According to the Maritime Institute of Technology, women comprise only 2% of the 1.2 million sailors worldwide. Yet the racing scene in the Caribbean appears to buck that trend both on the racing circuit and in the organizational teams running events.
Regatta Director Michele Korteweg has been involved with the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta for the last decade, starting in 2009 as an intern. Now in addition to overseeing the whole event, she is also the President of the Caribbean Sailing Association, which represents and connects all Caribbean racing events, many of which are also managed by women.
Commenting on the unusually high amount of women involved in the racing scene in the Caribbean, she says: “I don’t think it’s by chance because women are very good at organizing by nature! A lot of events in the Caribbean are organized by women, but definitely the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is dominated by women. Our race committee chair, our marketing committee chair, our press writer and our social media team, all represented by women and I can go on and on. The event gets lots of support from female sailors as well. It is important to us to showcase how many women are involved because it’s super special to see all this female talent working together!”
One all-female team which has competed in every St. Maarten Heineken Regatta for the last 25 years is Team Something Hot, sailing a Sun Odyssey 44. “We are very much looking forward to sailing the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta again,” says team organizer Marlot Smaal. “The Heineken Ladies Sailing team brings us a trusted network of women within Heineken. It is about empowerment of women to achieve more together and to go the extra mile. We love the combination of competing as a team in very exciting races, having lots of serious fun and drinking a Heineken® beer during the bridge acts and the parties. All of this comes together in one of the most beautiful places in the world – could it get any better?”
It is the unique nature of the island itself which really enhances the event, continues Korteweg. “The people here are so friendly and so happy to welcome everyone. You can do your shopping here, have your beach time here, and of course we have the trade winds that make for perfect sailing conditions. And you can have a good time wherever you go! We have the smaller bars, the nightclubs, spas, we got it all. You can also take a boat to cruise to neighboring islands like Anguilla, Saba, St. Barths. The island is a great hub to get your boat repaired, but also to venture out and see some of the beauty of the Caribbean.”
Newcomers for this year’s regatta will be another all-female entry, Sun Fast 3200RC Purple Mist. Skippers Kate Cope and Claire Dresser are currently racing double-handed across the Atlantic in the RORC Transatlantic 600, and then after arriving in Grenada, the pair will sail across to Antigua for the Nelson Cup Series, the Caribbean 600 and then onto St. Maarten for the Heineken Regatta, where Claire’s daughter Emily and crew member Suzie Anthony will join them.
This will be the first time this all-female crew will compete in the Caribbean circuit and the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. “We are new to it and we’ve heard that it’s ‘the regatta’ to do,” says Claire of Purple Mist. “And after the Caribbean 600, for Kate and I, it’s just going to be so nice to have other people including my daughter on board! We’re going back to fully crewed, so we can hopefully let go of the reins when we let Suzie and Emily in on the boat.” Purple Mist Skipper and owner Kate agrees: “For me, I’m looking forward to the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and doing it as an all-girls crew.”
As the first all-female double-handed competitors in the RORC Transatlantic Race, Kate Cope says she and Claire are getting lots of support from fellow double-handed sailors. “I think we’re inspiring many of them to do this transatlantic race, so we might find next year in the Caribbean a bunch of double handed boats over here doing the whole series.”
For those who don’t own a boat, or prefer not to sail to the event, there are opportunities to get in on the action with race charters available through OnDeck, LV Yachting, Global Yacht Racing and Ocean Racers, and individual berths and team charters are still available for the Volvo fleet. Places can be organized through firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is also welcoming to family, friends and non-sailors alike, with daily regatta village entertainment open to all starting at 5 PM every evening at Yacht Club Port de Plaisance. Join the Serious Fun March 2-5, 2023!
St. Maarten Heineken Regatta
Celebrating 43 years, this Regatta just keeps getting better, four days of world-class racing with some of the world’s most seasoned sailors, hailing from over 35 countries. This is genuinely a Regatta for everyone, including professional teams sailing Maxis,Monohulls, and Performance Multihulls to holiday-makers on chartered Bareboats to live-aboard families cruising the Caribbean. Crystal clear waters and cooling northeast trade winds give the pristine conditions for spectacular racing just off the coast of St. Maarten. This event is your bucket list must-do! Come and enjoy life in the Caribbean; come for some Serious Fun from March 2-5, 2023!
For complete information on the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, including results, photos, videos, party and band information, and much, much more, visit: www.heinekenregatta.com.