Half a century of the historic Discovery Race


In 1972, the Monte Real Yacht Club organized the most important ocean regatta of those held until then in terms of the number of participants. 48 ships from 35 clubs from 11 countries with some 500 people on board left Bermuda on June 29 for Baiona with the aim of replicating the navigation that 479 years earlier, in 1493, had been carried out by La Pinta de Pinzón on its return to Spain. to announce a new continent, which would be called America. Known as the Discovery Regatta, Discovery Race or BB (Bermuda-Baiona), some of the most prominent American businessmen of the time participated in it, people such as the press magnate Beaver Brook; and a single Spaniard, Alfredo Lagos from Vigo, who with his presence helped to silence the comments of the press that branded the Spanish sailors as not very adventurous for not being part of the crossing. Today, 50 years after that competition, the archives of the organizers (MRCYB, New York Yacht Club, Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and The Cruising Club of America) barely keep a few documents and photographs of its celebration but everyone remembers very well what was: one of the most important regattas in the history of navigation, with the highest number of participants to date.

It is a report by Rosana Calvo,
communication manager of the MRCYB


Pendants of the organizing clubs and route of the test (in red) and of the Pinta (blue)


“Battered the ship by the storms but not the hearts” . This is how the historical documents (and also the commemorative monolith erected in the fishing village of Baiona) describe the arrival, on March 1, 1493, of the Pinta caravel of Martín Alonso Pinzón to the Galician port with one of the most important news in history of mankind: the discovery of America.
479 years after that chapter, the Monte Real Club de Yates, one of the most outstanding clubs in Spain at that time, promoted the most important regatta of the time in his honor, a competition of more than 3,200 miles in which the participants would replicate the journey of the caravel across the Atlantic.

They called it, as it could not be otherwise, the Discovery Race, Discovery Race or BB (for Bermudas-Baiona), and in its organization they collaborated hand in hand with Monte Real, the New York Yacht Club, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and The Cruising Club of America.

It is difficult to attribute a paternity to the initial idea of the regatta. Many speak of Fernando Solano, who advanced in the sponsorship negotiations with Fraga and the organization with the clubs involved. Other names that appear in the records as main promoters are those of Richard B. Nye (chairman of the regatta committee), Hugh CE Masters (commodore and chairman of the committee of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club), and José María de Gamboa (chairman of the committee Spanish of the regatta).

They also promoted the celebration of the competition and the former mayor of Vigo, José Ramón Fontán, was part of the Spanish committee; one of the historical figures of sailing in Galicia, recently deceased, Fernando Massó; the patriarch of the Gándara, José de la Gándara; Jose Maria Padro; the Vigo industrialist Alfredo Lagos; the president of Monte Real until 1971, Alfredo Romero (who would be succeeded by Carlos Zulueta between 71 and 73); and the commodore of the Baionese club until 1971, Manuel Varela.

A regatta simmering for a decade

It was a regatta that was simmering for nothing more and nothing less than 10 years, since 1962, when people began to talk about its celebration; until 1972 when it was finally played. In between, the project was formally presented to the then Spanish Minister of Information and Tourism, Manuel Fraga Iribarne, who would end up approving its patronage; it was exposed to the American clubs that would finally be involved in the event together with the Monte Real (the New York Yacht Club and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club); and in 1969 the first official meeting with the Spanish Sailing Federation was held.

In 1970, two years before its celebration, there was already a propaganda brochure for the regatta, for which, initially, the name “The Race of Discovery for La Pinta Trophy TransAtlantic” was proposed, which would eventually be simplified to ” The Discovery Race” . In it all the details of the competition were explained. It would be a test of about 3,000 miles of route that would be carried out with the only condition that a minimum of 15 boats register for it.

The most important and massive regatta of the time

Participation forecasts, not very high at the beginning, ended up exceeding all expectations and the Discovery Regatta finally had a total of 57 registered (of which 48 ended up starting), becoming the most important regatta held to date. date, with the highest number of participants of all time.


