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Journalist, author and broadcaster Gary E. Brown takes a less traditional look at the 34th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta





It’s a fact of life that if you want to compete in a large regatta then you better have plenty of spare cash. Long pockets and short arms simply won’t cut it. Yes, you can sail on a very limited budget, I pottered about in an old clinker-built lugsail dinghy that someone threw away long before I sailed on a yacht. But let’s not confuse a 220 boat regatta, like the St. Maarten Heineken, with the joys of simply messing about in boats.

In the early days of Heineken, when seven yachts constituted a large fleet and regatta organizers threw cold beers from the support boat to cheering crews as they sailed by, it was all rather jolly and Corinthian. Most, if not all racers, were expats and very few local people were seen crewing. As the regatta evolved, so the Corinthian spirit began to fade and although never completely lost, year by year it was pushed further to the margins by professionalism in the sport, sponsorship, branding and the associated higher costs.


Happily, for St. Maarten and Caribbean sailing in general, local sailors began to take part in regattas, but these were successful businessmen with disposable incomes, people with enough drive and ambition to race well and take their place on the podium. Nothing wrong with that but where were the local kids in all this? Maybe when pushed an occasional youngster would join a crew but there was little incentive to do more. Now in its 34th year, all that has changed and the Heineken Regatta has sparked a local sailing revolution!


Lead by the St. Maarten Sailing School, with strong support from the St. Maarten Marine Trades Association, two teams of youngsters from Milton Peters Collage (local school) raced in last year’s regatta. This year a third team joined the fray, this crew of youngsters trained by, and from, the St. Maarten Yacht Club (SMYC) Youth Sailing Program. Not only did these three teams compete, The SMYC Youth Sailing Team beat 12 other boats to win CSA Division 9 overall, having fought a fierce battle with St. Maarten Sailing School’s Teams 1 and 2 who finished second and fifth respectively.


The youth teams received a rousing cheer at the prize-giving and praise goes to the crews, who trained so hard and stuck with it, and to all those involved in putting them there.


As for the rest of CSA 9, when good young’uns start beating good old’uns, it’s time to up your game!

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