In April, 2009, President Obama created two classes of citizens – First class: those with relatives in Cuba and Second Class: those without. With the stroke of his pen, he eliminated the Bush restrictions on travel to Cuba for the First Class Citizens and allowed them to bring unlimited funds for their relatives. Second class: El Zippo. I thought this was a perfect example of “Change” and “Hopefully” began to plan the Islands in the Stream Regatta for Gulfstream Sailing Club. I had been crew in the Sarasota to Havana race in 1994 and have never been treated better after a sailboat race. (They dramatically demonstrated the shortages brought about by the evils of socialism. One night, we saw the floor show that was going into the Copacabana the next week. Sixteen dancers, eight costumes.)
Our event was to consist of four races; a coastal from various ports on the east coast to Key West scored time on time, an overnight offshore across the Gulf Stream to Marina Hemingway, revival of the prestigious Regata Castillo del Morro, a coastal race from Marina Hemingway to Havana (2 laps), and an offshore back to Key West, scheduled for May of this year. Another group was coming from Sarasota, sponsored by the Sarasota Yacht Club charitable foundation, to participate in the coastal race.
Our plan was that this was not to be just a regatta with a typical yadda yadda post race barbecue/beerfest, but a significant cultural event including donations of sails and gear for the Cuban Olympic Team, coaching of Cuban sailors, Cuban sailors participating on U. S. yachts for the Regata Castillo del San Marco, meeting with various cultural groups in Cuba, including some that their government is not very friendly with, and the post race party to be held at a workers’ hostel with us bringing the food, since food is still very scarce in Cuba.. The Cubans met our every request with grace and understanding.
There were, of course, some U. S. Government hoops to jump through: In August, I applied for a USCG Marine Event Permit only to be told this month they’ve changed the rules, we don’t need one. I applied for a Commerce Department Permit to export our committee boat (even though it’s coming right back, it’s considered an export) and prepared our application under the Office of Financial Asset Control regulations of the Treasury Department. (There are specific provisions under OFAC that permit participation in organized sporting events, which last I heard sailing is.) Oh, and a Coast Guard Permit to Enter Cuban Waters, which requires the other two permits.
The Commerce Department just advised, permission denied. So much for the hopey changey stuff, as ex-Governor Caribou Barbie calls it. My own take is that the President’s plate is overloaded right now without having to worry about a very vocal exile community in an important State and congressional elections just around the corner.
So, the Regatta is off for this year. It would have been a really interesting event. We’ll keep trying. Sarasota Yacht Club canceled their race also. Any of you Canadians going to Cuba, please tell everyone we’ll miss ‘em, have a Cuba Libre for us, and we hope to see everyone next year. – BLOWHARD