Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism (Mintur), involved in the promotion of recreational sailing on the island, reported that the 66th Ernest Hemingway Billfishing Tournament will take place from June 13 to 28 and that large numbers of American fishermen are expected.
Not only is this an important event for 2016, it also has many new features, in line with Cuba’s renewed focus on nautical tourism.
As part of efforts to develop the country’s tourist industry, a Cuban delegation attended the Miami International Boat Show for the first time this year from February 11 to 15, where Cuba was able to display its achievements and potential in the field of recreational sailing.
This participation led to the first regatta from Miami to Havana, adding to the list of new initiatives driven by the restoration of diplomatic relations between the US and the Caribbean island. Fifty-eight boats participated in the regatta in Florida, organized by the Coral Reef Yacht Club and the Southern Ocean Racing Conference.
The upcoming Billfishing Tournament may see the largest American participation in recent years. In 1999, 50 US teams attended, while 1978 and 1979 saw the highest recorded numbers of attendees.
Hemingway and Cuban Seas One cannot separate the Gulf Stream from Ernest Hemingway’s Nobel Literature Prize. Since the author of A Farewell to Arms first came to Havana in 1928 on the steamboat Orita, the sea and its currents began to impress the young reporter.
In 1932 he sailed to Cuba with Joe Russell, his friend and rum runner during the Prohibition years in the United States, and he realized that living in Cuba was a possibility.
This was reaffirmed in 1939 when he bought Finca Vigia in Santa Maria del Rosario (San Francisco de Paula) on the outskirts of Havana. There he lived for more than 20 years, emotionally connected to the country and its people.
It was difficult for him to explain “the cool morning breeze blowing even on the hottest days of summer over the hills surrounding Havana,” (from: Chronicle ‘The Big Blue River’ in Holiday, July 1949.) But above all he would say “the main reason for living in Cuba is the “Gran Azul River”, three-quarters to a mile deep and sixty to eighty miles wide,” referring to the Gulf.
The “river” inspired both his literary works and his fishing hobby, chasing ocean fish with whom he had decisive and philosophical fights that drove him to write The Old Man and the Sea, a novel that played a great part in his winning the Nobel Literature Prize 1954.
Pieces featured in Esquire Magazine highlight this practice, among them Spearfishing from the Morro Fort and In the Blue Waters. In 1934 Hemingway bought a yacht which he named Pilar and carefully studied the Mexico Gulf Stream, where the fishing was good. He anchored the boat in Havana Bay and from 1938 in Cojimar, a fishing village east of Havana where his first mate Gregorio Fuentes lived until the age of 105.
The Gulf Stream is a very peculiar seaway crossing the Florida Straits and reaching a width of 80 kilometers and a variable depth of about 600-1000 meters, according to experts.
The writer was so involved with this place that the central region of this current is known as ‘La Milla Hemingway’ – the Hemingway mile – where the best billfish catches were made. This is precisely the location for the 2016 Tournament in its 66th edition, for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world.