It was one of the most terrifying scenes to come out of the wicked 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. An Internet-connected video camera near Princess Juliana International Airport on Saint Maarten showed Hurricane Irma’s devastating 180-plus mph winds literally scraping trees, boats and homes from the land and depositing them who-knows-where. Footage from helicopters over the following days showed scenes of incomprehensible damage.
Today the island shows little similarity to the horrifying aftermath left in Irma's wake. Structures have been rebuilt, the airport is fully functional, wrecked boats have been removed and the island’s lush foliage is filling back in. Another sign of recovery was the successful return of the 38 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, which welcomed an international fleet of 100 boats for four days of racing in the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea.
“This regatta is massive for the island of St. Maarten, and it shows that the yachting world is leading the recovery by holding these events,” says Race Director Paul Miller. “One hundred boats bring in close to 4,000 people, and that’s 2,000 hotel rooms and 16,000 dinners. I realized that we hadn’t run a great regatta by overcoming adversity; we had simply run a great regatta. It’s not a matter that we did it despite Irma; we just did it.”
You can read more about hurricane recovery efforts in the Caribbean by reading our #Caribbean Comeback feature, which originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Soundings. The story follows along as Active Interest Media magazine editors cruise through post-Irma Scrub Island, Road Town Jost van Dyke, Norman Island and The Baths.