Snipe USA

From the Archives: VAMOS A LA REGATA!

From the Archives: VAMOS A LA REGATA!
January 28
14:54 2014

VAMOS A LA REGATA!

By Merrill Varn and Old Man Diaz

From the Winter 2008 US Snipe Sailor, Pages 12-13

A brief history of the Miramar Yacht Club, Comodoro Rasco, and his namesake regatta.

The Miramar Yacht Club, in Havana, Cuba, was formed in the early 1920s by a group of social rebels from the Havana Yacht Club. The original clubhouse, completed in 1924, was almost as elaborate as the parent club, but the leadership remained determined to admit as members “only people of known honesty and decency”. They were proud that even “some presidents of the republic were denied membership”, and proud that the vast Cuban middle class flocked to their doors. The Snipe was the perfect boat for the club, and by the mid 1940s, it was the most popular small dinghy.

Of course, there were wealthy members of the club – among them Manolo Rasco, who, between 1951 and 1956, annually donated a brand new fully-outfitted Snipe to the club as a trophy for the winner of a fl eet-building Championship Regatta. Rasco was born in 1897 in Sagua la Grande, a port city on the northern coast of Cuba. He earned his fortune in the sugar industry at Larrondo and Co. He was also secretary of the powerful Instituto Cubano de Estabilizacion de Azucar (ICEA, the Cuban Sugar Stabilization Institute), the official regulatory body of what was then Cuba’s major source of income. Rasco was an avid yachtsman in his free time, and competed at the international level in the Star Class and in blue water regattas like St. Petersburg to Havana. When Castro nationalized the sugar industry following the Cuban revolution, Rasco fled to the United States, settling in St. Petersburg where he died in 1963 at the age of 66. His obituary was printed in the New York Times.

At the Miramar Yacht Club Snipe Championships, there were ten crews who rotated among the ten club boats. The low point skipper was awarded the donated boat with the caveat that he remain active in the fleet. One year two boats were awarded, because the previous year’s winner returned his boat to the club. It was also during this time that the old clubhouse was demolished and a thoroughly modern structure was built to replace it. The boatyard was completed in 1956 and sported not only the usual docks, ramps, and storage, but also its own boatbuilding and repair facilities.

Following the Cuban Revolution, when much of the country’s private property was nationalized, the Miramar Yacht Club’s doors were closed to members and open only to high-ranking military officers. Tarasa Davis, who crewed in 1991 Pan American Games in Havana, snuck over the Miramar Yacht Club sea wall accompanied by willing guides (the Cuban 470 skipper, Alfredo, and Cuban National Team boat mechanic, Roberto). She said it was still for military brass – the only exception being the old Snipe boatyard, which was used by the Cuban national team during the games. Even that was to be relocated to Marina Hemmingway shortly thereafter.

Many of Miramar’s former members were among the first to fl ee to the United States. Among those who settled in Miami was Paco Calvet, the 1954 winner of a Rasco Snipe. In 1970, shortly after Rasco’s death, Calvet and others founded the Comodoro Rasco Regatta to honor Manolo Rasco’s contributions to the sport of sailing and to the Snipe Class in particular. For the past several decades, the Diaz family has run the late February regatta.

Next year will be the 40th Annual Comodoro Rasco Regatta (see Regatta Schedule, page 22). Two glorious days of racing when Biscayne Bay is at its best. After putting boats away on Saturday, all participants will adjourn to the Diaz home for Carmen’s fantastic lasagna dinner and an evening well spent with friends and families. The awards ceremony on Sunday is steeped in the sailing traditions of old Cuba. Everyone sings La Bomba (in Spanish) while the winners drink a cider champagne cocktail from the perpetual trophy. If you are one of the top three finishers you will take home a handsome silver plate – it too will be engraved in Spanish! Everyone will take home memories of the best sailing against the best competitors in the country.

 

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