And we’re off to the races……

At the end of February the St. Petersburg Yacht Club hosted the annual St. Petersburg-Habana race starting at the Yacht Club and finishing in Havana, Cuba. The race takes its name from the Spanish spelling of Havana using a b to honor the pivotal role of the Havana Yacht Club in the race’s inception. The race was originated when George S. (Gidge) Gandy sailed his 36 foot ketch Cynosure to Havana and created a partnership with Commodore Rafael Posso of the Havana Yacht Club in 1929. Gandy, the builder of the first transbay bridge that bears his name, was spurred on by the effects of the Great Depression and Prohibition in Florida as Havana was a 400 year old port city where the rum flowed freely and the nightlife was unsurpassed. The first race took place on March 30, 1930 leaving from The Pier in St. Petersburg.

The race continued annually with the exception of three years during World War II until political changes occurred in Cuba in 1958 and the race to Cuba was discontinued. A race did continue from St. Petersburg until the end of the 1980s but instead of Havana the racers travelled to Fort Lauderdale. The lure of offshore racing never abated and in 2017 the Habana was resurrected to contribute to the normalization of relationships with our Cuban neighbors. Today the b is still used in recognition of the Cuban government’s cooperation in restoring the event. So raise a glass of rum runner in honor of the renewed excitement about this historical and history-making race with American captains taking wins in all categories.

In the beginning of March, St. Petersburg will host the annual Firestone Grand Prix which is the season opener of the Verizon Indy Car series. The race began in St. Petersburg in 1985 and has undergone several iterations throughout the years due to the use of multiple sites, different types of cars, bankruptcy, promotor disputes, and even a driver death in 1987. In 2003, a revised waterfront circuit of the original was created combining the downtown streets and two runways at the Albert Whitted Airport. Indy Cars became involved after a hiatus beginning in the 2005 revival. This track is the first non-oval course for the Indy Cars Series to be included in the Indy Racing League. Firestone took over at the title sponsor in 2014. Have fun, be safe, and think about earplugs for a couple of days if you are nearby the racing track. See below for race track designation and for downtown public transportation.

FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX RACE TRACK

GPT

DOWNTOWN LOOPER AND SHUTTLE STOPS

Looper

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