The 2014 St.Maarten Heineken Regatta’s first race took place on March 6th with the Gill Commodore's Cup and wrapped up three days later on Sunday March 9th. The event is a unique blend of international sailing and musical talent; each day brings a new finish locations and an incredible party atmosphere with bands from around the world.
This was my second time doing the St.Maarten Heineken Regatta; the first time was in 2006. I can honestly say that the parties have just gotten better! The regatta advertises itself as 'Serious Fun' and they weren't kidding!
I was lucky to be provided a Delphia 40.3 for the race by Delphia North America and it was well prepared with all new sails and great crew from Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron. Peter Blunden brought his Beneteau 42.3 along as our support boat, as well to make things much easier for us. It's amazing what a good bottle of scotch will get you!
The breeze was on from the beginning with a strong steady flow in the 18-20 knots range for most days. Some boats had serious trouble handling these steady strong conditions and damaged equipment and crew members.
The start line was extremely competitive in every division and skippers here in every class were knowledgeable and fast. If you made any mistakes, you paid for it, and quickly! Sometimes you get lucky though; in one case, Derek Hatfield on Spirit of Adventure was about to be overtaken to windward by Idea of London, a fast R/P 78, when suddenly, the maxi’s main halyard let go and the entire sail fell to the boom in a split second! They then immediately retired and Derek banged out the corner to get to the windward mark first! Nice!
There were also several collisions during the race which was probably inevitable given the large number of entries, over 215 yachts, and the challenging conditions. One collision saw a J-30 get punched at the first windward mark by one of the larger boats and I understand two people were seriously injured.
I skippered 'La Divina' in CSA 8. I couldn't believe how competitive even our division was; we were the slowest yacht in the division racing against brand new pimped out Contest 42, Dufour 45, Beneteau Oceanis 45 and Jeanneau SO 52 and number of others. We finished seventh out of 17!
Other notables included Rob Gale (RNSYS) on Stark Raving Mad winning their division. Nice to see since Rob was part of the team that won the Sail Canada Rolex Sailor of the Year last month in Toronto.
The parties here are an important part of the event! There is something big and fun every night here! Friday Night featured a huge event on the beach in Phillipsburg with an amazing tribute to Bob Marley. Friday evening the party moved to France after the race to Marigot, and biggest one of all was Sunday night on Kim Sha beach in Simpson's Bay which was completely electrified!
For the first time this year the St.Maarten Heineken Regatta the bridge openings in to a fun event thanks to The Yacht Shop
, a local yacht broker with ties to Canada. One more thing, they had a contest for everyone going though the bridge canal for originality and team spirit and a lot of boats 'dressed up' for this popular event. The bar right on the canal provided a perfect vantage point; it was packed with spectators cheering and drinking Heineken beer. The judges for this competition included Che Decastro from The Yacht Shoppe who has contributed as a sponsor and generous host for those finishing the Lake Ontario 300 in previous years with a large yacht and cold beer waiting for finishers. Che gave us an extra point for having a Lake Ontario 300 sticker on our bow! There are some great prizes courtesy of Pineapple Pete’s, Sushitto and Captain Morgan’s Rum.
Mike Disch and Che Decastro, partners at The Yacht Shop, claim to be impartial with their scoring - The Yacht Shop
It was an amazing experience to say the least! The racing was superb, and the parties were the best on the Caribbean circuit. I hope I can get back here next year to do it again!