Posts Tagged ‘rowing’

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We were at Club Nautique again last Saturday for their Muleta Regatta, but it turned out to be much more than that, it was a celebration of tradition.  This was a day of races in boats that worked this river for centuries, bringing goods from the sea up into the heart of Northern Spain. These are the traditional working costumes of the Sirgadoors, the men who pulled the Muletas up river.

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The Muletas are the original boats that worked the river.  They were moved along with oars made from  timber which have handles carved into one end and flats carved on the other.  If you look closely at the boats you will see there are posts on the gunwales these are what the oars are tied to so they can be rowed.

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We were treated to a demonstration of Muleta towing. As you can see this was hard work even with the Muleta being rowed, but men had to do it as in some places along the river the path was so narrow only men could walk. Their ancestors used Concha horns to let other river users know they were either towing up river or rowing down, there are places along the Ebre between the mountains where these horns must have echoed loud and clear for several kilometers.

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People often forget that for many many years the Rio Ebre was a major trading artery. If you take a look on every high point along it’s route you can find the ruins of Templer castles like the one at Miravet. Eventually the Templars became rich enough to tempt Popes and Kings to take it from them.  However, the people who actually generated this wealth were the Sirgadoors, who as they dragged the cargo boats up the Ebre against the fierce flow, paid taxes to these Knights for safe passage.

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It also used to flood quite regularly, but today the river has been tamed. Dams and weirs have been built with hydro and nuclear power stations along its banks.  Where it flows past Club Nautique there are quiet back eddies where the fishermen sit watching their lines waiting for the catfish or carp dreaming of the big one. On the bank Club Nautique sets out its tables and chairs so we can enjoy the summer and watch the young people training and making preparations for their regattas.


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We arrived to find the club a hive of activity, boats being made ready, people picking their tables whilst others were chatting to friends. looking up the road we could see people sitting on the river wall watching the events unfold. I managed to find a table at the top of the slope leading down to the hard, from here we could see everything which was perfect. As we looked around we could see there were chairs set out on the hard over looking the pontoon. These were ready for the arrival of the Carnival Prince and Princess, and the band which accompanied them. This band is made up of young people and they really can play.

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They arrived walking down the street wearing their traditional dress and followed by the band playing and took their places on the hard with the young band seated behind them. This was a relaxed event and everyone settled down to enjoy themselves.  The band played at the beginning of each race to send the boats on their way down river to the bridge where they turned then raced back again.

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Then we settled down to watch the races.  The boats set off from the club and had to row down to the bridge turn and row back against the flow.  They had a really hard job of it but everyone  enjoyed themselves.  Here are the start of the races and some of the boats.

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They ended the regatta with watermelons  being thrown into the river and the youngsters swimming for them.

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The ambulance actually had a customer he had hurt his wrist and all the police had to do was watch and enjoy, such a nice day.

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As always at this club people enjoy themselves. It is a club that is family orientated with activities for all ages.  There is a football area, a small swimming pool besides the sailing.  Looking after us all this weekend were these tired but happy people.

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Oh and this young man was still working after the event and yes that is a happy smile on his face, wonderful.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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I have written about this little sailing club on the river Ebro a couple of times. It is open during the summer holidays a time of year when I am more content as I can sit by the river with a glass or two watching boats and people enjoying themselves. When we drive into town via the river road we pass the club, which for most of the year it is shut –  football takes over. But from the middle of July I start watching the square in front of it to see when the awnings go up, this means the members are getting ready to open.  So this year although we have not spent much time there, I was really happy to go and watch the Time Trials last Saturday.

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This is Pep. He has been a member of the club for around 45 years and is a man who loves his sailing.   I was pleased to find a kindred spirit, and learnt that Pep is a Yacht Captain, I’m a Yacht Master so it was good to talk to someone about sea, boats, sailing and the river. Pep was telling me the Oxford and Cambridge boats used to come here to train for the Boat Race, then a member from one of the boats died in an accident so they stopped training here.

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This river may look calm and placid especially when one man and his dog go sailing, but like most rivers it can also be a dangerous place. There is a strong current with underwater boulders to catch the unwary plus it flows around 5-6 knots perhaps more. However, it is a great place to fish and mess around in boats.

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Pep is the helm in one of the boats plus he is also one of the organisers and this year his boat was the committee boat.

So to the race day. Instead of me waffling on about things I will show you the pictures. First the teams and club photo – including the photographer who was very good at getting this lot into the correct position”

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The visiting contestants were from  Amposta, Cambrills, Tortosa, St Jaume and Delta Ebre. Each boat had two or three teams which raced against the Club Nautiques boats.  As each one set off to row down river to the bridge, where they came from and their names were announced over the speaker system.  Once the first boat had reached the bridge turned and was heading back the second one left the start. Pep’s boat was the first to go with a time of minutes 6 seconds.  The junior boats did especially well as the lap back to the finish was against the flow of the river and these juniors are juniors but they finished 1 minuet behind the older rowers.

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As you can see these boats are not like the English rowing skulls that are used by the Boat Race. These are traditional boats and quite sturdy, with fixed seats but no rowlocks, these oars are fixed to a small pole on the gunwale.  The same conditions apply to both the girls and the boys which makes it a certainty that the rowers must be fit.  And take it from me they are, they can make these boats fly and the return journey is a hard pull against the river but they do not slacken their speed.

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Now these are the two ladies boats that tied for 1st place so they had to have a ‘row off’. This was a two circuit race round two buoys at a set distance from the starter buoy, one up river the other down river.  The boats get to the starting buoy facing in opposite directions and then set off. The red boat was fast and really put a lot of effort into their final, but Nautique was that little bit better and won.  Then in the best naval tradition they stood up and raised their oars in salute to the loosing boat, wonderful!

Now in amongst these young people is a dark haired young lady who whilst going out to practice one evening gave us all a rendition of O Sole Mio accompanied by the other girls in her boat, truly a happy crew.  So here are more photos of the visitors and people generally enjoying themselves.

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And these are the two young ladies who look after everyone when they visit the Club many thanks to them for doing a good job. Each year two or three young people are in charge of the bar and for the past three years we have experienced a clean, tidy, well run happy place to sit and enjoy the river.

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Thanks to Club Nautique for a wonderful afternoon.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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