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::ST. MAARTEN HEINEKEN REGATTA 2007::
February 28 - March 4, 2007

Me?  Covering a regatta?  What did I know about regattas?  What IS a regatta?  Boats racing ... sailboats?  All these questions plagued me upon my acceptance to attend the 27th Heineken Regatta.  Regardless, it was a pleasure to return to one of my favourite islands, St. Maarten.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous too!

What I did discover what an entire sub-culture of people - sailors and boating enthusiasts to be exact.  They worked hard all day at sea and then partied hard all night - I have no idea how they do it!  I learned much more once there.  There's also coverage of some great concerts I attended while there as the regatta offers an entire party schedule as well with the closing party featuring Stephen and Damian Marley.

St. Maarten is the smallest Island in the world to be shared by two sovereign governments-namely the Dutch and French. The Dutch side, with Philipsburg as its capital occupies the southern 17 square miles of this 37-square-mile island; St. Martin, a French dependency, occupies the northern half. The dual nationality adds variety to this most unique of island gems in the Caribbean Sea. Both Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin have maintained a peaceful coexistence for over 350 years, the longest of any two bordering nations, with
euro, dollar and Netherlands Antilles guilder accepted as currencyAnother unique factor on the island is that the shopping is completely duty-free! 

I stayed on the Dutch side once again at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort and Casino - a hive of activity in the centre of Maho with restaurants, clubs, casinos and beaches.

[CLICK ON PICTURES TO ENLARGE]

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As usual, the people in St. Maarten extended a courteous and friendly hand to the many many tourists from all over the world - most in town for the regatta.  Met many Canadians while I was there too!  My first stop on my first night was to get some of the best ribs on the island, from Johnny Under the Tree!  He cooks under the trees where many travel to to wait their turn to get their ribs, chicken, mahi mahi.  Unbelievable as usual.  I also met Mary-Ann Tadros (from Brampton) who operates a store on the Maho strip called Bijoux - everything hip and cool in the store for only $15! 

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Friday night was dinner in Philipsburg just before the party scheduled on the famous Boardwalk with many stages and an all out street party! 

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Ziggi, the 26 year old phenomenon from Holland played on the Boardwalk in Philipsburg on Friday night - one of the more popular parties during the regatta.  I first heard Ziggi at Carnival last year and was impressed with his smooth flow.  He also incorporates styles such as Hip-Hop, Reggae and Dancehall combined with Gospel.  Ziggi's music can be purchased online at websites including www.yahoomusic.com, www.freerecordshop.nl, www.vanleest.nl

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Over the years the regatta has grown out to be the biggest regatta in the Caribbean.  I was granted a day on Saturday on a media boat, captained by Bob McKean of the Simpson Bay Yacht Club with the crew of Joe and other journalists there for the regatta.  I wondered what kind of boat we would be on.  Would it be one of the boats in the race?  Would it be one of those boats with luxurious sails?  Nope.  But it was a great vessel nonetheless. 

It was an extremely choppy day at sea and we all ended up completely soaked!  Many thanks to Bob and Joe for risking such choppy waters to get us close to the action at the starting line!  You can't even imagine the swells of water - I just had no idea.  But the sailors were in their glory.  Each day had a different course and this day the course started off the coast of Simpson Bay and ended in Marigot. 

I know that it may just look like a series of pictures of boats but believe me, the action was intense and the crews worked hard, some seemingly almost toppling over to get ahead of their opponents.  The winds were high that day (23 knots), especially in comparison to the regatta of 2006, where there were low winds and the last day of racing had to be cancelled.  The sailors were in their glory as the edged each other out in the exciting race.  Just look at some of these beauties.

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Shurwayne Winchester topped the Front de la Mer party in Marigot on Saturday March 3rd.  The 33-year-old Shurwayne, was born in Tobago and entered the world of soca in 1999 when he released his album “Rumor Riddims” which stayed on the top of the charts for seven months.  He was the hit of the Trinidad Carnival 2002. In 2005, Shurwayne received the “Song of the Year Award” at the annual Soca Awards held at the prestigious Queen’s Hall in Trinidad.

Thousands came out on Sunday night where the party was at Kim Sha Beach starting with the prize giving ceremony and ending with the performances by
Orange Grove and the completely fantastic concert by Stephen and Damian Marley, hosted by St. Maarten's own G Money.  You can only imagine the roar from the crowd as the Marleys brought some cool reggae standards originally performed by their father, the legendary Bob Marley.

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I won't pretend to sound super informed of the ins and outs of 'regatta lingo' so I will leave that up to the experts at the Heineken Regatta as below.

27th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta
Bernie Evans-Wong's Cal 40,
Huey Too, is Named Boat of the Regatta


(March 2007) The 27th edition of the
St. Maarten Heineken Regatta concluded today in spectacular fashion as more than 200 boats in 20 divisions enjoyed classic Caribbean sailing conditions to wrap up a most memorable running of the annual event. Highlights of the regatta included the dominating performance of the Volvo 70, ABN AMRO ONE, Mike Sanderson's world-beating yacht, which put on a sailing clinic while regularly registering speeds of better than 20-knots; the addition of a first-ever fourth day of racing for the top race boats, which turned out to be a resounding success; and a Boat of the Regatta award to a design that was first introduced some 40 years ago.  For the full press release go HERE.  (Photo courtesy of the Heineken Regatta.)

27th St. Maarten Heineken Regatta
Organizers Look Ahead to the 28th Running of the Great Festival of Caribbean Sailing (and Partying)

(March 2007) The 27th edition of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta concluded in fine fashion last evening with a prize-giving ceremony on Kim Sha Beach followed by musical entertainment by the band Orange Grove and the offspring of reggae legend Bob Marley-sons Damian Marley and Stephen Marley-who captivated the crowd of thousands of sailors and islanders with a set that included stirring renditions of many of their father's most memorable songs.  For the full press release go HERE.  (Photo courtesy of the Heineken Regatta.)