Sint Maarten Heineken Regatta: Changing Times

Charles Darwin would have made a great regatta director. Old Charlie knew a thing or two about evolution; he even did a bit of sailing. When you compare the 2014/15 sailing calendar of events with those of a few years ago, you will see that weaker regattas fell by the wayside having failed to evolve.

While some became extinct the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta remains at the front of the pack and to maintain their position, big changes are planned for 2015.

“In order to keep an event like the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta successful you have to keep developing it. By making changes you keep the event dynamic, and since most of the changes are based on feedback from our participants, you can’t go wrong,” says regatta Director Michele Korteweg.

New race courses top the list of changes and will see all starts and finishes moved to Simpson Bay, cutting out Great Bay (Dutch side) and Marigot Bay (French side).  For safety, and to avoid congestion, there will be two start areas.

Korteweg said the steering committee worked hard on developing courses that are suitable for all wind conditions: long ones for very windy conditions and shorter ones for when the breeze is less stable. “Depending on the weather conditions, there will be multiple races per day for most classes. People come here to race, so we have to ensure good quality of the race management, which obviously includes challenging courses.”

With one-design racing growing at a rapid pace, the regatta took into consideration the Melges 24 and 32 classes by offering special courses for them on Friday when other boats compete in the around the island race, which, for the first time, will sail counter clockwise.  Windward/leeward courses for the racing classes and lots of coastal racing, which is one of the attractive features of this event, are all in the mix.

Once exclusive to the racing classes, Thursday’s Gill Commodores Cup, the precursor to the Heineken Regatta proper, is now open to everyone (except Lottery Class). This change, says the director, was at the request of the competitors.

The decision to change the old guard of off-island media personnel and bring in new blood wasn’t taken lightly, notes Korteweg.

“I think with the photographer and press writer it’s been a longer process. You don’t want to change a winning team. You actually get to know these guys really well and it almost becomes a personal decision. However, you have to look at the event overall and what a change in media team would accomplish.”

She adds, “I looked at the developments in media in the past couple of years, especially the increased usage of social media. We need a team that can fulfill our needs in that area and still use contacts at magazines. It’s nothing to do with not being satisfied with our previous team, but more with trying something different and see how it works out. Give someone else the opportunity and maybe it ends up in terrific results. Again, it’s all about dynamics, doing the same thing with the same people over and over again makes the event go stale.”

New this year is a race village on Kim Sha Beach in Simpson Bay. The village, open to all, will offer food stands, bars, merchandisers and a wellness area. This is where the results will be displayed along with the latest video footage.

The 2015 regatta will be Korteweg’s fifth as race director; it will also be her last. The event has prospered on her watch.

“My legacy” she says, “would be the changes I’ve made in this final year. Assuming they are all going to be successful, it opens up a lot of other opportunities for following years as you can build immensely off of this framework. One other thing is probably the new logo, it’s an event specific logo that was a combined effort between our office, Heineken and International Liquor and Tobacco Trading and I’m very proud of what we have managed to accomplish.”


Gary E. Brown is the Editorial Director of All At Sea. He is and the author of the high-octane thriller Caribbean High. For more information visit: 

Gary Brown
Gary E. Brown is the Editorial Director of All At Sea Caribbean. He is a presenter on Island 92, 91.9 FM, St. Maarten, and the author of the thriller/sailing adventure Caribbean High. For more information, visit: