A recent burst of activity in St Martin has seen ‘the French Side’ grab a little limelight from its neighbour. For starters, the St Martin
Yacht Club has a new clubhouse at the top of the West Indies Shopping Mall, which played host right away to the inaugural Course de l’Alliance in July. The race, organized in conjunction with the St Maarten and St Barth’s Yacht Clubs, saw 17 boats enjoy three days of fabulous racing with a distinctly ‘Frenchie’ feel to the evening’s entertainment. Next year’s Course de l’Alliance will be brought forward to the second half of May and will include Anguilla as a fourth participating island.
Hot on the heels of l’Alliance came local hero Luc Coquelin’s entry into the famous Quebec-St Malo race, aboard Marina Fort Louis Ile de Saint Martin. Coquelin is a Route du Rhum veteran based in the French Caribbean. Another local legend, Jean Allaire, is also aiming to prepare an entry for the 2006 race, but first has to find the funds to purchase Rexona MEN, formerly Laurent Bourgnon’s record-breaking trimaran Primagaz.
This renaissance on the French side is no accident. According to Marina Fort Louis Commodore Jean-Paul Fischer, the Marina is another tool to open up the French side to tourism. The St Martin marine community and SEMSAMAR (Societe d’economie mixte) in particular are “trying to promote activities linked to the sea. In tourist islands, you can’t simply rely on hotel tourism.” And there is a role for elected officials, too, he emphasizes. “Boats consume. Whether it’s diesel or water,” so there is an economic impact.
From September onwards, the French sailing school Les Glenans will be visiting the island to teach children and adults. “We are
aiming to teach sailing to people who will then become professionals themselves,” explains Fischer.
This combination of renewed energy, long-term strategy and access to European Union funds could mean we’ll be hearing a lot more from St Martin this season.