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Image by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen

During this trip Mr. Lima decided to promote the tourism destination of the easterly part of the Yucatan Peninsula where Isla Mujeres and Cozumel are located. At that time the United States Government and the Cuban Government had ended their political relations and sailors were not willing to come to Isla Mujeres because of its proximity to Cuba. Mr. Lima, the Federal Government and the Government of Quintana Roo had everything ready to host the Regata but no sailboats were willing to participate.

Mr. Jose de Jesus Lima through his good friend Admiral Diego Mujica Naranjo, liaison between the Mexican Navy and the Minister of Tourism, convinced the commander of the Pensacola Navy Base to authorize that two sailboats of the Officer’s Club would participate in the first Regata al Sol, which started in Biloxi, Gulfport and Pensacola. One sailboat, the Tail Wind had Naval Officials from Pensacola as crew members and the other one, Trade Winds was flagged Mexican and re-named Isla Mujeres for the race The Isla Mujeres with crew members of Merida, Isla Mujeres and Mexican Navy officials won the first Regata al Sol in 1965. In 1966, Southern Yacht Club, with Commodore Dick Spangenberg and the Club de Yates Isla Mujeres, with the Lima Family, initiated the annual offshore race from Biloxi to Isla Mujeres.


The race was a tremendous success, drawing boats from Texas to Florida. In 1969 the race took a short detour to Cozumel and became a biennial regatta. The race continued to be very popular all along the Gulf Coast and in 1986 the starting line moved from Gulfport to Pensacola Bay, when Temple Brown and Bubby Hartson were the Southern Yacht Club commodores, and the finish line returned to a point off the north end of Isla Mujeres.


The current record for the 555 nautical mile race is held by Stephen Murray’s Andrews 70’ Decision in a time of 59:03:54 (hh:mm:ss) set in 2002. 4 In 2018 light winds once again hampered the fleet with only 11 of the 18 starters crossing the finish line. Fastest elapsed time went to Ryan Finn’s proa Jzerro in a time of 68 ½ hours, winning the multihull class ahead of Mike Patterson’s tri Belafonte from PYC. In the Racing Division PYC’s Paul & Rachael Gillette’s Beneteau 44.7 Atlantic Union II took corrected time honors beating line honors winner SYC’s Patrick Waring on the J/1-2-1 Hot Pursuit by a little over 2 hours.


Cruising Division was won by PYC’s Bob Kriegel’s non-spinnaker Acadia, a Pearson 424. Cruising Spinnaker Division was won by Perry Hockaday from Mobile on his Hunter 20 Legend Rhumb Line which also won Cruising Spin B while Cruising Spin A and second in the division was won by SYC’s Gene Simon on the Beneteau 50 Skylark.


Jose de Jesus Lima passed away in 2009 and a trophy was dedicated in his honor to be awarded for the first time in 2010 to honor sportsmanship and seamanship. Winning the award in 2018 was Lisa Johnson and crew on Cloud 9.1 for their exceptional seamanship after being dismasted in a violent storm. As we all know, 2020 and 2021 were trying years for just about everyone as COVID-19 tore across the globe. Many of the problems COVID-19 presented in the United States in 2020 made their way to Mexico in 2021.


Travel restrictions, lockdowns, among many other issues prevented the 2020 Regata al Sol from occurring. Once the 2020 Regata al Sol was officially called off, the committee started the tireless process of ensuring the next race would make up for the missed year. We will once again plan for Racing and Cruising Divisions, with Cruising divided into Spinnaker and Non-Spinnaker classes. If we have enough entries we will divide those into more than one class. In recognition of trends in boat equipment the regatta allows stored power (power winches) at no penalty and Cruising Division boats may also use auto-pilot.


We will also offer an ORRez division which uses a VPP-based handicapping system which takes into account the various wind conditions and points of sail on the racecourse. Furthermore the Regata al Sol will serve as the first leg of a newly established Gulf Coast ORRez Championship along with the Gulfport-Pensacola race and the LPRC.


All boats will again be required to have transponders that will track each boat’s progress by satellite on a dedicated Regata al Sol webpage.


This will allow the shore contingencies to follow the race, which will provide greater shore side excitement and peace of mind. In addition, the transponders will allow owners who rely on others to deliver the boat back to the US to track their vessel on its journey home.


The Villista Society (pronounced vee-yee-stah) honors Sailors and Race Committee with 10 or more Regata al Sol’s under their keels. Thirty-two members have been inducted and we hope that more will be included with their participation in the Regata al Sol in 2022.


The name derives from Pancho Villa’s army and honors our good friend Enrique Lima. All sailors accepted into membership will be honored during the trophy presentation. An application to join the society is enclosed. Isla Mujeres is a beautiful tropical island with pristine sand beaches, palm trees, and crystal clear water. Don’t look for high-rise developments, as this is a very laid back, quaint island.

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