It’s been a fantastic weekend of racing here at the 32nd St. Maarten Heineken Regatta- blue skies, steady winds, and only a couple minor crashes in the bareboat fleet. There are over 200 boats participating in the racing this year, and it’s been great to see many familiar Clean Regattas faces, enjoying the warm weather racing and gearing up for another season of Northern racing. But the best part of Heineken for us at Sailors for the Sea has been watching the regatta step up their Clean Regattas certification to the Silver level after achieving Bronze for the past three years.
St. Maarten Heineken faces a unique set of obstacles in trying to reduce the environmental footprint of their event. Dutch St. Maarten lacks pumpout stations, recycling facilities and any sort of composting options, things we often take for granted at the regatta sites we visit. But, over the years, organizers here have come up with a unique set of solutions to these problems. Instead of relying on municipal recycling, organizers have significantly reduced the amount of waste sent to landfill by using biodegradable products, reusing bow numbers and signage from year to year, reducing plastic waste by eliminating unnecessary items such as drinking stirrers and straws, and using paperless electronic systems for registration and results.
And despite the lack of municipal recycling, organizers have been working with private entrepreneurs to pilot recycling of the glass Heineken bottles that are ubiquitous at this event. Additionally, organizers have gone above and beyond in working closely with local Marine Protected Areas, ensuring that boaters are educated and aware so these areas stay pristine for years to come.
All in all, it’s been inspiring to see the efforts being undertaken here in St. Maarten. Sometimes a little creative thinking is necessary to find solutions that protect our oceans, but here in St. Maarten, where the waters are crystal clear and the beaches are the main draw, it’s obvious that those efforts are well worthwhile, be it aesthetically, socially, or economically.