Wednesday’s City Commission meeting provided a good backdrop for a multi-faceted reunion. Powerboat racers Nigel Hook and Jay Johnson share a unique history with Havana’s Marina Hemingway Commodore Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich. Commodore Escrich was the one to welcome Hook and Johnson to Havana last summer when they set a new world record.
In August, throttle man Hook and driver Johnson broke the endurance speed record from Key West to Cuba. In a 48-foot Silverhook powerboat, Hook and Johnson traveled the 103 miles from Key West to Havana in one hour, 18 minutes and three seconds. The Silverhook Race Team set new records for travel both from Key West to Havana and from Havana to Key West.
Mayor Craig Cates presented commendations to both teammates.
“Nigel Hook, a champion offshore power boat racer for over 30 years, convened a top notch race team and showcased hard work, determination and the latest technology to accomplish setting the new world record,” he wrote in the commendation.
“Key West and Cuba share a captivating history,” Mayor Cates wrote, “and we share a connection by way of the sea with our island nation that makes this record extra special to the residents of Key West. We thank you for continuing to add to our rich history, and congratulate you on this notable accomplishment.”
For Mayor Cates, there was an added layer of reunion: he and Hook competed against one another in the 1980s when Mayor Cates raced boats in a stock class of offshore powerboat racing.
For the Commodore, who addressed the commission through an interpreter, it was a warm return to the island city. His first trip to Key West was in 1999. He said he felt emotional, remembering he had arrived in a city that so many Cuban people had helped to build. He, too, said our communities share a love of the sea.
“The same sea that keeps up apart, also brings us together,” said Escrich.