Even more than a year and half later, the scars from Hurricane Irma are still all too visible on the island of St. Maarten. But if Irma couldn’t prevent the famed Heineken from taking place in the winter of 2017-18, you can bet it’s not going to put a crimp in either the racing or the parties in the winter of 2019.
On the contrary, now in its 39th year, the regatta continues to evolve, adding a new double-handed class to its regular series of buoy and coastal races. As a further testament to the strength and commitment of the racing community, more than 100 boats are also expected to take part this year, with teams from over 30 countries competing aboard everything from maxis to performance multihulls to chartered bareboats and liveaboard vessels from around the Caribbean.
“The international response was amazing, on the 6th of September [immediately after Irma] my phone wouldn’t stop ringing with keen competitors asking me questions about the regatta,” says race director Paul Miller. “The biggest challenge has been accommodations, travel, and storm-damaged boats. Despite these drawbacks, many competitors brought motherships to ease accommodation pressures. It’s been really touching to see such a positive response.”
Miller adds that while lodging and damaged boats remain a challenge, he’s not worried, as the number of serviceable accommodations on the island has already doubled in number since last year’s regatta.
Miller also notes that as a sign of the event’s strength, they’ve now added a fourth day of racing, so that competitors will be able to get in that much more of the great sailing for which St. Maarten is renowned.
“Sailors are offered…an irresistible cocktail of racing chosen to suit each class,” Miller says. “The increase in days ensures a varied schedule of classes. We are steadily making incremental changes to fine-tune and improve the quality of racing, and ensure the regatta stands up against its global counterparts.”
For details on this year’s Heineken Regatta, which takes place February 28 through March 3, visit heinekenregatta.com.