Manuscript with data from some of the test participants


Among the boats entered, the majority between 40 and 60 feet (between 12 and 18 meters), the smallest was the French Penélope III, owned by Alain Maupas Trinidad, with a length of 40 feet / 12 meters; and Patrick E. Haggerty’s Beayondan, at 81 feet long / 24.6 meters, the largest.

As a curiosity, it should be noted that there were sailboats, such as the 43-foot / 13-meter New World, by North American Phillip Davies, which was built specifically for the regatta; and that in the test, which was attended by important American businessmen, the second Baron Beaverbrook, son of the well-known British press magnate William Maxwell Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook), founder of newspapers such as the Daily Express or the Sunday Express, also participated.


Alfredo Lagos (left) with Jim Pugh at the 1972 Discovery Regatta (Courtesy of the Lagos family)


Alfredo Lagos, the only Spaniard on board

Among all those registered there was only one Spaniard: the renowned industrialist from Vigo and experienced sailor Alfredo Lagos, son of the founder and director for more than 50 years of Astilleros Lagos, one of the most prestigious companies worldwide for its work in the construction and restoration of classic wooden boats.

With his presence as a crew member aboard the Dora, Lagos helped to silence the comments of the press of the time, which branded the Spanish sailors as “not very adventurous” for not wanting to participate in the regatta (or for not daring, as they even came say some, for “risk and fear” ).


Illustration of the Discovery Regatta with sailboats and caravels


A regatta marked by the weather

The Discovery Regatta was set to start on June 28, 1972 from the historic Gulf of Las Flechas (named for the arrows launched by members of the Ciguayos tribe against the Spanish in what is considered the first incident against the European invasion in America), just as the Pinta had done on January 16, 1493, but for technical reasons they ended up setting sail a day later from the port of Hamilton.


Bermuda before departure (Photo courtesy of the Lagos family)


Ahead, the 500 participants aboard 48 boats from 35 clubs from 11 countries, had a journey of 3,200 nautical miles / 5,926 kilometers (according to the official route), although everyone expected it to be more (about 4,000 / 7,408 km) per the winds and currents that would influence their journey. And the truth is that the weather ended up affecting, and a lot, the test.

En route from New York to Bermuda for the start of the race, some boats were hit by a typhoon, forcing four of them to abandon the competition and delaying the start for a day so that the rest could make some repairs. Later, once the journey had begun, the poor state of the sea made navigation difficult. And a few days later, more problems. There were several days of calm that would cause a considerable delay in the completion of the test.


The Nieto Antúnez fishing nautical school produced a brochure on meteorological factors


The Discovery Regatta was the first international competition that forced the crews to give their situation every day, something that, in addition to generating security, facilitated the tasks of the regatta committee to control the fleet and the work of the press of the time to narrate the evolution of the test. But what initially worked smoothly soon went awry. The participants stopped complying with the requirement because they also provided information to their rivals and the test was carried out practically in its entirety, with few exceptions, without real and continuous monitoring of the sailboats.

It is known, from the data provided in the early days, that the sailboats took three different navigation routes. Some opted for the shortest and most direct route, others went north in search of more favorable winds and the rest sailed south. But when they really began to distance themselves from each other, the calm ones arrived and the crews were unable to establish important advantages, practically all remaining grouped in a platoon while the lack of wind lasted.

Four days into the test, the radiograms sent to New York announced Tom Clark’s Buccaneer (New Zealand) in the lead. On the island of Flores (Azores), the only record set on the regatta’s transatlantic route (850 miles / 1,574 km from the finish line), Charisma captained by Jessie Phillips (Dayton, Ohio) was first, followed by Carina of Richard S. Nye and the Jubilee III, of the United States Naval Academy, captained by Commander Howard Randall.

In mid-July, a Canadair CL-215 seaplane from the Search and Rescue Service arrived in Vigo to carry out its first exploration operation within a radius of action of some 200 miles / 370 km. Baiona, but the results were negative. On a second outing he managed to locate one of the participants, the Solution, 6 miles / 11 km from A Guarda, but the crew had lowered sails and headed for the port of Vigo, implying that they had withdrawn from the competition. Somewhat further away, a group of fishing boats sighted, off the Berlengas Islands (north of Lisbon), the bulk of the crews.

The Blackfin, first. The Carina, winner.

Although the Discovery Regatta boats were scheduled to arrive in Baiona on July 14, it was not until July 18, at 12:15 when the Blackfin (US-flagged, sail number 8910, 73 feet long / 22 , 25m and 16 adventurers on board), led by Kenneth W. DeMeuse, crossed the finish line, an imaginary line that left the Prince’s Tower (where some of the snipe boys and cruisers like the Fontán brothers stood guard , Quico Arbones, Humberto Cervera and others) at 180º magnetic. With the exception of the calm one that was found at the exit of Bermuda, the sailboat sailed practically the rest of the route without problems, taking advantage of a wind channel. He did it alone, investing a total of 453 hours, and upon arrival, the 15 crew members threw their captain overboard to celebrate the victory.


The Blackfin, designed by Bill Tripp for Ken DeMeuse of San Francisco


DeMeuse, exhausted and with his hair messed up from the dip, called his country to say that he had arrived, ordered a cubalibre with lots of ice and attended to the media. He commented that the regatta “was not as difficult as it was long”, he explained that it became complicated at times when crossing with very strong winds or with no wind, but that both the crew and the boat ( “which is good and fast” , he assured) they worked very well.


News published in La Voz De Galicia on July 19, 1972


Hours later, around eight in the afternoon, the second ship, the Jubilee III, of the United States Naval Academy, a 22.25-meter sailboat and the number 1800 on its sails, arrived on the old continent. It was manned by 17 people, skippered by Commander Howard Randall and, as had happened to the Blackfin, it also played against the basses of Carallones.

On July 21, three days after the first boats had crossed the finish line, there were still sailboats to finish the journey and among them were some of those that could be proclaimed absolute winners (due to the time compensation system that would be applied for level out the differences between large and small boats). The last yacht to arrive, the Tanatara, did so on the 22nd, and it was then that the final classification of the competition was revealed.


Alfredo Lagos after the arrival of the Discovery Regatta in 1972 (Photo courtesy of the Lagos Family)


The winner of the 1972 Bermuda-Bayonne Discovery Regatta was the Class B Carina, skippered by Richard “Dick” S. Nye, in 391 hours, 52 minutes and 39 seconds. They were followed in the table by Prim (Gibbons Neff Jr.), from class B, with 344 hours, 44 minutes, 19 seconds; and the Aura (Wallace Stenhouse), also in class B, with 395 hours, 27 minutes, 19 seconds. The Blackfin, the first to arrive in the waters of Baiona on the 18th, was finally in 42nd place in the general classification.

Richard S. Nye (1904-1988) found his love of the sea late and knew little of sailing when he bought the Carina in 1945, but he soon began sailing and ended up competing in long-distance regattas, which became in his passion. He participated in a large number of them and came to win 7 transatlantic races, including the Bermuda Baiona, in which he won with the first of his three Carinas.

The skipper attributed (he always did) the success in this regatta and many others he won to the good work of his crew, made up of his son Richard B. Nye, as first officer, and other members of his family and close friends.

Those who knew him say that he did not sail to win, but because he was truly passionate about the sea. To posterity he passed his phrase: “Okay, boys, you can let the ship sink!” , pronounced after finishing the Fasnet Race of 1957 in a Carina badly damaged by the hard competition.


Richard S. Nye – Patron of the Carina


His victory in the Discovery Regatta had a great worldwide echo and in the final broadcast of the event, everyone agreed on the great success that the event had brought.

The Discovery Regatta, much more than a regatta

In a meeting with journalists, the president of the Monte Real Yacht Club and vice president of the Spanish committee in charge of organizing the arrival, Carlos Zulueta, highlighted the four most significant aspects of the regatta: economic, tourist, historical and sporting.

