March 2, 2023 – Simpson Bay, St Maarten – After several days of preparation, the first race day at the 43rd St. Maarten Heineken Regatta saw the competitors streaming out through the lifting bridge into the open waters of Simpson Bay. With two separate course areas set, the fleet split left or right to rendezvous within their classes for their starts off of Cole Bay and Simpson Bay.

The day’s courses were designed to send the fleet to the windward side of the island, and the wind delivered more than the low teens forecasted. Multihulls and bareboats were sent on the coastal route to the eastern side of the island, up as far as Oyster pond for Multihull1. With the lighter breeze originally predicted, PRO Mark Townsend set a long course for the Volvo Ocean Race 65s and 70s (CSA1) out to Ile Fourchue. The tacticians had to choose between the more traditionally favored inshore route, or benefitting from the slightly stronger winds out to sea.

Admitting to getting “not the best start,” skipper Grzegorz (Tom) Baranoswkia on I Love Poland then caught a favorable wind shift to the left which paid off for them. After nearly 26 miles of close racing, I Love Poland was first to the finish line, followed by Wind Whisper and in third place Ambersail II. Commenting on the first day’s success Grzegorz said, “It’s very strong competition. The Volvo Ocean fleet here is very good and quick, and it’s a challenge to beat them.”

Most of the fleet met somewhere around Point Blanche on their final downwind leg back to Simpson Bay © Laurens Morel

CSA 2’s results were dominated by teams from the USA, with INO XXX comprising a crew pulled from the North East Keelboat Sailing Alliance, finishing third with Regatta regulars Privateer (Cookson 50) just behind ecstatic winners Hooligan Racing in their TP52 taking first. Coming from some “saucy racing” in South Florida, Skipper John Evans said the team who brought the boat over to the Caribbean faced some 1300nm of upwind sailing from Palm Beach to Antigua before competing in the Caribbean 600 and then coming onto St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. “It was some tough racing today,” he said. “Very competitive. But we had really good teamwork on board and found the right shifts.”

CSA3 demonstrated a close-fought battle between the Caribbean Melges fleet, who regularly race against each other year-round. Capturing third place was Lazy Dog from Puerto Rico, leaving local St. Maarten legends Eddie Parish and Jolyon Ferron onboard their recently rebuilt Team Budget Marine, just behind winner Team Island Water World crewed by members of the Sint Maarten Yacht Club including Commodore Frits Bus.

The competition was just as tight in the very international CSA Class 4. Dutch sloop Axonite came third against Swedish entry Moody 62 Ossiana. Today the time between second and first was just 18 seconds, with one of the most stunning yachts on the water, Shipman 63 Fatjax, taking the win.

In the highly competitive sportsboat fleet, the team on TAZ were nipping at the heels of last year’s class winners Liquid. With owner Pamala Baldwin, this team of up-and-coming young racers will be ones to watch at this year’s Regatta. But it was the team on Dauntless who used their local knowledge to take first place on day one.

The racing was extremely close across classes, including CSA6 between L’Esperance (left) and Panacea (right) © Laurens Morel

It was nip, tuck, and ‘oh whoops’ in the hotly contested CSA 6. To the sounds of a shout of “just pull it!”, an incident at the first mark saw Robert Velasquez’s L’Esperance have to concede to a penalty 360 turn, giving the crew on board Solana 45 Panacea bragging rights for the first day. Close behind were the San Diego based team on board J-120 J-Aguar. The CSA7 fleet was won by the refreshed team on board GFA Caraibes, which had been towed up to the event from Martinique. Close behind was J-105 Solstice with another Martinque entry, J-109 Sang Neuf, coming in third overall.

On the same race course area, clever organization by the race team saw the leading multihulls and the two bareboat fleets converging around Point Blanche, despite the multihulls having raced a significantly longer distance. In Multihull Class 1, it was UK-registered 2 2 Tango, which first over Australian Oceans Tribute, and LODIGROUP from St. Malo, France in third place. Multihull Class 2 saw Honey Badger in third, with Leopard 50 La Novia from Puerto Rico second and local Dick Newick 36 footer from Sint Maarten helmed by Arthur Banting in first place. Multihull Class 3 saw Dutch-registered Baywatch taking first place from Ocean Explorer 72 Selika in second place and Dutch entry Speranza B&B third.

