The motto for the Heineken Regatta in Sint Maarten, now in its 31st year, is perfect in both conception and execution. And if the festivities so far are any indication, this year’s race series will be another exercise in 'Serious Fun.'
They’re already halfway there. Ground zero is the Sint Maarten Yacht Club, a two-storey building right beside the lift bridge leading to Simpson Bay Lagoon. From the yacht club you can’t help but stare out at the fleet of megayachts moored and berthed in the lagoon. But megayachts are not the only – nor chief – story in this regatta, though a few maxicats add to the excitement later in the week.
Right now it’s all about the sailors – and the sense of excitement that you can already feel.
And, appropriately enough, the Heinekens – at two dollars US a pop – are flowing. And their green logo is everywhere: banners festoon the wooden rails of a patio that reaches to water’s edge, the umbrellas scream 'Heineken' and even the ashtrays on the tables advertise this brew.
And they do go down easy. They also make the 'Fun' part the main part right now.
Sit here where it all happens and you can’t help but notice a Babel of languages. A crew discusses strategy in Dutch over in the corner while three Brits sit at the bar. In tomorrow’s match-racing, there’s a Russian team and they’re sitting under the roof in the bar proper, wear the burgees of a hundred different yacht clubs worldwide flutter in the breeze. But they’re doing more than fluttering.
The waters of the lagoon are flecked with foam, blemished by whitecaps on whitecaps. Winds were gusting up to thirty knots today – certainly a bit of a mixed blessing for tomorrow’s race.
Which promises to be serious.
But that’s tomorrow.
According to legend, this twin-country-island – smallest island in the world shared by two countries – set its borders by sending a French and Dutch representative out to walk the shores. Wherever they met would be where they’d put the border. The Frenchman carried his wine with him while the Dutch fellow had to stop for rations of gin. So the French got the better part of land.
That’s why this split personality of the regatta itself shouldn’t be any big surprise. They hold it on an island with a split personality.
Want a ‘for instance’? They did the skipper briefing tonight, introducing the skippers and the race committee and the like and then Bobby Ferron, driving force behind this regatta and sponsor of tomorrow’s match-races (Budget Marine), speaks into the mike and tells everybody to have a free beer after the session.
And when they earlier asked if anybody had technical questions a guy yelled from the back of the jury-rigged tent.
'I have a question,' he said. 'How long is Happy Hour?'
So even before the first boat crosses the start line, this celebration of sail is halfway there.
The fun’s begun.