seas.
For over three decades, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta has showcased the top boats and sailing-and has become equally famous for its world-class slate of parties and musical entertainment-in the Caribbean. Now recognized by sailors around the planet as one of the sailing world's best regattas, each year the event lives up to its worthy motto: Serious Fun.
For full information on the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, including results, photos, videos, party and band information, and much, much more, visit website