The competition, sponsored by the Ministry of Information and Tourism (understanding that it would serve to promote tourism at the highest level and offer the Rías Gallegas a high-ranking international sporting competition), had become the one with the greatest participation up to that time and accommodation reservations made in Baiona had repercussions on hoteliers with a figure that exceeded one million pesetas. Restaurants, taxi drivers and other businesses also made cash during the Americans’ stay in the fishing village.

Alfredo Lagos, the only Spaniard in the competition, complained, once it was over, about the little attention the national press and television had devoted to it. blamed “a hidden force that tries to minimize everything in Galicia, which takes us back to times before the Catholic Monarchs. You already know -Lagos said in a special report for the magazine Pesca y Náutica- that when a drop of water falls in Estaca de Bares, although we have an ideal day in Baiona, the phrase is “It rains in Galicia”. For many Galicia is very far away, the roads are very bad, there are many cows and the women carry the load on their heads. Those who only think this, it is much better not to come”.


José Ramón Fontán handing out souvenirs to the Apollo on the pontoons of the Monte Real Yacht Club


The truth is that everyone welcomed the crews with open arms and the sailors were able to enjoy the culture, landscape and gastronomy of Galicia for several days. In Vigo, in the gardens of the Pazo Quiñones de León, a dinner was organized for them, enlivened by folk groups. In Baiona, another dinner and a big dance.

They also attended the famous Mougás gigs and ate grilled sardines, empanada and octopus in a mountain refuge. And at the end, many of them took part in a cruise along the Galician estuaries from Baiona to Fisterra, sailing through the most touristic points of coastal Galicia and taking a bus trip to Santiago de Compostela.


In the rally through the Rías Baixas after the Discovery Regatta


Postmarks, brochures, commemorative plates, flags… recall one of the most important regattas in the history of navigation. A regatta that served for several clubs on both sides of the Atlantic to strengthen ties and promote what ended up being the most massive nautical competition organized to date.


Postmarks, information brochures and commemorative plates of the Discovery Regatta


Half a century after its celebration, at the Monte Real Club de Yates de Baiona, the seed of the competition, they remember it as something historic, as one of those events worthy of having gone down in the history of world sailing along with other milestones of the club as the challenge to the America’s Sailing Cup.

And the same what “The noble town of Baiona, an ancient Celtic hedgehog, had the honor of being the first to announce, to the astonishment of the world, the miracle of the discovery of the Americas”, the Monte Real Club de Yates had the honor of being the first to organize a regatta in his honor, the most important of the time and one of those that will always remain in the memory.

It is a report by Rosana Calvo,
communication manager of the MRCYB



Boats of the Discovery Regatta at Monte Real Yacht Club – Tony Román File Photo
Jubilee III with seaplane arriving in Baiona – Discovery Regatta 1972 – Photo Archive Tony Román
The Dora IV back to America after the Discovery Regatta – Photo Archive Tony Román
The Buccaneer, the Etoile and other ships after their arrival in Baiona – Photo Archive Tony Román
The Dora IV in which Alfredo Lagos sailed in the Discovery Regatta in 1972 (Photo courtesy of the Lagos family)

FEATURE: Women with full sail astern



In this 2021, after more than 40 years of competition, the Galician A Two Championship , held at the beginning of the month, had its first Galician champions. For the first time in the history of the trophy , women were able to opt for a specific title for them, a distinction that was requested from the Royal Galician Sailing Federation by the Monte Real Club de Yates within the framework of its Women’s Sailing project. It is an initiative that, through different proposals, seeks to end the inequalities that girls and women have suffered in the world of sailing in particular and the nautical world in general. Some inequalities and injustices that go back centuries…

Not long before the Revolution there was a royal ordinance in France that prevented women from embarking on Crown ships. As in many other sectors of society, in the nautical world women were considered to be less intelligent and capable beings than men, and having one on board supposed -according to what they said- a clear ballast for expeditions. There were even those who, relying on an ancient seafaring superstition, claimed that women brought bad luck to ships, which is why they had to stay on land.

