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Sarasota Yacht Club Hosts May 21 Forum on Plans for 2010 Havana Regatta.

Sailing Competition Could Help Improve U.S.-Cuba Relations

SARASOTA, Fla. -- With U.S.-Cuba relations warming up this spring, the Sarasota Yacht Club (SYC) will host a May 21 forum on plans for the 2010 Havana Regatta and other steps to rebuild nautical ties between the two nations.

Dr. Timothy F. Ashby, an attorney with Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP in Miami and national expert on Cuban-American trade issues, will discuss potential changes in U.S. policies toward Cuba, and how the SYC's support for binational sailing competitions, education and marina development programs could lead to stronger Gulf Coast ties with Cuba.

"We expect widespread interest in our forum in light of the new climate in Washington," said SYC Commodore Bill Chastain. "Allowing U.S. sailing teams to participate in the 2010 Havana Regatta would be a natural step toward renewing more normal U.S.-Cuba relationship."

Jose Diaz Escrich, vice president of the Cuban Sailing Federation and Commodore of the Hemingway International Yacht Club in Havana, recently invited SYC to compete in the annual Regatta Castillo del Morro. "Ongoing discussions will hopefully lead to a cooperative agreement between the youth sailing programs of Havana and Sarasota," said Chastain, "which will be supported by the creation of an offshore regatta from Sarasota to Havana."

Responding to those invitations, SYC Fleet Captain Don Payzant said, "We see our participation in these inter-related events as an important step in renewing friendships between our nation and Cuba. It is our hope that our government will also recognize the value of this rich cultural exchange."

As the forum's keynote speaker, Dr. Ashby will examine the international significance of SYC's regatta plans. "Private-sector organizations like the SYC can build important bridges and focus private-sector attention on the need to restore relations with Cuba."

Dr. Ashby is providing pro bono assistance to the SYC, regarding regulations set by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). "President Obama has announced a comprehensive review of U.S. relations with Cuba," Dr. Ashby said. "We have already seen some small steps toward relaxing restrictions for U.S. residents traveling to Cuba, and that incremental approach is likely to continue."

Dr. Ashby added that Congress is also moving forward with a series of bills that would unfreeze U.S. relations with Cuba. "I think we'll see a lifting of the travel ban for all Americans in the near future," he said. That would make it easier for yachtsmen to visit Cuba without the current need for a license.

In March, Jay Meyer, SYC regatta chairman, filed an application with OFAC for permission to travel to Cuba to participate in the Regatta Castillo del Morro, scheduled for June 12, 2009. This application has not yet been approved. Now, the SYC's focus is directed to conducting a world-class offshore regatta that will raise funds for youth sailing programs in Havana and Sarasota, encouraging young people to respect each others' values and differences. "The Sarasota Yacht Club is committed to strict compliance with all governmental regulations," said Meyer. "We are making excellent progress toward conducting an excellent regatta of some 100 boats next May, 2010."

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Publication:Business Wire
Date:May 21, 2009
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