In 1964 the Past President of Mexico, Lic. Miguel Aleman Valdez, then President of National Tourist Council, called together yachting principals from the gulf coast of the U.S. to meet with himself and his longtime friend, Jose Jesus de Lima, Director of Sports. At this meeting, regattas were organized from Houston, New Orleans, Pensacola, St. Petersburg and Naples, Florida to destinations of Veracruz, Isla Mujeres, Progreso and Cozumel. Of these only four persist, the St. Petersburg to Isla Mujeres, the Pensacola to Isla Mujeres and the New Orleans to Isla Mujeres. The Regatta de Amigos is still being run every even year from Houston to Veracruz.
The first race of the series organized by P/C Tom Downs from the St. Petersburg Yacht Club and Rear Commodore Esteban Lima of the Isla Mujeres Yacht Club was the Regata Del Sol al Sol in 1969. The Commodores of each of the yacht clubs at this time were Jack Clark of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club and Lic.Vicente Erosa of the Isla Mujeres Yacht Club. It has been sailed each year since, and this 44th annual regatta will begin on Friday, April 27, 2012.
The hospitality of the Island of Isla Mujeres cannot be exceeded by any race destination. The Jose de Jesus Lima family has been instrumental in keeping this event a viable, fun regatta. The race is handicapped on the Performance Handicap Rating Formula for a distance of 500 nautical miles (now rated 456 KN) and is a navigator's race in that the course crosses three major current complexes.
A highlight of the event for many is the Regatta Amigos, the post race sail around the "Island of Women," the yachts overloaded with native youngsters having the time of their lives. Many of the children who raced many years ago are now leaders of the Island and all have many wonderful memories of this experience. Over recent years, because of this popularity, concerns with safety of all the participants, sailors and children alike, the island authorities have asked for limitations of the numbers and stipulations such as flotation devices for each person on board and to hold the event on the Isla Mujeres Bay.
A close second in popularity is the on-the-spot basketball tournament between the Isla Mujeres team and U.S. crewmembers.
Memories of the Mexican Race are legendary. Take the inaugural race in 1969 aboard George Dryden's Lita. Lew Crowe drew galley duty, which was bad enough, but the range and oven were directly under a leaky skylight. Crowe, nevertheless, dressed in foul weather gear from head to toe, somehow managed to turn out three meals a day. Dryden holds the participation record having sailed in all but one of the first 20 Mexican Races.
The 20th running of the Mexican Race in 1988 was a near disaster. The Friday start in light breezes gave nary a hint of the events to follow. A low-pressure system moved through the Gulf on Saturday, producing winds in excess of 50 mph and seas up to 20 feet. Late Wednesday, nine of the near-record fleet of'37 boats, were unaccounted for. Eight reported in by noon Thursday, most having dropped out of the race at Key West or the Dry Tortugas. Still missing was Shenanigan IV, a Tartan-33 skippered by Dr. Francis Traun, a retired physician in his early eighties from Ruskin, and two crewmembers. Friends and relatives had many anxious moments before the U.S. Coast Guard reported Shenanigan IV safe in Isla Mujeres at 2:30 a.m. Friday morning, eight days after starting the 456-mile race in St. Petersburg.
There have been many more exciting, and sometimes anxious times, during the regatta than those listed above, but with new innovations of all kinds of electronics, including the tracking system used today, helps the officials of the regatta keep a close eye on the competitors. Because of these improvements the Race Committee knows almost immediately if there is some type of problem. This event still remains very much a Corinthian type regatta in that the skippers and crews are held to a high standard of sportsmanship.
Many yachts have been repeat participants. Two Examples of this are the vessel "Madonna" with skipper, SPYC P/C Fred Deuel, at 25 years and Anthie, with skipper, George Alexiou, at 22 years.
In the 43 years of racing, the competitors look forward to the hospitality and relaxation of the Island community as opposed to the "high frequency" life of Cancun or Cozumel. This is indeed one of the few remaining family fun events in the yacht-racing world.
Revised ecp/gpp/elz 12/01/11
The Isla Mujeres Yacht Club was founded in 1965. It is the oldest yacht club in the Mexican Caribbean.