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When asked how things are going, in the midst of the hubbub, hours before the start of Heineken Regatta racing, with a ready smile and completely seriously, Willem Dekker replies, “perfect!" As the manager of the critical A Team, he has a key role, marshaling the many talents of his spare, but effective, team, to ensure that things needing to be constructed are sited properly and built well. After eight years in this role, Willem has transformed the structure and work habits of the A Team, developing a squad that is, not only multi-skilled in construction, but also participates in every aspect of their many missions.  This approach keeps everyone on the team fully able to further or troubleshoot any activities they are involved in. Instead of nearly thirty A Team members, splitting work shifts and tasks, the team, now, numbers only seven, leading to a tight continuity.

Among the jobs the A Team will tackle in 2014 are housings, for easy display, of many banks of online results screens for all the racing classes, not only at the St. Maarten Yacht Club headquarters,  but also, remotely, at the boardwalk in Philipsburg,  Port de Plaisance and Marigot when the racing ends in those locations. Transporting, assembling, disassembling and transporting all this delicate electronic equipment, three days and nights in succession is a very daunting task, to say the very least. Nonetheless, with military precision, minus the attitude, Willem and his team accomplish the job seamlessly, if without sleeping much, if at all.

Another gigantic infrastructure task handled by the A Team is moving, constructing, disassembling lighting systems at headquarters by the yacht club, as well as all the post-race party venues. So, all of that must also happen on the boardwalk, Marigot and Port de Plaisance.

This year, the team is a tad short-handed, with only five full members including Choco, in his third year, and his son Timpe, from Flanders, six year veteran,  Bart, and two Jeroens, with four and five years, all from the Netherlands. Arthur MacDonald has stepped in to help fill the void from Jorn and Robby, two five year members who are unable to make it this year.

Willem's life, leading up to SXM and the regatta, has included sailing as a boy, twelve years of military service in the Dutch Marines, starting at seventeen years old, and broad multi-media experience. In fact, his extensive work in and, ultimately, equity ownership of media business in Curacao, led to his first year regatta assignment being assistant media coordinator. Willem's engineer dad once urged him to seek a "worthwhile" profession, when all he wanted to do was sail. He has, since, sailed extensively, including a 28 day sail from St Maarten via  the Azores to the Netherlands on a 39' Hans Christian and crossing the Atlantic from St Maarten to England on a 60' Beneteau. Many years later, maybe his dad might feel like it worked out pretty well, after all.

Willem's team will point out that they need to stay on their toes for more than one reason - since their fearless leader is rather fond of practical jokes. Among his favorite approaches is to start outrageous, false rumors and, then, sit back to see how long it takes to return and who returns it to him. The A Team works hard, but enjoys it even harder; reflecting the heart and free spirit Willem brings to their labors together.

John Merritt followed all our volunteers round during the regatta this year to find out more about them. This article is one of many that he wrote and we are very grateful for the voice he has given our wonderful volunteers especiallly as he was a volunteer himself.

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