As Roger Klüh whips his "Apache Star" through the bay of Havana, cheers erupt on the coastal promenade of the Cuban capital. Thousands of people applaud the man from Düsseldorf, who has just broken an almost 60-year-old record for the trip from the USA to Cuba with his racing boat. With a chain of flowers around his neck, he is celebrated in the harbor by his family, friends and enthusiastic Cubans.
Only 160 kilometers separate the USA and Cuba. But the capitalist superpower and the socialist Caribbean island are worlds apart. Although the arch-enemies have been cautiously drawing closer for several months, the ideological rifts between Washington and Havana are still deep.
"I am glad that the United States is reaching out to Cuba," Klüh told Deutsche Presse-Agentur on Saturday after arriving in Havana. "This has enabled me to make my dream come true."
Three years of preparation
Klüh had been preparing for his record attempt in the Straits of Florida for more than three years. Time and again, however, the U.S. authorities rejected his application for permission to sail from Key West to Cuba. Only the recent policy of détente made the project possible. "It's a heroic gesture to have overcome so much adversity," says the head of the Hemingway Nautical Club in Cuba, José Miguel Díaz.
The son of the multi-millionaire Düsseldorf-based multi-service provider Josef Klüh needs just one hour and 45 minutes for the trip. The previous record was six hours and 23 minutes and dates back to 1958.
For his hellish ride, the former professional ice hockey player relies on state-of-the-art technology. His 15-meter-long racing boat has 2700 horsepower and is capable of speeds of up to 90 knots (167 kilometers per hour). In 1993 and 1994, the "Apache Star" won the world championships in Key West. Most recently, the boat was extensively modernized.
Minor problems on the way to the record
Nevertheless, the record-breaking flight does not go off without a hitch. At times, the four-man team loses contact with the escort helicopter. In addition, the men had to repair an engine failure en route. Nevertheless, nothing could take the record away from Klüh.
However, the sporting success is not the decisive factor for Klüh on this day. "I have more important things to do than look at the clock," he says. He also wants to connect the two coasts in a figurative sense.
On Dec. 17, U.S. President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raúl Castro had announced plans to normalize relations between their countries after more than 50 years of ice. A few days ago, embassies of the two countries reopened in Washington and Havana.
However, there is still a lot of potential for conflict. The issue of human rights violations in Cuba is among the sticking points that continue to stand between Havana and Washington. Significant parts of the U.S. trade embargo against the Caribbean island also persist. "This record marks the beginning of a new stage and a new opportunity for hope and optimism," says yacht club boss Díaz.
Source: RP Online