Billfishing Sixty-sixth International Ernest Hemingway Tournament
By: Roberto F. Campos, Photos: Abel Padrón Padilla, A.C. N.
Cuba is celebrating recreational boating, which was obvious this June at the Sixty-Sixth International Ernest Hemingway Billfishing Tournament. A traditional event, this year’s tournament became one of the most popular not only in the history of the competition itself but among international tournaments of its kind.
Some five hundred fishermen from around the world paid tribute to American novelist Ernest Hemingway, taking part in one of the oldest billfishing tournaments in the world. A resounding success, this edition hosted more than ninety boats of which eighty-seven came from the United States, the highest number of American boats ever to participate. The event founded by the writer in the 1950s is one of the most important of its kind, now further bolstered by the restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana since 2014.
With four days of fishing and an intermediate rest day that many used to fit in some sightseeing, this edition was described by organizers as the largest in its history.
Arranged by the Hemingway International Yacht Club, also known by the name of The Old Man and the Sea at the Marina, it takes place in waters off Havana, a city that is becoming ever more fashionable.
The competition’s main announcer Commodore José Miguel Diaz Escrich highlighted the importance of this year’s competition, in a year when sixteen joint recreational boating events with the United States are planned. The competition uses the Tag and Release method as per the approval of the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) based in the United States to which Cuba belongs. Also participating were teams from Lithuania, Canada, Argentina, Russia, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Spain, Italy, France and Cuba.
Experienced sportsmen also competed, such as two-time winner and Captain of the Aztec boat Erick Gamboa who considers it an honor to be part of such a event. Among others fishing in Cuban waters was Puerto Rican Roberto Rosado, two-time participant in the event, who called it wonderful. The Hemingway Tournament stands out among the oldest in the world along with Nova Scotia’s Tuna World Cup and Mexico’s Tarpon Tournament. The event backed by the IGFA is part of a global circuit to accumulate points.
This year there were more American participants despite the continuing limitations on free travel from the U.S. to Cuba. The tournament is a symbol of brotherhood between fishermen from the two countries.
In fact Ernest Hemingway symbolizes a kind of bond between Cubans and Americans; upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature (1954) he described himself in his own words as a Cuban sato—a Cuban mongrel.
The Cuban northwestern seacoast is great for billfishing including a part of the Mexico Gulf Stream nicknamed the Hemingway Mile.
The novelist studied it, wrote about it and gave it its name as he frequently and persistently went after these fish in this area. As part of the sixty-sixth tournament, the Hemingway International Yacht Club and Puerto Rico’s Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club signed a Friendship Agreement in the presence of the American writer’s grandchildren John and Patrick Hemingway, also fishermen, who have visited the island on several occasions.