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LE Newsletter - April 5, 2012


32nd St. Maarten Heineken Regatta - March 1 - 4, 2012
Source:  Dawn Langfield

I was blessed another year to be asked to cover the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.  It's simply not a difficult decision to make given the magic that overcomes the island of St. Maarten, infused with the soft breezes of the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, the excitement of those participating in one of the biggest regattas of the Caribbean plus the hot choices of live music entertainers that invade the beaches on the island.  The big headliner this year was the reggae icon, Beres Hammond.

St. Maarten is an island full of natural beauty, cultural diversity and modern conveniences. The experience on this island of two cultures, French and Dutch, attracts people from all over the world because of it's multicultural charm and multilingual people, not to mention it's stunning beauty and tax-free, duty-free shopping!

My accommodation this year was the Holland House which is one of the IT places to be during the regatta season as it is perched right on the boardwalk on Philipsburg, which is situated on the waters of Great Bay, akin to the Atlantic Ocean. It offers some of the most gracious service on the island with Carmella tending the popular hotel bar and Vernon tending to your every whim at the private beach.

My first night included going to a club called Prive. An indoor lounge with an open terrace offers stunning views of the vibrant Simpson Bay strip and lagoon.  With an experienced bartender serving the patrons, the bulk of the crowd was gathered around two tall Hookahs for a taste from the varied menu of options.

Then we made a visit to Soggy Dollar where one of the first regatta parties was taking place.  Full of partiers, sailors participating in the regatta and those just in St. Maarten to party; the vibe was casual with an 'anything goes' theme.

Of particular note that I don't believe I've mentioned before is that
 all the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta parties are free and open to the public.

Friday, March 2nd started with dinner at the busy Greenhouse featured yummy crab legs and lots of them. The Boardwalk transforms on regatta Friday and is one of my favourite regatta parties as it lands on the doorstep of the Holland House in Philipsburg. Don't forget that the boardwalk is parallel to the ocean and serves as a breezy backdrop to the busy and festive night.

This is a party that is as long as the boardwalk (one mile) with one main stage (a scaled down version this year) and lots of games, food, DJs, live music and general festivity.  The hub of the party is held at Holland House - party central. 

Performing on the boardwalk that night was Tessanne Chin and her sister Tammar Anika Chin, popularly known as Tami Chynn. While sisters, they have both had a varied career and it was a rare opportunity to see them perform together. Tami’s hits floating the airwaves are “Hyperventilating”, “Over and Over Again” and her Top 10 hit “Frozen” with R&B Superstar Akon. Tessanne has hits “Hideaway”, “Broken Melody” and “Loving You” and she has won the hearts of numerous music critics.


Sunday, March 4th started eaaaaarly at 9:00 am at the Sint Martin Yacht Club for a press conference with Beres Hammond.  While waiting for Mr. Hammond to arrive, I had the chance to check out some of the massive yachts in St. Maarten as well as some of the boats heading into Sunday's competition.


Beres Hammond, who, while gracious, quietly grumbled at the early hour at the start as well.  His demeanour is something that I would call 'a cool dude'.  He's eloquent, funny, humble and that is always refreshing with someone with such a successful career as his.  John Leone was a gracious host for the interview session and quite obviously an avid fan as well.  They shared a few humorous stories of Beres' career.

My first order of business was to tell Mr. Hammond a warm hello from all his Canadian fans.  His face lit up as he asked, "Where in Canada?".  When I answered "Toronto", he smiled, laughed and said "Ahhhhh Jamaican town" in his rich Jamaican accent.  He was asked a few times about his set list for that evening and he said that he never creates a set list, that he has to vibe with the audience first and takes it from there.  His performance was scheduled for that evening at Kim Sha Beach. 

As usual, the crowd at Kim Sha Beach on Sunday evening was electric with excitement as the skilled DJ filled the outdoors with great mixes as annual host, Gee Money, worked the crowd with his magic.  The stage was fully of dancers, beautiful island women dressed in carnival garb and an entourage dressed in Capt. Morgan costumes who regularly tossed out Heineken regatta memorabilia.

Soca music star Terry Seales teamed up with St Maarten’s Shadow Man as the opening act on Sunday night. Terry is now focusing on reinventing himself and making a change. Currently he is working on some charity program's to promote positivity within our society but that set aside, 2012 will be the year of the Entertainer.

Shadow Man tags his genre as ‘Contemporary Caribbean’. He believes music should move from the explicitly sexual content that currently dominates the scene to more positive themes that tell clean positive stories. His biggest album to date “Me & My Music” features a combination of 11 of his hottest jams. 

What can I say about the presence that Beres Hammond brought to the closing party?  He is a seasoned veteran of the stage and more specifically, of knowing his audience.  While the crowd was growing anxious waiting for him to reach the stage, they greeted him with great enthusiasm and cheers.  He first sauntered on to the stage and within minutes was jumping and springing across the stage thrilling his audience. His band is equally as seasoned as, like I mentioned above, he doesn't prepare a set list, so they simply wait for a note or nod or gesture from him and smoothly transition into the next song. 

Beres performed some of his older hits as well as newer in that soulful voice which has been dubbed as romantic lovers rock.  The audience swayed, sang and danced the night away into the wee hours as Beres performed a long set, over 90 mins. long.  Not bad for the iconic artist whose career has spanned over 30 years!
 Believe me there is nothing like listening to Beres' soulful reggae on a beach with thousands of people who are simply having a good time.


The following day brought another glorious sunny and breezy day so I took an island tour by jeep that allowed me to see so many more rich and lush parts of the island.  And yes, that included the Nude Beach at Orient Bay, where no cameras were permitted.  We ate sushi at Kontiki right on the beach looking on to the ocean.  A great day!

That night I went with friends to Le Shore which is in Grand Case on the French side of the island.  Grand Case is this little boutique niche that is full of a bohemian vibe. Le Shore by day is a restaurant and beach club.  At night it transforms into a nightclub with
cocktails (served by bartenders who juggle bottles aka the movie "Cocktails" and also light the bar on fire).  Music streams from some of the top island bands and DJ's while go-go dancers seduce patrons on platforms that are also on fire. Even the drinks in buckets come aflame.  

I think that this was one of my favourite trips to St. Maarten  - whether it was the spirit of the people, unbelievable weather, the swift boats in the regatta, the fun-filled parties, the incredible food or the soulful reggae tunes of Beres Hammond on the beach, but the magic of this island has definitely cast its spell on me.
If you're smart, you will put it at the top of your travel destination list to visit during the 2013 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta!