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Hotseat - Karen Smith

781_OnA_hotseatKaren Smith recently sailed across the Atlantic from Greece and wound up here in St. Maarten. She currently works with St. Maarten Yacht Club as the Heineken Regatta assistant, helping to put this awesome event together.

How would you describe yourself?

This is always a tricky question normally coming up in a job interview! I would say I am friendly and quirky. I try to get along with everyone, and my friends would probably say that I am a bit weird but in a good way. I also have the big misfortune of being very clumsy, but I am working on that.

Where were you born? Tell me about where you grew up.

I was born in London and grew up in a town called Kenilworth. This is a small town where everyone knows each other; you could not leave the house without bumping into someone. I think this is why I settled into the island so well. It is a very rural green place with an amazing ruined castle.

What is it that drew you to your present career?

As a teenager, I had always worked in restaurants and really enjoyed the buzz of a very busy restaurant. As I got older, I realized I could get this feeling from other types of hospitality. A friend of mine asked me to help out at a conference she was organizing and I was hooked. After lots of research, I eventually found a college degree that would allow me to study events – at that time the only one in the country. After college was over, I moved back to London and worked for the Wellcome Trust running conferences; this was great but I missed the active lifestyle. After a few years sailing, I found Sint Maarten and the fantastic opportunity that is the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.

What is your typical day at work like?

I come into the office; I turn on my computer and then the chaos starts! Our office is a little bit like a very busy train station; we have volunteers, tourists, cruisers and all sorts coming through all day; in between the visits, we try and squeeze in organizing the regatta. Life in our office is fast paced and you have to keep your head screwed on in order to get work done and still look after all those who need your attention.

What do you love most about working at your present job?

The people! The atmosphere in our office is great we are always having a joke; and that makes the stressful times so much easier. I also really like working with all the volunteers; they have a commitment and passion for the Regatta which is infectious.

How does it feel to be organizing such huge events? Do you ever get nervous?

There are always nerves involved, especially with an event so treasured on the island and internationally. I find that the best way is to just get on and do your best. Working hard ensures that you are keeping busy too – another way to keep the nerves down!

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

The Atlantic crossing was my best achievement so far. I crossed with just my fiancé on a 33-foot sailing boat and it was hard going but incredible. There were certainly times that I thought it was a huge mistake; but in the end, it was entirely worth it.

What do you do when you're not at work?

When time (and weather) allows, I like to sail. There are some great people on the island looking for crew most weekends so I try and take advantage of this. I have also started dinghy sailing recently; I am not too skilled at this and spend more time in the water than in the boat at the moment! I still enjoy it and I will succeed eventually! I also really enjoy a quiet night in with a movie and walking my dog.

What (other/hidden) skills or talents do you have?

I really enjoy handicraft, I like to make paper flowers and have made them for friends and family. I am also getting married this year so will be flat out making them for centrepieces after the Regatta. I also really like baking and can make a mean cake!

What are your ambitions for the future?

For the immediate future, my ambitions are Regatta based; I want to see the event grow and for my role to develop within this. In the distant future, I would like to see my career develop into sports tourism in the region.

What would be your alternate choice as a place to live and work?

This is really difficult; I spent a number of years travelling and found so many wonderful places but Sint Maarten is now home. If I did have a second choice, I think that it would be to go back to Greece. I spent some fantastic years there and it's still a place that I hold dear to my heart.

If you could invite three famous people (dead or alive) together for dinner, who would they be? What would you serve them to eat?

Queen Elizabeth I; Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series; and Elvis Presley. I would make something easy so I had time to talk to my guests; I make a very good lasagne from scratch.