The Feb. 15 deadline the Sarasota Yacht Club Charitable Foundation set for obtaining approval from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to travel in May to Cuba for the Sarasota-Havana Regatta has passed. But the 135 boat owners who have submitted entry forms are optimistic that plans for the race, which is limited to 100 boats, will proceed.
According to Sarasota Yacht Club spokeswoman Allison Moore, snowstorms have virtually shut down governmental offices in Washington, D.C., causing a delay in the decision. Moore said that the foundation expects a decision within two weeks.
“We’re very optimistic, and we think the answer is imminent,” Moore said. “We’re feeling very hopeful.”
Sarasota Yacht Club officials have been preparing for the regatta since last March, when Hemingway International Yacht Club in Havana invited U.S. boaters to participate in the Regatta Castillo del Morro, a 15-mile race from Marina Hemingway to the port of Havana and back. When Hemingway International Yacht Club Commodore and Cuban Sailing Federation Vice President Jose Escrich invited Sarasota Yacht Club to a host a Florida Gulf Coast-Cuba race, the clubs began to discuss the possibility of racing on their way to Cuba as well.
According to Sarasota Yacht Club Commodore Kay Goodman, approval for the race will be given on a humanitarian basis.
“We’re looking at what Cuban children may need to pursue sailing,” Goodman said.
If the foundation receives OFAC approval, it will still need to obtain all additional governmental approvals by March 31. If the yacht-club foundation doesn’t receive approval by those deadlines, the race will be rescheduled for May 2011.
Currently, the yacht-club foundation is preparing for the five-day race with 500 people participating.
Participants would be forbidden from spending money in Cuba by U.S. laws and would need to carry approximately $44,000 worth of food, beverages and supplies.
Escrich visited Sarasota Yacht Club Wednesday, Feb. 10, for a dinner reception. Speaking through a translator, he expressed optimism about reviving the Sarasota-Havana race, which dates back to the 1930s but was discontinued in 1959 when Cuba’s leadership changed.
“This year is the 80th anniversary of the first sailing regatta from Florida to Havana,” Escrich said through a translator. “The same seas that separate us are the same seas that unite us.”
Contact Robin Hartill at email@example.com
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