| St. Maarten is home to five local Melges 24 teams, most of them being raced on behalf of local leaders in the marine industry: FKG, Island Water World, and Budget Marine © Laurens MorelAugust 10, 2023 – Simpson Bay, St Maarten – Summer may be a quiet time in the Caribbean, but St. Maarten’s local marine industry is gearing up for a busy season ahead. Port St. Maarten expects to welcome over 1 million visitors via sea this upcoming season, with a top time for sailing vessels being around February 29 – March 3, 2024 for the 44th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.
Earlier this year, over 100 boats from around the world gathered in St. Maarten for the 43rd St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, making it the most attended regatta of the Caribbean. The Regatta is scheduled right in peak Caribbean season, when the tradewinds are well established and the rainy season is still a ways away. These picture-perfect racing conditions are a major draw for sailors who travel great lengths to join this legendary event.
While the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is a bucket-list event for most international sailors, for the local sailors it is also an annual must-do. The island’s top marine services business are invested in the local racing culture, with all major players having competing boats and crew in the event. Local marine businesses have proudly been involved with the Regatta since the beginning, both on and off the water, with one of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta founding-fathers Robbie Ferron also being the founder of local chandlery Budget Marine.
The legacy continues, as Robbie Ferron’s son Jolyon builds upon the Ferron family’s performance racing heritage, refurbishing a Melges 24 to add to the island’s competitive sportsboat fleet this year. Since summer is considered low season in the Caribbean, Jolyon, who also works at Budget Marine, now has more time to work on his own boat and prepare for the high season ahead. This passion for the sport is something Budget Marine also shares with their clients.
Team Budget Marine added to the St. Maarten Melges fleet this year, and continued the Ferron family legacy with siblings Jolyon and Stephane racing together. © Laurens Morel“While any time spent on a boat is time well spent, the excitement of yacht racing is something that has always had Budget Marine’s interest. As a marine service provider, we help customers not only maintain their boats but also make improvements, one of which is how to make a boat go faster,” shared Jolyon Ferron, Sales Manager at Budget Marine and co-owner of Team Budget Marine, a Melges 24.
Fellow St. Maarten marine business Island Water World also has a Melges 24 – two in fact – with one skippered by Sint Maarten Yacht Club Commodore Frits Bus, which was arguably the most competitive Melges team this year among the five local Melges 24s. Team Island Water World represented the island well, both at home and away, coming in second in CSA 3 at both the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and Les Voiles de St. Barths.
The friendly competition between local racers keeps the fleet ultra-competitive, but being the ‘Friendly Island’ after all, St. Maarten marine service businesses are happy to support racers and cruisers alike. “It’s all about the Prep! We understand the importance of staying up to date with advancements in racing technology, as these will trickle down to the ever-growing fleet of performance cruisers. We are privileged to race against others with similar businesses here in St Maarten. After all, we all do this because we are passionate about sailing, and St. Maarten is a top-notch place to do that!” said Jolyon Ferron.
St. Maarten is a top choice for both racers and cruisers to spend the season, with credit due to the island’s best-in-class marine services, easy logistics on the island, duty-free imports, and fantastic amenities that make it the perfect place to simultaneously get work done and play. Visiting yachts can expect to find all they need to race or cruise, plus over 16 major marinas on the island catering to all sizes and budgets, from sport boats to superyachts.
Friendly competition between teams from St. Maarten’s marine service businesses keeps quality of racing and marine services at a high level on the island. © Laurens Morel“We are proud to have such an active marine industry on St. Maarten that not only supports the event, but also our sailors. With overnight sails repair services, quick rigging solutions, numerous provisioning options, diverse marina options and much more, our participants couldn’t feel more welcomed and looked after. Of course this is not just for the Regatta, it’s during the entire season that these businesses ensure high quality and solution-oriented service. St. Maarten is the hub in the Caribbean offering all marine services and solutions you could wish for, and we welcome you to come stay awhile,” said Michele Korteweg, Director of St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and active member of St. Maarten Marine Trade Association (SMMTA).
The large cruising community that calls the island home each season are also a significant part of the Regatta community. Many are among the hundreds of volunteers who help make St. Maarten Heineken Regatta magic, while others give racing a try as part of the “Island Time” class. This class designed for cruisers offers the Regatta experience on Island Time – with one race per day, later starts and family-friendly “Serious Fun!”
All are welcome to the 44th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, scheduled for February 29 – March 3, 2024. Consider arriving earlier or staying longer to take full advantage of all the island has to offer both on and off the water. Follow the Regatta on social media: @stmaartenheinekenregatta for all the latest news and stories from the event and visit www.heinekenregatta.com for regatta and travel resources.