St. Petersburg Yacht Club brings back Havana Race

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A race that was canceled in 1959 following the rise of communism in Cuba is now being brought back.

  • Havana Race, an annual tradition for the St. Petersburg Yacht Club since 1930, is returning in 2017
  • Race was canceled in 1959 following the rise of communism in Cuba

In 1954, a then 16-year-old Bill Ballard sailed to Cuba.

"I sailed on a 39-foot yawl owned by George Pearson called Celia and we had a romping good race,” Ballard said.

He’s referring to the Havana Race, an annual tradition for the St. Petersburg Yacht Club since 1930.

"I will always remember coming in under Morro Castle at the finish of the race with the moonlight and that tropical wind blowing,” Ballard said.

The race was canceled in 1959 following the rise of communism in Cuba, but is now being brought back more than 50 years later thanks to the improved relationship between the U.S. and Cuba.

The Havana Race is back on for 2017.

"It’s the tradition, first of all, and second of all it’s the competition and I am hoping we will have a great field,” St. Petersburg Yacht Club Commodore Richard Winning said. “We will have a great race and I believe it’s starting a whole new era again."

Winning’s father competed in the race and Winning said it has been one of his goals to bring it back. He worked with the commodore at the Hemmingway International Yacht Club to make it happen.

Winning expects 40-70 boats to sail next March. Boats from all across the world, including Cuba, are invited to compete.

"We actually have grandsons of some of the former sailors that raced in this race putting together crews for their boat to make this happen next year,” Winning said.

Ballard said he hopes to compete next year. He said while he’s not 16 anymore, he knows the Morro castle, the moon and that tropical breeze will still be there to greet him.

Bay News 9 – local-news

June 8, 2016 |

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