One of the oldest fishing competitions in the world takes place in Cuba every year: the Ernest Hemingway Billfish Fishing Tournament, and the 63rd edition, held from May 20 to 25, 2013, was yet another opportunity for good fishing and a good time in Cuba.
This event has the distinction of having come into being when Hemingway was still alive and living in Cuba, where he maintained a home for more than 20 years. He had a particular fondness for a marina located west of Havana that was later named after him, and which is now the venue for the annual tournament: the Marina Hemingway.
In a very special turn of events, second place in this year's tournament was taken by the boat aboard which the editor of Cubaplus, Dominic Soave, sailed and competed.
At the end of the tournament, organizers announced next year's event: it is set for the same venue, and will be held from June 9 to 14, 2014.
Participating in this competition means being part of a time-honoured tradition, considering that its first edition took place on May 26, 1950, with 36 of the best sport yachts in the Cuban capital. In 1992, the Hemingway International Nautical Club of Cuba was founded, and it is now the organizer of the annual Hemingway tournament, along with the Cuban Ministry of Tourism, via its nautical and marina business group, Marlin S.A.
In this year's tournament, 45 anglers competed in eight teams from an equal number of countries— Italy, France, Canada, United States, Mexico, Colombia, South Africa and Cuba. Organizers highlighted their commitment to environmental conservation by using the method of tag and release for any catches.
The president of the International Game Fish Association, Rob Kramer of the United States, participated in this year's event. He said that Cuba has a very important role in this sporting activity, given its history and natural conditions. The IGFA has members from 125 countries, including Cuba, where the tradition of sport fishing had been well established for generations before the author of A Farewell to Arms sailed in these waters.
Kramer noted that Cubans are very conscientious about environmental protection and that their fishing traditions are known around the world, particularly because of Hemingway's journeys and adventures here, which led to the tournament's creation in 1950.
As part of this year's fun, a joint crew of U.S. and Cuban anglers demonstrated that despite the political and economic barriers between Washington and Havana, the peoples of both countries are always reaching out to each other. In this case they were the winning team: No. 4, aboard the Unclaimed.
The Unclaimed was followed by the Canadian and South African teams in second and third place. However, the high point of the event's success was the demonstration of friendship between the U.S. and Cuban peoples, organizers said.
It was especially significant that this team of anglers from both sides of the Strait represented Havana's Hemingway International Nautical Club. As their trophy, the winners received a beautiful painting with an ocean theme, donated by Jorge Yuvero Balbuena—painter, expert fisherman and captain of the boat.
During the activities, representatives of the Cuban Sport Fishing Federation, the Hemingway International Nautical Club and the tourist complex Residencial Marina Hemingway highlighted the importance of environmental conservation and protection of fish species.
First place was won by the U.S.-Cuban team aboard the Unclaimed (representing Havana's Hemingway International Nautical Club), which took home the Ernest Hemingway Grand Prize with three tag-and-release marlin catches. They also won the prize for the first marlin catch.
Second place was taken by the Canadian team, aboard the Costa Azul.
Third place was taken by South Africa aboard the Bon Tour La Vie.
The Cuban team, aboard the Doris, won the trophy for best Dorado catch.
Cuban music can be found in every aspect of tourism in Cuba, and that goes for fishing too, as participants found at the 63rd Ernest Hemingway Billfish Fishing Tournament.
The general conclusion of participants was that the music livened up all of the event's activities and added to the excitement. In fact, a band of young musicians created a song just for the tournament, playing it every day as the competitors' boats left and return from the Marina Hemingway dock—a first for this event, organizers said.
“Keep the Tradition Going” (“Sigue la tradición”) is the name of the song, and it was a real hit. It was composed by the band Onda Expansiva, which was founded 16 years ago, and has a repertory that includes a variety of genres, including rap, reggaeton, bachata, merengue, salsa and fusion. Their diversity is also reflected in their stage names: director/ singer “Mr. Silva,” “King Arthur” (El Rey Arturo), “Chicho Man,” “Mario the European” and DJ Franniel.
One line of “Sigue la tradición” goes: “Keep the tradition going left by Hemingway / start your journey firmly / because you could be the king,” a nice note of encouragement for participants to strive and win.
Music is a magical word in this country, with its rainbow of genres and rhythms based on the original styles of this island, like son and danzón, and their fusion with music from all over the world by talented musicians.