PHILIPSBURG, St Maarten -- Sailors and boating enthusiasts from around the world gathered in St Maarten by the thousands to participate in celebrations and races during the 34th Annual St Maarten Heineken Regatta, which took place March 6 - 9, 2014.
A remarkable 211 registered boats in 21 classes took part in the event, while visitors and residents enjoyed lively parties each night with energetic performances by LMFAO, Kes and Orange Grove.
In one of the closest and most dramatic concluding days in the long history of the Caribbean's biggest annual boating event, 20 division winners in a fleet of 211 boats were crowned on March 9 to wrap up this year's Regatta.
At the outset of the third and final day of competition, the end results, and potential victors, in nearly a dozen individual classes were too close to call. With just a few points separating the top boats in nearly all nine of the CSA classes, in two of the Bareboat divisions and in a Lottery class, everything was riding on the last race of the series from Marigot to Simpson Bay.
The Regatta's top prize for the "Most Worthy Performance Overall" went to Rich Wesslund's J/122, El Ocaso, the winner of the event's biggest division, the 18-boat CSA4 class. El Ocaso's crew received their prize from St Maarten's Prime Minister Sarah Westcott-Williams, who in her remarks honoured Wesslund and his team, while also recognizing the hundreds of international sailors who had descended on the island for the event. It was the second time Wesslund's Florida-based squad earned this high honour.
For over three decades, the St Maarten Heineken Regatta has showcased the top boats and sailing -- and has become equally famous for its world-class slate of parties and musical entertainment -- in the Caribbean. Each year, the annual competition, which consists of round-the-buoys contests and point-to-point destination races against the backdrop of St Maarten's breathtaking coastal views, lives up to its worthy motto: Serious Fun.