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Record-setting Caribbean talent to return to 44th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta

by St. Maarten Heineken Regatta 16 Dec 2023 10:34 PST February 29 - March 3, 2024
Small boat, big results -- Team GFA Caraïbes took their Surprise 24 La Morrigane from Martinique to ultimate victory: the St. Maarten/Saint Martin Cup - Most Worthy Performance Overall at the 2023 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta © Laurens Morel

Once again, from record-setters to Olympians, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is set to welcome the Caribbean's top talent to compete in the 44th edition of the event: February 29 - March 3, 2024.

Last month, Antiguan youth sailor Carrack Jones arrived in St. Maarten from Antigua via boat - which would normally be unremarkable, until you found out he did the inter-island journey on his Optimist! The journey was met with fanfare and press, plus a support fleet from his home island, all for his world record attempt.

Carrack joked, "I'll never do that again!", still tired from the long journey and fresh off a challenging day of racing at the St. Maarten Budget Marine Optimist Championship hosted at Sint Maarten Yacht Club. But Carrack affirms he is set to return to race in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta again, but on a slightly bigger keelboat. When asked what motivated him to set this record on his Optimist, Carrack admits he was inspired by a young female sailor. "I heard a girl did [the journey] from St. Barths, so I wanted to do it from Antigua to beat her."

The friendly competition between islands continues to inspire the next generation to compete, push for greatness for themselves and honor for their home islands. The Sint Maarten Yacht Club, organizers of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, is committed to fostering this high level of talent development and competition within the Caribbean, and has instituted "Generations" as one of the Regatta's core values. As part of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, a Next Generation class will also compete on RS Zests, allowing the local junior sailors to compete and aspire to continue to race in their island's top Regatta.

Over in Martinique, another youth racing initiative is making its mark on the Caribbean. At the 2023 Regatta, Martinique sent two of their top racing teams, all mixed and filled with the next generation of racing talent. Martinique teams GFA Caraïbes - La Morrigane and Sang Neuf took first and second place, respectively, in CSA7 and GFA Caraïbes took home the trophy for Most Worthy Performance Overall. "The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is for us one of the biggest events of the year. For different reasons: the number of participants, the popularity and the sporting side with 4 days of racing in a row, which makes the competition very intense," said Skipper Tristan Marmousez.

Puerto Rico is another island known for their sailing talent; this year at least two Olympic sailors are expected to race in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta with teams from Puerto Rico. Olympian Gretchen Ortiz, winner of the 2023 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta Women's Trophy presented by FLOW, is set to return and expected as bowperson on one of Puerto Rico's competitive Melges teams. Melges 24, Exodus, is also confirmed for the 2024 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, led by Olympian and Pan Am Gold Medalist Enrique Figueroa.

In the multihull class, Leopard 50 La Novia from the Dominican Republic dominated the class in 2023, winning first in class and Multihull Winner of CMC and St. Maarten Heineken Regatta trophy. Despite being a frontrunner and crowd favorite, a new entrant from across the Caribbean Sea is confirmed to challenge La Novia in 2024. Fellow 50-ft catamaran, WIN WIN from Cancun, Mexico is already setting the tone for expectations of this new team. It should be some "Serious Fun!" competition between these well-matched catamarans, who are blowing away assumptions of what a cruising cat can do.

While the best-of-the-best from the US and Europe return to the Caribbean every year, the locals and their favorable winds are here to stay. The Caribbean breeds competitive sailors, who thrive in the 15-20 knot tradewinds and are always the last to reef! For over 50 years, the Caribbean region has hosted legendary international events racing events for-sailors-by-sailors, and in 2024 the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta celebrates 44 years of Serious Fun! Now seeded as the Caribbean's biggest race event, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta expects to welcome in 2024 another 100+ boats from neighboring islands and all the way to Australia.

In addition to racing talent, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta also takes the occasion to highlight other local talent like musical and creative artists. The line-up for the 4-day event is queueing up to feature an epic mix of local and international talent, which has become expected from the Caribbean's #1 live music island. The Regatta Village at Port de Plaisance will be open daily, free to the public from February 29 - March 3, 2024 - all are welcome! In the lead up to the event, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta will also engage the local community with special projects such as the Annual Regatta Art Competition that connects local schools with the event and environmentalism.

?Come celebrate the 44th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta! Race charter boats are still available to those looking to participate, or bring your own boat. Barefoot Yacht Charters in the Grenadines offers bareboat sportboat charters for those interested in racing in the highly competitive local sportsboat class. For non-sailors who still want to get in on the action, VIP spectator boat tickets are now available to purchase on-island at the Sint Maarten Yacht Club and The Mailbox for $125/person for Saturday and Sunday race days. Find out more about the 2024 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and start planning your trip now: www.heinekenregatta.com

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