by Cuba Journal staff
image by: LC Gateley
Sailors generally have a good eye for beautiful coastlines and the serenity of secluded private coves. Cuba has an abundance of both owing to its accidental preservation as a result of five decades of economic stagnation.
A glimpse of Cuba from space reveals the magnitude of Cuba’s more than 3,000 miles of coastline – along with more than 4,200 islets and keys – awaiting exploration.
Before you plan a sailing trip to Cuba, there are a few things to consider in terms of meeting US laws and enjoying a safe journey.
US citizens can visit Cuba if they qualify for a general license within 12 authorized categories, including: official business of a government, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops; athletic competitions and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information; and certain authorized export transactions.
Joining an authorized race is one way to ensure compliance with US legal requirements.
Needless to say, sailing with other racers and their support vessels is vastly safer than navigating alone. Several US yachts have legally participated in sailing races and fishing tournaments over the past few months; however, these vessels and their crews were properly licensed to do so. Everyone on board the vessel, including the yacht owner, passengers and crew must individually qualify for one of the 12 general licenses.
One such race was the Havana Challenge, held on May 16, 2015, and featured 16-foot Hobie Cat catamarans, most skippered by Florida Keys-based sailors, navigating more than 90 miles across the Florida Straits to Cuba. George Bellenger and co-organizer Joe Weatherby worked with the US government to obtain licenses for the participants.
About 20 boats, including support vessels, completed the 90-mile journey.
The Pensacola Yacht Club issued preliminary notice of an offshore rally and race from Pensacola, Florida to the Hemingway International Yacht Club near Havana, Cuba, with the start planned for October 31, 2015.
According to Pensacola Yacht Club, the 500mn race is designed for experienced sailors and seaworthy cruising sailboats and will be conducted consistent with the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) 2013-2016 including: US Sailing Prescriptions, the GYA-PHRF prescriptions, and the Notice of Race & Sailing Instructions.
Race management will be biased towards cruiser sailboats with the objective of doing this initial race to Cuba to consider the feasibility of a recurring series.