::ST. MAARTEN HEINEKEN
REGATTA:: LE Newsletter - March 24, 2011
St. Maarten’s 31st Heineken Regatta – March 3-6, 2011 -
Toronto in March: grey, damp, cold, wet.
St. Maarten in March: bright, sunny, warm, breezy.
Not a tough choice to accept the assignment of covering the
31st Heineken Regatta
in sunny and friendly St.
This edition of the Heineken Regatta was forecasted to be
exciting for those competing in the regatta as over a hundred yachts (the “century mark”) competed in a
half-dozen different classes. And
for the music revellers, like myself, we get excited about
musical performances on various beaches around the island.
Hosting the series
of concerts throughout the week-long events is former
Yorker, now St. Maarten and radio host and a TOTAL all star for
even surviving the week long festivities,
G Money (pictured).
Amongst the many talented artists from various locales, the
headliner this year was Haitian-born, activist and world music
The first thing when arriving on the tarmac and deplaning in St.
Maarten is the whoosh of warm air that hits your face. You know
the one – the air that brings a slow smile to your face. Then,
as the reality sets in that you’ve been transplanted to another
time zone, you smell the salt air from the Caribbean Sea.
For my first night, I checked into my hotel, the famous Holland House,
which is one of my fave hotels during the regatta.
Outstanding customer service (ask for Carmella or
I was greeted by good friends of
Barbara Chatarpaul Alleyne
of Toronto’s Excess Entertainment (http://www.excess-ent.com).
I was whisked away by Mike, a promoter on
the island, and other friends (78entertainment
inc.), who had my back during my stay. We went
on Simpsons Bay,
to hear some ‘interesting but not horrible’ karaoke. Lots of
drinks later and I finally felt that I had left my life in
Toronto in exchange for life in St. Maarten. I went later in the
week and the food was very good.
Coasting on the good feeling of a warm welcome, the next day
involved checking in and picking up the media kit from the
organizers of the
Heineken Regatta, which, by the way, was chock full of sponsored
gifts including, of course, a 6 pack of Heineken, Capt. Morgan’s
Spiced Rum, perfume and lots of sailor-worthy memorabilia.
Next stop –
Ras Bushman’sThe Ital Shack
restaurant, featuring vegan food exclusively grown on his
property. Ras Bushman is famous on the island, not only for his
restaurant but also for his live reggae performances around the
island. His legendary
Foundation Freedom Fighters was established for Rastafarian
musical reggae band purposes.
Of note, as well, is Ras
Jawara Ku-j Joe
is getting major radio play for his single,
See the video here:
As well, one of my first stops is the Get Wet Beach Bar and Grille
from Orillia, Ontario. Always available are amazing burgers and
Heineken (pilsner, which is not available in North America)
which is remarkably cheap during the regatta at 2 for $3! Even
cruise ship captains recommend this hot spot for their comfort
food fare and cold beverages.
Thursday was spent perusing jewellery stores, namely
Grand Jewelers with an American couple who pick up their
there every year – duty free and custom-made should you wish,
you can’t go wrong. Not to mention champagne or beer offered to
you once you start browsing! Ask for Sunny – he’ll take care of
you. We were treated to lunch at Au Petite Café
… best wrap
I’ve ever had!
Friday night was the famous party on the boardwalk of
Philipsburg. One of my
as there are three stages over a mile of boardwalk on the beach
facing the Salt Pond and the Caribbean Sea. Parallel to the
boardwalk is Front and Back Streets featuring vendors and shop
after shop each trying to outdo the others offering electronics,
alcohol, jewellery, linens, perfume, and more.
If security is your issue, I can vouch for the intensified
security, police patrol and staff to ensure everyone safely
enjoys the regatta The police were very visible and
friendly helping anyone needing assistance.
