Photo Credit: FRIED ELLIOTT /

Carlos de Cardenas, Profiles of Star Champions

Dr. Carlos de Cardenas (Starlights, June, 1969)
For several years Carlos de Cardenas was the top name in the Star Class, and during the middle 1950's the de Cardenas family created a sensation throughout the yachting world.

Carlos Jr. with Carlos de Cárdenas Sr. after winning the 1954 World's

Charlie, as he is known to his sailing friends everywhere, began his Star career in 1925 in his native Cuba at the ape of 21. His first important win as a skipper was the Bacardi Cup in 1931. In 1942 when he won the Midwinter Championship for the Cup of Cuba and a Silver Star, people said, "Fine, but what will he do against the experts when they come back after the war?" Charlie said nothing. Perhaps he thought, "Wait and see." George Elder may well have had Charlie in mind when he wrote, in Forty Years Among the Stars, "When the Cuban skipper loses he takes it with a smile and, if he wins, he modestly attributes it to a stroke of good luck."

De Cardenas was the silver medalist in the Torquay Olympics in 1948, which should have alerted the world to the even more spectacular events that were to come. He sailed in nearly all the World's Championships for a quarter of a century, 1937 to 1962. In 1954, in Portugal's heavy weather, he won the Gold Star against 34 entries with four firsts and a second, which he himself refers to as "I hope an unbeatable record." It certainly has never been approached since. Crewing with him (as also in Torquay) was his eldest son, Carlos, Jr.; and what was not remarked by many, in a very creditable fifth place, beaten only by world famous Knowles, Straulino and Lyon (and of course father and big brothers in Kurush), were two more de Cardenases - Alvaro skippering, with Jorge forward. The de Cardenas dynasty had arrived.

Next year at Havana Charlie defended successfully, Carlos, Jr., again crewing. But this time Jorge was the skipper of the runner up, only four points back. In fact son Jorge took two daily firsts and Dad none. It was the agreement between the brothers that Alvaro skippered one year, Jorge the next. 1955 was Jorge's year, in more ways than one. In between those two World's Championships he had won the North American Silver Star at Rye with brother Carlos crewing, in a fleet of 54, then the largest number of Stars ever to sail together in any championship.

In 1957 Alvaro won his Silver Star and the Bacardi Trophy as well, with Jorge crewing, in the last Midwinters to be sailed in Havana. Carlos, Sr., managed only ninth and third that time. During all those years the spacious and hospitable family home in Havana, in which prizes were accumulating by the hundreds was a high point in the visit of any itinerant Star sailor.

In 1960 Charlie and his spirited and handsome wife Louisa moved to Florida, where they have taken up residence near Miami and become United States citizens. The boys mostly live in Florida and Nassau.

Charlie served as the first International President of the I.S.C.Y.R.A., an office created with him in mind, from 1952 to 1960. After coming to the United States he raced for a few years with the Biscayne Bay Fleet, and now acts as chairman of the race committee of the Coral Reef Yacht Club. "Having retired from my law practice," he said recently, "I am generally available to help run races most anywhere: Caracas, Puerto Rico, Nassau Kiel, Copenhagen." He was consultant to the Admiral during the 1968 Olympics at Acapulco, where the Mexican Navy had 9 minesweepers, 25 Bertrams, and 2600 in personnel patrolling the courses. The photo shows him aboard the committee boat at the 1969 Bacardi Cup series. He has been Vice Commodore of the I.S.C.Y.R.A. for the past five years. Charlie and Louisa de Cardenas remain today two of the Star Class's most energetic and loyal enthusiasts.

carlos de cardenas