The lighter conditions saw the bareboats fleet wallowing in some big swells sailing wing on wing on their downwind leg back towards Philipsburg. It was the all-female Heineken race team on board Something Hot who scored overall victory in Bareboat Class 2. Featuring crew all of whom work for Heineken in Holland, Australia and the USA, an all-female race team from sponsor Heineken have competed in the last 25 Regattas. Theirs was a good victory over the all-male crew on board Danish entry Tantalizer, who managed to finish just ahead of Dutch entry Seven Seas. Bareboat Class 1 saw event newcomers from Greece onboard Phat Dolphin ahead of Dutch team Maguy 3 and in third place Bliss Point.

One of the attractions of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is its variety of entries and types of boat on the water. In the Island Time class, teams can range from liveaboards and world travelers, to those who may just prefer a more relaxed start time! However, it is still hotly contested, with each boat starting with a CSA club rating, which then gets adjusted up or down according to the results achieved. Starting off the leaderboard was local legend Robbie Ferron on Bunglebird, a Nonsuch 33, with the crew from Royal Norwegian Yacht Club on board X-43 Beluga 2 in second place and third overall the stunning USA-registered Swan 48 Avocation. But with adjusting ratings each day, these results are bound to change throughout the event.

From wide variety to one design, the up-and-coming fleet of pocket-rocket trimaran racers in the Diam 24 fleet saw tight and closely fought competition on this first day. Probably some of the most fun was had on board the French St Martin college-sponsored youth team on AS MDA. This new fleet, now in its second year at the Regatta, brings together sailors not only from both sides of St. Maarten, but also has a European World Jam tour. It was Merlin who came third, with the US crew on Anomaly second, but local team CryBaby took the award for the day coming first overall.

The Diam24s delighted when the breeze picked up and they could get one of their hull’s flying! © Laurens Morel

With the sailing over for the day, the fleets started to return to the famous lift bridge right beside Sint Maarten Yacht Club, which enables entry to the sheltered waters of the lagoon. As the bridge opened at 2pm, the leading and faster boats streamed through, back to the shore, with a welcoming cold drink and hot food awaiting them at the Regatta Village.

With sustainability top of today’s agenda, the evening’s prize-giving started with a presentation to the Nature Foundation of St. Maarten and EPIC (Environmental Protection in the Caribbean) for the initiative to plant over 100 mangrove trees, representing one for every yacht registered at the Regatta. Then it was time for the “Serious Fun!” to start, with a lively daily prize giving, with delighted winners taking away gift certificates from sponsors Shipwreck Shops, FKG Rigging, Budget Marine and Tito’s Vodka, along with the coveted Heineken winner flags to proudly adorn on their rigging.

Taking advantage of seamless Regatta Village amenities with convenient tap payment systems provided by Windward Islands Bank, the race participants, families, friends and supporters enjoyed the pop-up shops from Oris watches and Island 92, with regatta gear and CSA Racing Circuit shirts, supported by Seahawk Paints, from the Shipwreck Shops and Sint Maarten Yacht Club on site. After a great day’s sailing, the fun continues long into the night with live music at the Regatta village followed by the Green Zone after-party tonight taking place at the famous Soggy Dollar Bar.

St. Maarten Heineken Regatta

Celebrating 43 years, this Regatta just keeps getting better, four days of world-class racing with some of the world’s most seasoned sailors, hailing from over 25 countries. This is genuinely a Regatta for everyone, including professional teams sailing Maxis, Monohulls, and Performance Multihulls to holiday-makers on chartered Bareboats to live-aboard families cruising the Caribbean. Crystal clear waters and cooling northeast trade winds give the pristine conditions for spectacular racing just off the coast of St. Maarten. This event is your bucket list must-do! Come and enjoy life in the Caribbean; come for some Serious Fun from March 2-5, 2023!

For complete information on the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, including results, photos, videos, party and band information, and much, much more, visit:

© Caribbean Sailing Association 2018