Bands and talent were plentiful … and REALLY good! Great night
… especially at my hotel, Holland House which was the host of
the VIP of the regatta. Featured bands that night were Roots
Down Below; Full Circle featuring Silver Logan Sharp; XP Band;
Remo & Barbwire; Phlox & Showtime Band; Percy Rankin & His
Bonfire Band and Peering Pacheco.
Saturday night was a concert in Marigot whose theme was the
spirit of Carnival. Bands included
Sir Oungku & Red Hot, Cut Creator DJ Outkast and the
Explosion Band. Despite the fact that I could not attend due to
an early morning press conference with Wyclef, I heard that this
concert was fantastic! There was a serious jump up as Sir Oungku
drove the crowd into a Soca Frenzy.
Sunday (closing day for the regatta) was an exciting day!
First was the press conference at St. Maarten Yacht Club
am (!) where the media got to hear Wyclef speak and get photo
ops and interviews with him. I've got to say that it was a
thrill to meet him! There was an excitement there
(despite the hour!) that I hadn’t quite experienced before at
those press conferences. I think that it was a combination of Wyclef’s global recognition, his run for Haitian presidency and
the fact that he speaks French, which appealed to many of the
French media attending.
Next up was a day at the beach in
on the French side of the island. We went to a remote part of
beach where there are many cute shops offering fashion, food and
home décor. There is a certain
je ne sais quoi on the French
side – a whole different flavour and style than the Dutch side.
Picturesque and just beautiful!
Quick change and off to the closing concert. Again … a night
rich with local and international talent! This night featured
opening acts Orange Grove,
Brainpower, Cut Creator DJ
(sooo dope!) and Philipsburg Community Brass Band. Each and
EVERY band brought something unique and had the crowd jamming,
although Orange Grove seemed to have a special rapport with the
audience, given that they are a band of brothers and from St.
Maarten. Documentary filmmakers were on site filming the
concert as part of a story on the band.
And then the headliner, Wyclef, with his eclectic collection of
artists backing him up. A stupendous show with incredible
energy, precision timing, flawless performances and an engaging
connection with his audience. Myself and other photographers
carefully chose our vantage spot to get the shot. As they
announced Wyclef to hit the stage, the photo pit was filled with
screaming fans who immediately started dancing to the first
tune. It was chaos after that but all in a good spirit – no
animosities, just everyone having a good time.
On Monday the island seemed eerily quiet as media, regatta
participants, VIPs and revellers caught their prospective flights
I chose to stay another couple of days and came upon a really
nice hotel/time share called Sea Palace Resort
with an incredible Chinese restaurant attached called
The Pink Pearl
– amazing Chinese food on the beach , reasonably priced,
delicious and authentic. Ask for Howard!This
is where I met up with St. Maarten’s
Lasana Sekou, poet, short story
writer, essayist, journalist, and publisher from the island.
Lasana has authored over 13 books and is considered one of the
prolific Caribbean poets of his generation. Check him out on
Facebook or his publishing company at www.houseofnehesipublish.com.
I went to the coolest party on Monday
night that there’s no way I would have known about except for my
great hosts, Mike and his many friends. The party was inside/outside of
an incredibly cool spot and restaurant in Grand Case called
St. Maarten – the friendly island. And the Heineken Regatta?
Good people, good times, good music, good eats and an infusion
of diverse cultural energy. The most thanks go the
31ST Heineken Regatta
for providing me with so much music, fun, beauty and food on my
beautiful island - yes, I'm now claiming it as mine too!
Can't tell you how great this week would be to go to St.
Maarten in 2012. Excellent shows, tours, boats, etc. but the
concerts on the beaches are wicked. Think about it. Westjet flies during the week direct from Toronto
so make your plans to get to St. Maarten for
March 1-4 2012!!
Sincere thanks to all who made this specific regatta an
Vernon - Holland House
Carmella - Holland House
Sea Palace Report - Joe
Howard at Pink Pearl
Bill and Helen Roeger
Sunny - Grand Jewelers
and all the courteous bus drivers that took me around the island