The St Pete Yacht Club announced last week it is moving forward with plans to resume the historic water race from St Petersburg to Havana, Cuba. Organizers hope to hold the event in March of 2017.
Sailing and St Pete have gone hand in hand for a long time.
The city of St Petersburg has been home to world class sailing for over 100 years. Established in 1909, SPYC is considered one of the oldest yacht clubs in the U.S. From the earliest days when only one member of the the yacht club actually owned a boat to the present day, SPYC has survived hurricanes, the Great Depression and World War II. Currently host to impressive number of regattas and great sailing events the club looks to restart the annual race to Cuba.
It was George Gandy Jr. (son of the man who built the Gandy bridge) who originally proposed the idea of a 284 mile boat race from The Sunshine City to Havana. Gandy hoped to promote tourism in both cities. The inaugural sail from the St Pete pier took place in 1930 with 11 boats participating over the course of 2 days and ending at Morro Castle just outside Havana harbor.
Over the following decade the race grew to more than 30 boats. World War II interrupted the race for a few years, but it resumed after 1946. The annual event continued up until 1959 when relations between Cuba and the U.S. were frozen with the Cuban revolution and the Cold War.
For a brief time in the late 1990's until the early 2000's the Havana Cup revived the trek from Tampa Bay to Havana. Although not officially sanctioned by the U.S. (and technically illegal) this event had more than 200 boats participating. In 2004 harsh embargo restrictions led to another hold on the nautical adventure.
Today with the Cold War long over and the thawing of American-Cuban relations current SPYC commodore Richard Winning is eyeing a March 2017 date to resume the historic yearly regatta. Interestingly Richard Winning's father was the commodore to host the the last race in 1959.
For sailors the event has always been about sailing rather than politics. In years past, throngs of spectators would gather along the pier to watch the boats sail out of Tampa Bay. The hope is the resumption of the yearly race will bring the two countries together.
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