Starting with a mere 12 vessels participating in the inaugural race in 1980, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta has quickly grown in stature, with a record 284 boats racing for the title in 2008. With the trade winds of the Caribbean propelling watercraft that converge from all around the world, it’s a spectacular competition that appeals to seasoned sailors, beginners, and beach-loving spectators alike.
Racing takes place in the crystal-clear waters surrounding the dual-nation island (France and Holland), offering a variety of courses open to all vessel types and experience levels. Specifically designed racing monohulls compete in eight races over the course of four days with windward-leeward courses that test boat handling and tactics. Other courses are designed for non-spinnaker cruising boats, maxis, multihulls, and even live-aboard cruisers. If you don’t own a boat but long to participate, there are several companies that offer vessels for charter.
Working in partnership with the Government of St. Maarten and organized by the St. Maarten Yacht Club, Heineken stepped up as the title sponsor for the multi-day celebration of the sea. During the celebration, food vendors, entertainment, and the inherent appeal of the Caribbean add to the excitement. It is easy to understand why the regatta attracts over 20,000 visitors each year, from young professionals to international sailors coming from nearly 40 different countries.