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Hobies Racing off Havana. The Schooner Dream Catcher, which was one of the two schooners that made the crossing, can be seen in the background.

Havana Challenge 2015 Hobie 16s Race from Key West to Cuba, May 16 By Jeff and Lin Drechsler

O

n May 16 at 7:40 a.m.—at the starting sound of a conch shell—five Hobie 16s, with two crew on each boat, left on a race from Key West to Cuba, in the first U.S.-authorized sailboat race to Cuba in about 15 years. They were accompanied by 14 support and other craft. Including the crew on the Hobies, a total of 90 people on 19 boats set out for Cuba. Called the Havana Challenge, the Key West community did their best to keep the event under the main news media radar, making it just a “Key West thing” and not have the entire world’s press come down on them with hundreds of TV crews and reporters. Although not completely out of the news, those who pulled it off did a fairly good job of coming close to that goal. With cooperation from the city of Key West lobbying department and a big push from some U.S. Senators, race organizers George Bellenger, his wife Carla and Joe Weatherby were able to get all the necessary permissions and documentation to hold the Havana Challenge in a fashion not seen in many years. It was many months of planning and permits. The ease of restrictions in Cuba travel made this just the right time, place and event for both nations to show dedication towards normalizing relations in a spirit of maritime traditions. Bellenger last sailed the Havana Challenge in Cuba in 2000, although not with U.S. government permission—he and others just made the crossing and raced against Cuba sailors while there. This year’s event also had a planned race to be held in Cuba with Cuban sailors. Bellenger is also president of the Key West Association of Catamaran Sailors (KWACS), which was the representative sailing club in this race to Cuba. Each of the Hobie 16s had a support boat that inter-

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July 2015

SOUTHWINDS

www.southwindsmagazine.com

Southwinds July 2015  

A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...

Southwinds July 2015  

A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...