|Playmobil arriving at Isla Mujeres 500 nautical mile trip|
Sails neatly stowed, as the skipper prepared to berth the Playmobil at the docks, three efficient deck hands secured boat fenders to metal cleats, working quickly and smoothly. They have done this before – a time or two. Another sailboat had successfully completed the five hundred nautical-mile Regata del Sol al Sol race.
Forty-five years ago Past President of Mexico Miguel Aleman Valdez and his good friend Don Jose Jesus de Lima envisioned boosting tourism to the Caribbean side of Mexico by creating several sailing regattas.
|Don Esteban Lima Zuno - organizer|
They chose American cities of New Orleans, Pensacola, St. Petersburg and Naples, and Mexican locations of Veracruz, Isla Mujeres, Progresso, and Cozumel. Valdez and Lima lobbied Cuban President Fidel Castro to allow the American sailboats safe passage through Cuban territorial waters.
The Regata del Sol al Sol is said to be the longest consecutively run international regatta in sailing history.
The island contingent of the race committee, headed by Don Esteban Lima Zuno and his family members, are instrumental in keeping this regatta fun and lively. A number of the skippers have participated for upwards of twenty-five years. One of the committee members is always on hand to greet the arriving participants, and ensure their smooth easy entrance into Mexico.
|Smiling officials greeting arriving boats|
At the Ballyhoo docks smiling immigration and customs officials meet the captains, helping with the necessary paperwork, extending a warm island welcome.
It would seem that the only time there was a problem was in 2012 when the skippers were required to clear customs and immigration in Cancun.
|The winning score: 29 Amigos, 28 Gringos|
After dinner on Wednesday night we wandered over to the basketball courts to watch the annual match-up of our island team, the Amigos, versus the crewmembers’ the Gringos.
It’s a wild, crazy and fun-filled game. In the dying seconds of the game the Amigos squeaked by with another win: 29 to 28.
That makes forty-two wins for the Amigos, and only two wins the Gringos. High-five’s and laughter all around as the players congratulated each other, happily swapping sweaty t-shirts as souvenirs.
|Laughter and high-fives for another good game!|
But the real highlight for most of the participants is the children’s sailing event on Friday morning. Stuffed to capacity with island youngsters the boats circumnavigate Isla Mujeres. Squeals of laughter can be heard floating across the calm seas, creating indelible memories.
The Regata del Sol al Sol was created long before we came to the island, and will hopefully be sailing this course long after we are gone.
Lynda and Lawrie