Comodoro Rasco and Old Man: Appreciating Tradition

If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s a deep appreciation for traditions we used to take for granted. For me, the biggest change last year was the long strange sailing- and travel-free winter of 2021. So I was especially grateful to start off 2022 with one of my favorite Snipe events, Miami’s Comodoro Rasco—though it too has evolved since the heady “before-times” of 2020.  

Manuel Rasco was Commodore of the Miramar Yacht Club in Havana, Cuba, in the 1950s; in 1969, Gonzalo “Old Man” Diaz started a regatta on Biscayne Bay so that Rasco’s “effort and dedication to Snipes will never be forgotten.” I only discovered this regatta’s magic a decade or so ago, when Old Man (then in his eighties) was still a competitor as well as the primary organizer—and, when needed, my personal trailer assistant. 

No matter what happened on the race course, what gave the Rasco its distinctive vibe was the lively Saturday evening dinner at Old Man and Carmen’s house. Sailors, race committee, and family members gathered together to share opinions about a wide variety of topics—with Snipe tactics, tuning, and transport the default small talk. It’s hard to imagine enjoying such a close inside dining experience now, but from 2012-2020 it was the only place I wanted to be on that particular Saturday night. 

Over dessert, Old Man narrated a collection of Diaz home movies—with a great deal of audience participation, especially from repeat guests. We see Castro marching into Havana for the first time (1959), along streets lined with cheering locals. An eight year old Augie Diaz marches with a toy gun. Next is historic sailing footage: a quick view of Comodoro Rasco himself, standing on the foredeck of his impressive committee boat; Old Man and his brother Saul sailing a Snipe with no spreaders and a wood mast; and the annual audience favorite, Carmen kissing the Old Man after he won the Cuban Snipe Nationals. 

Here’s a video taken in 2015 of that year’s performance; your humble narrator is one of the many hecklers. As I wrote in 2018, we hear “stories from Old Man about sportsmanship, sailing well, and finishing second (to Paul Elvstrom) at the 1959 Snipe Worlds.” (Read the 2018 regatta report)

Missing from that 2015 version is my favorite story from other years: how Old Man’s own “hero,” Dr. Inclan, insisted that Old Man drop out of a race after tacking too close to someone. Each year, as his audience grew younger, this story’s lesson became more and more insistent: we are lucky to be able to do penalty turns, rather than having to withdraw from a race when we break a rule. So let’s all do our circles!

After missing the Rasco last year, I felt very fortunate to go sailing again on Biscayne Bay—despite a no-race Saturday (too much wind) and Sunday’s iguanas-dropping-out-of-trees cold. In thirty-two years of Snipe sailing, it was the first Snipe regatta I’d ever sailed out of Coconut Grove Sailing Club without the Old Man around the boat park—and my first Rasco that didn’t include a Saturday night gathering at the Diaz house, or the legendary singing of “La Bomba Va” after the awards. But both he and Carmen were definitely “there” in spirit, reminding us of what’s really important: to travel, to do circles, and best of all, to gather together and share memories with other Snipe sailors. 

Old Man’s lessons have taught me a lot about Snipe sailing, but they’ve also proved something we should all take to heart: if we treat others with respect and follow the rules, we will be remembered long after we’re no longer sailing and traveling. So thanks to the Old Man for starting this special regatta, and to the Miami fleet for keeping the Rasco tradition going—even as it too evolves to fit a changing world. 

4 Replies to “Comodoro Rasco and Old Man: Appreciating Tradition”

  1. Wonderful piece, Carol, that brought a smile to my face. That electric smile of the Old Man’s has a way of doing that. Thanks for it.

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