Set in the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean, powered by the cooling northeast trade winds and run by an experienced, innovative and friendly race team, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is four days of world-class racing in idyllic conditions appealing to a broad range of tastes. The four race committees provide custom-tailored racing for the thousands of sailors from more than 35 countries that come to race: from Olympic medalists and World Champions sailing Maxis and Performance Multihulls to holiday-makers on chartered Bareboats and live-aboard families cruising the Caribbean.
In 1980, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta started as the St. Maarten Regatta with a modest 12 sail boats participating. Three years later, in 1983, Heineken became a major sponsor of the St. Maarten Regatta and ‘Heineken’ was added to the name of the event. Heineken participated with a fee of 3,750 guilders (approximately $2,100). As a bonus, the competitors received ice cold Heineken beers from a passing powerboat while they were racing.
After the involvement of Heineken, the event grew fast. With the addition of a third day in 1990, the event grew to 187 boats in 1995 and 251 boats in 1999. Another racing day, the Commodore’s Cup, was added in 2005. The record number of boats participating in the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta was in 2008 with 284 boats.
Starting with the one-day Gill Commodore's Cup and continuing with the three days of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, sailors are offered a mixture of races with a combination of windward-leeward and coastal races blended together into an irresistible cocktail of racing chosen to suit each class. As the all-out racing monohulls savor the prospect of eight races over four days with windward-leeward races on two days and two longer coastal races testing both boat handling and tactics, it is easy to understand why the regatta attracts a large competitive classes of 40 ft and 50 ft cruiser-racers. Non-spinnaker cruising boats get more varied courses with less emphasis on tight maneuvers but lots of strategic opportunities to keep the racing tight. Maxis and Multihulls have their own race areas to stretch their legs with races suited to their sailing styles: an emphasis on coastal races with fewer windward legs for cruising-style multihulls and longer more challenging races for Performance Multihulls and Maxis. Live-aboard cruisers and others just wanting to be a part of the regatta get one medium-length race per day with a leisurely start time and the emphasis definitely more "Fun" than "Serious".