It was 70 years ago that a die-hard fleet of 11 wooden sailboats raced out of Tampa Bay bound for Havana, Cuba. In that first formal race to Cuba, George S. "Gidge" Gandy of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club and Commodoro Rafael Posso of the Havana Yacht Club launched a classic ocean race which survived one world war and, eventually, the revolution in Cuba. The original Southern Ocean Racing Conference (SORC), which offered offshore racing around the southern tip of Florida and into the Bahamas, replaced the Cuba race until the Tampa Bay to Havana format was revived in 1996 by three independent sailors from local sailing clubs.
There are no yacht clubs involved in the current race to Cuba, but with more than 200 boats participating in each of the previous two years, the now titled Havana Cup regatta has revived a piece of history. It isn't hard to suggest that the direction of current Cuba-U.S. relations are still twisting in a gyroscopic tizzy, but hopefully time and common sense will allow this friendly relationship between the sailors in Cuba and the U.S. to continue.
Ocean Racing Ventures president Jim Duncan said he is continuing to work with Treasury officials with hopes of resuming the official Havana Cup event later in the year. Given the positive experience of the unofficial Havana Cup sailors, this event could easily draw more than 100 boats in the future without a formal U.S. organizer.