A vessel carrying New Zealand’s massive America’s Cup sailboat from San Diego to New York was seized by a Cuban gunboat and taken into port Tuesday.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard in Miami, the Cubans said the 156-foot offshore oil support ship Tampa Seahorse, flying an American flag, was inside Cuba’s claimed 12-mile territorial waters off the southeast end of the island.
The ship’s master disputed the charge but, before being escorted into the port of Porto Cayo Moa, gave his position to the Coast Guard as 20 degrees, 50 minutes north, 74 degrees, 45 minutes west.
Lt. Wayne Ball said from the Miami Coast Guard base: “We plotted that position, and the Cubans may have a case. It’s right at 12 miles.”
Apparently the vessel offered no resistance, and the Cubans showed no excessive force and did not attempt to board it.
Ball said the State Department is pursuing the case through its Cuban Interests Section. The United States has no formal diplomatic relations with Cuba.
The Tampa Seahorse was carrying no cargo other than the sailboat, its detached 21-foot-deep keel, two 160-foot masts and two small chase boats.
In previous incidents, Ball said, the Coast Guard has been able to contact Cuban border guards to mitigate matters.
“But this particular incident, the State Department wanted to handle it,” Ball said. “We’re monitoring it but haven’t been asked to assist.”
The 133-foot sloop, which lost its challenge against the Stars & Stripes catamaran in two lopsided races last month, left San Diego Sept. 25 to participate in a seven-city tour of the East Coast organized by the New Zealand government to promote tourism and trade. It was scheduled to arrive in New York sometime next weekend.