From those with 25 years of experience to first-timers, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta regatta is one that bucks the gender trend.
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 bucks 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 organised by women, but definitely the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is dominated by women.
The race committee bucks the gender trend. Its race committee chair, marketing committee chair, press writer and social media team, all represented by women.
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 team that bucks the gender trend is the all-female team which 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.
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.”