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St. Maarten - St. Martin Classic Yacht Regatta

Last December, St Maarten leapt into dramatically new territory with the inaugural Charter Yacht Exhibition. This year, between December 2 and 4, the 1st St Maarten Classic Yacht Regatta will be hoping to enjoy an equally successful debut.

The idea of a Classic Yacht Regatta has been bandied about for several years on the island, but firm plans were laid down in 2004 only. The team behind the Regatta is based around Mirian Leffers-Ebbers and Jan Roosens. The former recently pulled off the 25th St Maarten Heineken Regatta as Director, while the latter helped build Star Clipper, sailed on Gloria and has a long-lasting connection with both Classics and the Heineken Regatta. This kind of form is essential in putting together an event. According to Roosens, sponsors can look at two proven track records and know they will get results, rather than thinking, “Oh, another Caribbean Regatta…”

The two-day event will be run under the auspices of the St Maarten Classic Yacht Regatta Foundation, which is affiliated to the St Maarten Yacht Club. Racing will take place in two classes: Classic and Spirit of Tradition. To qualify, entries must have a full keel, moderate to heavy displacement, and be built of wood or steel with a traditional rig. Old craft using modern materials or new builds based on an old design are both acceptable, as are Ferro-cement hulls with a gaff or schooner rig. Even Fibre-glass boats can enter, providing they have a long keel and keel-like rudder.

All other yachts may apply to race in the Spirit of Tradition Class, which requires them to have the ‘look’ of Classic and demonstrate excellent craftsmanship on deck and hull.

So many ‘must haves’ and ‘are required to’ do little justice to the spirit of the regatta, however. Classic Yacht Racing, Roosens stresses, has a different approach to normal racing. Protests or aggressive sailing are not encouraged whereas the Gentlemanly ethos is paramount. Compared to the majority of regattas, Classics attract different types of sponsors, crew and spectators. Although the lifestyle suggests expensive cigars, exclusive watches, rare Malts and private air travel, the class itself spans the champagne and caviar set among the owners, over to the more modest old-timers who grew up with Classics from the beginning.

Fittingly, the focus will not just be on the round the buoys activity. La Palapa Marina will be playing host and visitors will be allowed to roam the docks to enjoy the assembled teak, canvas and polished brass. After all, these are boats to appreciate just as much with the fenders down as the sails up. The choice of La Palapa reflects the marina’s strong links with sailing yachts over the years.

At this stage, little else is set in concrete about the regatta. Racing is scheduled to start on the morning of Saturday December 3, leaving from Simpson Bay, thrashing around a bit, then stopping for a suitably elegant lunch somewhere. On Sunday, the fleet will again leave from and finish at Simpson Bay, but may head out to Ile Fourche in between. The organizing team wants to preserve plenty of social time: cocktails, BBQs and beach activity. Too many regattas in the Caribbean hurtle towards the day’s finish then fall flat on shore, they recognize.

Registration is possible right up until November 20th. Those interested should visit or call Mirian on (599) 557-8000.

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