Five 16-foot-long Hobie Cat sailboats depart Key West, Fla., Saturday, May 16, 2015, to begin a more than 90-mile race to Havana, Cuba. The Havana Challenge is believed to be the first U.S. government-sanctioned sailing race between Key West and Cuba in more than 50 years. - West-to-Cuba Sailing RaceBert Budde/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO
Forget about geopolitics: For sailors, the greatest aspect of improving U.S. relations with Cuba is the return to the Halcyon days of sailboat races from the mainland USA to this long-forbidden island nation. If this sounds like a pipedream, think again, as the three-part Havana Challenge unfolded from May 16-21 and brought a fleet of five Hobie 16s, supported by 14 chase and support vessels, from Key West, Florida to the Marina Hemingway in Cuba.
En route, the competitors saw sustained winds of 18-20 knots, with puffs to 25-plus knots, and seas of up to 12 feet. According to Weatherby, two boats were destroyed, while another one was rendered inoperable upon arriving in Cuba. Fortunately, everyone arrived safely and, with the help of the racers and some Cuban locals, the boats were repaired in time for the The Malecon.