Luckily, already at that time there were those who did not want to accept these inequalities and dared to break the rules, even running the risk of being discovered and punished. Disguised as a man, the French botanist Jeanne Baret embarked, in 1767, on one of the ships that, under the command of Louis Antoine de Bougainville, would form the first Gallic expedition to circumnavigate the planet. Baret thus became the first woman to go around the world through its oceans, also bringing with her a collection of more than 6,000 species of plants (which are now kept in the National Museum of Natural History in Paris), which earned him the congratulations of King Louis XVI himself.

Photograph by Jeanne Baret and illustration of the French botanist dressed as a man

We will never know how many women have had to go to sea dressed as men over the centuries or how they managed to fool the sailors on board during the long months that the expeditions lasted, but the truth is that there were and that the Most of them do not appear in the history books.

Doodle that Google dedicated to the French botanist Jeanne Baret

Among those great women who have not received the recognition they deserve is the Galician Isabel Barreto de Castro . Born in Pontevedra around the year 1567, she was a pioneer in world navigation when she became the first admiral of the Spanish Navy. In 1595 she assumed command of the expedition that left for the Solomon Islands but, despite having a chronicler on board (the Portuguese Pedro Fernández de Quirós), little or almost nothing is known about the great chapter that this woman wrote in the era of the discoveries.

Isabel Barreto de Castro, the first woman to hold the title of admiral in the history of Spanish navigation

These are just two examples of the many that have gone virtually unnoticed in the history of navigation, in which the domain has been and continues to be clearly male. We had to wait until the 20th century to begin to see women occupying prominent positions on ships. The Russian Anna Ivanovna Shchetinina became in 1935, at the age of 27, the first female captain of the merchant navy.

Anna Ivanovna Shchetinina, the first female captain of the merchant navy

In Spain, it was not until after the 1978 Constitution (which established equality before the law for men and women, without gender discrimination) that women were able to enroll, for the first time, in the nautical careers of the higher schools of the Civil Navy.

The Asturian Ángeles Rodríguez was the first student in 1979 and graduated as the first officer of the Merchant Navy in 1984. The Canarian Mercedes Marrero was the first captain in 1992, Idoia Ibáñez the first commanding captain, María Cardona the first engineer officer and Macarena Gil , the first woman to work as a port pilot, a profession in which until 2015 -basically until the day before yesterday-, only men worked.

The fact that in Spain women were not allowed access to nautical training until 1979 caused many of them to join the labor market very late and this is one of the causes, added to many others also related to discrimination ( such as the belief that women are less physically capable or prepared for the danger of the activity), that their presence in the maritime sector is much lower than that of men.

Despite being fully involved in the 21st century and all the advances experienced in recent decades, women are still a minority and They barely reach 2 percent of the almost one and a half million sailors that exist throughout the world , according to data from the International Labor Organization. They are not only few, but also rarely (they do not even reach 1 percent) occupy positions of high hierarchical rank.

The sea has remained for centuries linked to the figure of the man, who went out to fish while the woman stayed on land waiting, as a housewife or as a redeira, fishmonger, canner, marketer… in professions that were practiced outside of the sea (and had a much lower prestige), although they were closely linked to it.

In the most playful and sporty section, the one related to the sport of sailing, the balance also falls sharply towards the masculine side. Currently, the number of federated athletes in Spain exceeds 17,000, of which almost 14,000 are men, with the female presence reduced to just 3,500 athletes. They are barely 21 percent of the total , and the figure falls below 15 percent if we count those who participate in official regattas.

36 sailors from Spain and Portugal compete each year in the Monte Real Ladies Cup – Photo Lalo R Villar

Although it is true that important steps have been taken towards equality in the sport of sailing, the truth is that, as was the case in the maritime sector, there are still very few women who have obtained worldwide recognition for their feats . Of most of them, only those really interested in the subject will know how to recognize their names and their achievements.

