Race to Havana Too Enticing To Pass Up

Published on February 9th, 2016

The Inaugural Miami to Havana Race, starting on February 10 just south of the Miami harbor entrance, has attracted 46 entrants for this 210 mile race to Cuba. Among the fleet will be Steve Attard’s Hobie 33 Viva Las Vegas who felt that a race to the long-forbidden nation was too enticing to pass up.

When relations between the two countries warmed in 2015, the opportunity to take part in such a historic race to Havana was there, and Attard seized the moment. However, what followed was three months of paperwork— permit applications, passport verifications, background checks, etc. It was abundantly clear from the start of the process that this race would be very different.

“This wasn’t a case of just paying your entry fee, checking your safety gear, and here we go,” said Attard, a member of North Cape Yacht Club in LaSalle and a veteran of numerous races on the Great Lakes. The former champion of the Mills Trophy Race said an international event that culminates at the Hemingway International Yacht Club west of the Cuban capital of Havana requires the participants to complete an extensive amount of forms and permits in order to keep both governments content.

U.S. Coast Guard No. 3300 is the official “Permit to Enter Cuban Territorial Waters” that Attard has filed, and he fully expects Coast Guard vessels to be there in the Straits of Florida to make certain that each U.S. registered vessel that approaches the 12-mile territorial boundary of Cuban waters has that form in the system.

There were more permits, registrations and forms required by Hemingway and Cuban customs, with the posted promise that a “courteous and thorough customs/entry inspection” would take place in Cuba, and an ominous guarantee that this process would be smooth “unless any contraband or unwelcome participants are discovered.”

In his effort to cover every base prior to the start of this race for ocean racing/cruising monohull and multihull boats, Attard even had a meeting with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in Detroit to make certain he had all of the required reporting information for his crew’s planned return to Key West.

The race itself has its own set of challenges — primarily the robust Gulf Stream current which the sailors will have to battle at some point when they cross open water heading toward Cuba.

“That’s the big tactical factor in this race — facing the Gulfstream — and when you will decide to cross it,” said Attard, who will be joined by Gary Arnold, Curtis Jazeweki, Daved Soley, David Sullivan, and Jon Wasieleewski.

“I think what everybody is going to do at the start of the race is hug the shoreline of Florida, and stay as close to the Keys as you can, to stay out of the Gulf Stream. I expect us to be very close to the Keys, and stay in 12-15 feet of water for that portion of the race.”

Hosted by Coral Reef Yacht Club, Attard expects a very fast race, and one that will put him and the crew of Viva Las Vegas in Cuban waters within 24 hours. Follow the live tracker here.

Source: The Blade

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