ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – As a low morning fog hugged the ground at the marina in downtown St. Petersburg, more than 500 sailors were busy with last minute preparations for a three day journey into history.
The St. Petersburg Yacht club organized a regatta with 80 boats to sail to Havana.
The last time the Yacht Club held this event was in 1959, then revolution and political strife hit and the event was canceled.
The event has significant history. It began in 1929, organized by George S. Gandy Jr. The son of the man who built the first bridge across Tampa Bay.
“Being able to bring this race back was kind of a bit of a dream because I always thought this club missed having that grand race because this was one of the four big races in the world sailing at the time. So this is great, it’s a big thing,” said SPYC Commodore Richard Winning.
The last time the event was held 58 years ago, his father was the Commodore of the Yacht Club.
“It took a lot of effort between here and dealing with the Cuban government and the U.S. Government, but you know it’s a big sporting event, it’s a sailing event and it’s been a bit of a challenge so it’s been a great challenge to have all these boats show up for this event, it’s been a great thing,” said Winning.
Among the sailors making the trip are two vessels with wounded warriors.
Retired U.S. Air Force General Dave Scott is among those making the trip.
“One of the things that I enjoy most about the Tampa Bay region is that rich tradition and culture and when you think about the right way of doing it, all these different nationalities came here and assimilated and are very proud to be American, the Cubans that came here are part of that story, so it’s going to be fun to re-ignite this regatta,” said Scott.
The journey is expected to take 36 hours for the fastest boats.
The trip will end at the Hemingway Marina and include a separate 16 mile regatta from the Hemingway Marina to Morro Castle in Havana. Local sailors from Havana will participate in that event.
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