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St. Maarten Heineken Regatta connects the island and community

by St. Maarten Heineken Regatta 9 Feb 13:45 PST 2-5 March 2023
One hundred mangrove saplings will be planted at Little Key in Simpson Bay Lagoon © St. Maarten Heineken Regatta

Whilst many international race regattas focus on leaving no impact behind, this is far from the case for the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. The 43rd edition of this famous regatta will leave a growing and long-lasting reminder from every team taking part, thanks to a new environmental initiative being launched this year.

"The aim is to plant at least 100 mangrove trees, representing one per boat entered at the event to leave a positive impact on the island," says Regatta Director Michele Korteweg. Working closely with Nature Foundation St. Maarten and EPIC (Environmental Protection in the Caribbean), the trees have been grown from locally sourced seeds.

Regatta competitors are encouraged to take part in the mangrove planting, which will take place in two sessions: on Tuesday February 28 just days before the Regatta starts, and Saturday March 11 with community volunteer program SXM Doet. Further donations received at the event will enable even more trees to be planted. More information on getting involved can be found below.

Nature Foundation volunteers are arranging for boats to ferry regatta participants to Little Key where the mangrove trees are being planted. Leslie Hickerson, Manager of the Nature Foundation St. Maarten, says planting mangroves are vital to help revitalize the St. Maarten coastal environment, which is still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Irma.

"Mangroves are incredibly beneficial to the environment. They act as fish nursery and breeding grounds, reduce the impact of storm surge on coastlines, help mitigate climate change by acting as carbon sinks, and much more. Unfortunately, because they are mainly found in coastal areas, development on the lagoon and the beaches of St. Maarten has caused many of these incredible species to have been removed. EPIC's mangrove restoration program at Little Key has been incredibly successful. We are excited to help continue their hard work by adding new plants to the area!" shares Hickerson.

Regatta sponsors Remax and Flow have also got onboard, supporting the cultivation and planting of the new mangrove trees and committing to future programs. "Remax is proud to be able to support this community effort made by the Regatta through this exciting Mangrove Planting program. We have been involved as a sponsor for several years, so when we were approached about this new initiative we jumped on board. Mangroves are extremely important to the environment and imagine the contribution by making this an recurring event, adding 100+ seedlings a year!" said Mike Disch, Owner/Broker Remax St. Maarten.

"We are excited to be joining such a great program as Flow recognizes the importance of protecting and preserving the beauty of our island. Preserving and enhancing the natural environment of our island is of critical importance for our future generations and as a company we've committed ourselves to operating responsibly and sustainably. Support to environmental regeneration programs such as this one is an important part of our commitment to the health of the planet," said Flow Statutory Director, Rauf Engels.

This initiative is just part of a whole program of community engagement and environmental protection organized by St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. Students from over 10 local schools entered this year's Regatta Art competition, with over 350 designs based around sailing and the marine environment, created from recycled materials. "Our community objectives are to showcase how important the oceans and our island are," explains Korteweg. "We start the conversation with the youth, that's why we do the art competition with the use of recycled materials. The Regatta Art themes help put focus on our beaches and keeping them clean."

Bringing the local community together with island visitors and regatta participants, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is organizing a beach clean up at 8am on February 11 on Kim Sha Beach. Open to all, the sailing community will join youth from the local schools and other community groups to help remove waste washed up or left behind on this fan-favorite beach.

In 2009, St. Maarten Heineken Regatta became the first "clean regatta" in the Caribbean with Sailors for the Sea. Since that time, the event has retained a strong focus on recycling and protection of the environment. Sailors will belly-up to the sustainable bar made of recycled materials, and find highly visible recycling zones positioned throughout the Regatta Village at Port de Plaisance. All those involved at the regatta are encouraged to maintain the highest standards to protect the environment for the future, both on and off the water.

"Everything we do is aimed at keeping our focus on being a sustainable event, from encouraging the young sailors of the future, helping rebuild mangrove plantations, understanding the importance of recycling, and of reducing waste and litter," concludes Korteweg. "We try really hard to help the community see how running a prestigious international racing regatta integrates with the local community, leaving a long-lasting and positive impact."

Integrating and celebrating the island is what makes the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta an island-wide event. From March 2-5, the Regatta Village will host a collection of local flavors and talent, with free entry for all Thursday-Saturday starting at 3 PM. Following daily prize-giving at 6 PM, local artists rock the stage through the evening until it's time for the after-party! A selection of top venues from across the island will host the "Green Zone '' parties - from a day party to watch the race at the literal top-of-the-island venue Elev8 to Lotus, Soggy Dollar Bar, Moonbar and Bikini Beach by night. On Sunday night, Grammy award winning artist Koffee graces the big stage at the Regatta Village, and toasts the finale of the 43rd St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. For more information and to buy tickets, visit

Join us March 2-5, 2023 for some Serious Fun! To get involved with the Beach Clean Up on February 11 or mangrove tree planting February 28, please email . To join the SXM Doet mangrove planting event on March 11, sign up here. Any individuals or companies interested in donating to the Mangrove planting project with Nature Foundation can contact .

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