Clean Start for Race to Cuba

Published on October 31st, 2015

Pensacola, FL (October 31, 2015) – Twenty-two boats were entered in the 2015 Andrews Institute Pensacola a la Habana race but only 21 started the race. Glenn Benson’s Jeanneau 45DS could not start because of a broken rudder suffered in the remnant storm of Hurricane Patricia earlier in the week. The first class to start went off at 8:05AM CDT, the early time to catch the outgoing tide.

The slower, smaller boats in the Classic Cruiser Division started first, followed by the Modern Cruiser Division and the Multihulls. Winds were under 10 kts from the east, so it was a reaching start south out of Pensacola Bay to the Santa Rosa Sound. After a short run to the west in the sound, the boats cut through Pensacola Pass and headed out into the Gulf of Mexico on a beat to Habana.

The first boat out into the gulf was Larry Hamilton’s Formosa 45 ‘Serengeti’ from Marathon, Florida. He was closely followed by race chairman Bob Kriegel’s Pearson 424 ‘Acadia’ from Pensacola. Mike Patterson’s Corsair 31R ‘Bella Fonte’ blazed through the monohull fleet to stand third.

Throughout the afternoon, the cold front that brought storms to Texas and Louisiana earlier Saturday morning continued to press south toward the fleet. As predicted at the Friday night skippers briefing the wind and seas built through the afternoon. Winds were reported to be 20-25 kts and seas 5-7 feet. Higher winds are expected in squalls through the night, moderating in the morning on Sunday. Winds are expected to shift to southerly through that period.

By early afternoon two yachts had turned back to Pensacola. Greg Russell’s little homemade catamaran, ‘Surf Rider’, a Wharram design that looks something like two canoes connected by cross beams, had turned back. ‘Surf Rider’ was back in Pensacola Bay by mid-afternoon. Ralph Bush’s Island Packet 27 ‘Island Sun’ was returning and near the mouth of Pensacola Pass by 3:15PM CDT. Conditions were reported by Bush as “rough”.

As boats pound their way across the Gulf of Mexico to Cuba, land-bound spectators can track their favorite boats from start to finish. Each boat has a position transponder that will broadcast its location to home computers, laptops, pads and smartphones.

The original Havana Race was sailed from St. Petersburg FL when 11 boats started on March 30, 1930. The competition grew in size and stature to be a favorite of Gulf Coast sailors. It became a preliminary to the famous Southern Ocean Racing Circuit and attracted top yachts from the Americas and the international scene. Then bullets started flying at masts, and Castro overthrew the Cuban government, so the race was discontinued in 1959.

Race websiteTracker

Report by Talbot Wilson

Course: The 2015 race is 511 nautical miles from Pensacola to Havana. The new race starts with the tide at the end of the Bayou Chico Channel, heads through Pensacola Pass, leaves the sea buoy #1 to starboard and heads straight to Havana leaving Rebecca Shoals Light to port.

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