Sail Boat in Saint Martin

St. Maarten Heineken Regatta – Yacht Racing


St. Maarten Heineken Regatta: A March Tradition

The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, that takes place every year in early March, always lives up to its reputation for fine sailing and an exciting all-around atmosphere in a breathtaking part of the world.

Saint Maarten - Saint Martin - Caribbean Islands
The green Mark is St Maarten’s location

The island of St. Martin is has been hosting this yacht race since 1980. It has since grown to become an international sailing event that lures yachts from around the world to participate in the adventurous regatta at sea and to enjoy the hedonist festivities and parties on the island. The party atmosphere is, of course, complemented by serious sailing each March during this renowned event. Like many well-known yacht races, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta began as a small yacht race among friends. Eventually, however, it caught the attention of Heineken who noticed that quite a bit of its beer was consumed during the event which led it to seek sponsorship. While Heineken promotes the regatta, the Caribbean Yachting Association officiates the racing. The regatta is based upon four races that are sailed over the course of the three-day event. Racing occurs along the Anguilla Channel, Marigot Bay, and the island in its entirety.

Saint Marteen Heineken Regatta, Saint Martin Island, caribbean sailing
Philipsburg, Saint Maarten (Saint Martin). This is the fantastic environment of the  St. Maarten Heineken Regatta

Sailors all strive to win the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta‘s top prize, the St. Martin Cup, for Most Worthy Performance Overall. The race is open to various yacht classes including monohulls from 30 to 100 ft (with or without spinnaker), multihulls, bareboats, gunboats (fast catamarans), melges 24…

For spectators, the pleasure is often viewing these fine yachts afloat and racing on the azure waters of the Caribbean. The waters are complemented by the fine weather that typically accompanies the racing. Gentle trade winds associated with March are ideal for casual cruising around the island, of course, but also benefit the racing. This area boasts ideal sailing conditions between November and April so the March race is an ideal time to set sail.

Why Participate to the Saint Maarten Heineken Regatta?

The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta has evolved to become one of the most popular yacht race in the world. It draws outstanding crews and yachts from many parts of the world. It is a chance for sailors to test themselves against outstanding competition and to take their place as worthy competitors themselves in this exciting and altogether historic sport. Each yacht entry requires race fee; typically this fee costs around $1,300. An additional deposit of $6,500 to cover loss or damages associated with the race is also required. Each year witnesses more than 3,000 sailors who do their utmost to rate an award such as a cup or one of the race’s noteworthy prizes.

The St.Maarten Regatta is run under the CSA rating rules. It means you have to contact the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA) to get a valid certificate. They will send you to local measurers. For more information about how to enter the race, visit the official Caribbean sailing Association’s website, they will tell you everything about the CSA rating rule.

Sailing in Saint Martin, Sailing in st. Maarten
You will enjoy sailing in St. Maarten (or St. Martin) © Gino santa Maria

While the racing offers challenging sailing and might be said to require world-class proficiency, it is also quite simply a marvellous time on an enchanting sea. With majestic weather and a myriad of entertainments awaiting the sailors back on shore, the event is simply one sailing‘s annual highlights. Each year it promises adventure, fun, and excitement on a virtually unparalleled scale.

St. Martin (or St. Maarten in Dutch)

The island itself is a vacation paradise. The part French-part Dutch Caribbean Island was witnessed by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the West.

Each side of the island is associated with various cultural elements, not surprisingly, but the entire island is known for its beauty and beaches. St. Maarten is a territory of the Netherlands and gives its name to the regatta, but the atmosphere of sailing excitement can be felt all around the island during this event. The Dutch side of the island is also associated with parties and vibrant nightlife particularly during the regatta. The French side of the island is world famous for its nude beaches and excellent shopping.

Saint Martin, Saint Maarten yachting. This is a beach on the french side of the Island. ©Jean Marie Maillet
The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is a great occasion to join great parties on the beach

The Regatta‘s Social Excitement

After a day of sailing, participants can expect a celebration like no other filled with the uplifting music of the island like Soca, Calypso, and Merengue. Steel drums can be heard from far and wide.

Visitors to the island will also note the extraordinary cuisine and its delightful fusion of Indian, Caribbean, Dutch, and French flavors.

While the sport draws thousands of spectators who are sailing enthusiasts, the island itself attracts many who are simply interested in the cultural revelry associated with the event and the non-stop parties that accompany the racing.

If this year’s regatta has run its course, it’s not too soon to begin thinking about next years. Many crews practice diligently, of course, and participate in other regattas as training for big racing events like the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.

Since the regatta‘s motto is ‘serious fun,’ sailing enthusiasts will have much to look forward to even though the next regatta is now a year away.

Of course, it’s never too soon to prepare for a vacation and you can begin to research some of St. Maarten‘s excellent accommodations and get to learn more about the culture of this island before entering next year’s regatta. The regatta‘s website provides exciting clips as well as more information about previous winners and highlights of the events.

Before you go sailing in St. Maarten’s waters

If you decide to go sailing in St. Maarten’s waters, wether to run the regatta or just for leisure sailing, here are a few good items to add to your onboard library:

  1. The Imray Nautical Guide, from Grenada to the Virgin Islands. It is by far the best resource out there for sailing in the area.
  2. The Imray Nautical chart for the area. Imray A24 (Anguilla, St. Maarten, St. Barthelemy)
  3. Imray chart focused on St. Maarten (St. Martin)
  4. and if you go out for the regatta, you might want to refresh your understanding of the racing rules of sailing (2016 version)

Have fun sailing !

Jennifer for Aureus Yachts

2 thoughts on “St. Maarten Heineken Regatta – Yacht Racing”

  1. Hi,

    I hope you’re having a productive week! I’m one of the founders of Vaystays, the official housing sponsor of the 2016 Heineken Regatta.

    I’d like to personally offer you 10% off your first stay with us, either during the event in March, or anywhere else in the world we have properties.

    Accept the discount here:
    Discover the best St. Maarten / Martin listings here:

    Please feel free to pass along this offer to other members of your group, and don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly if you have any questions!



    1. Hi Wes,
      Thanks for your message and for your gesture.

      Unfortunately, I won’t be able to sail too much this year, let alone attending regattas.

      But I’m happily passing along the offer to the readers and subscribers of the blog, since a lot of them are ofshore sailors and used to sail in the caribbean.

      Have fun sailing, best regards,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.