Cover of the first edition of Alone with the sea by Naomi James

Women like the New Zealander Naomi James , the first who, in 1977, sailed around the world, solo and non-stop, also beating all speed records; or Dee Caffari, that 2006 did the same thing but in reverse, from east to west, along the considered “wrong path”, against the prevailing winds and currents on the globe; and that in 2009, after winning the Vendée Globe (the solo round-the-world sailing without stops or assistance), she became the first woman who, alone and propelled by the wind, hugged the planet in both directions.

Dee Caffari celebrating victory at the Vendée Globe in 2009

Women like Tracy Edwards who, at just 23 years old, had to dodge the ridicule of all those who laughed at her for dreaming of an all-female team in the Whitbread Round the World Race (sailing around the world), in which managed to participate in 1989.

Tracy Edwards aboard the Maiden in which she made history

He fulfilled his dream aboard the Maiden. She did not win, but she became the first woman to receive the trophy for the best sailor of the year and managed to make 12 women the focus of the world nautical scene for months.

Her decision and her courage made it possible to build a door that would open up to four more times, thanks to four teams that took to the sea to show that women had a lot to say around the world. Tracy Edwards’ Maiden was the first all-female boat in what is now known as The Ocean Race, and was followed by Nance Frank and Dawn Riley’s Heineken (US Women’s Challenge) in 1993, Christine Guillou’s EF Education in 1997, Lisa McDonald’s Amer Sports Too in 2001; and Sam Davies’ Team SCA in 2014.

Since the first edition of the round the world race in 1973 there have been teams -few- made up solely of women, and women -increasingly- forming part of teams, the most notable case being that of Carolinjn Brouwer and Marie Riou , the first to proclaim themselves champions of a Sailing Tour of the World aboard the Dongfeng in 2018.

And so, although with ups and downs, the evolution of the presence of women in the world of sailing has not stopped there. Without going any further, in 2020 they participated in the Vendée Globe , the most demanding regatta in ocean sailing, 6 women, a record that had never been set before in this challenge. They were the English Samantha Davies, Miranda Merron and Pip Hare; the French Clarisse Crémer and Alexia Barrier, and the Franco-German Isabelle Joschke.

The progress in terms of equality is evident but the work is not – far from it – complete in the world of sailing. Proof of this are the multiple initiatives that, especially in recent years, have been launched through federations, clubs and teams. Women’s leagues, women-only crews, training and specialization activities designed especially for them… what is sought is to give women a greater role in a sector that has historically relegated them to a secondary position .

The Ladies Cup is a 100 percent female competition – Photo Lalo R Villar

The Women’s Sailing project of the Monte Real Club de Yates de Baiona is also part of this struggle, thanks to which an entirely female team was formed to participate in the main regattas of the Galician Rías Baixas, the Royal Galician Sailing Federation was able to create a specific prize for women in the Galician Two-handed Championship, sailing activities were organized specifically for women, will be held the 25th anniversary of the Ladies Cup and several more initiatives are expected to be launched in 2021.

From Monte Real we believe that the woman-sea binomial continues to need support and encouragement, that the female presence in the world of sailing needs and deserves to continue making its way, and that this will only be achieved through everyone’s commitment to promoting the sport egalitarian. The sails are already hoisted, all that remains is to fill them with wind.

It is a report by Rosana Calvo, head of communication at the MRCYB


REPORT: Half a century of Optimist in Galicia



· Five decades after having organized a regional Optimist competition for the first time in Galicia, the Monte Real Club de Yates celebrates this February in Baiona a new edition of the Galician Championship of the class

· On board the “Canario” and the “Tortuga” the brothers José and Javier de la Gándara together with Santiago Campos were the winners of that first edition of the competition held in the bay of Baiona on August 22 and 23, 1970

· In the Optimists brought first from France, then from Barcelona and finally built in the Ferramentas and in Lagos for the Sailing Schools of La Foz and the MRCYB, many current sailors learned to sail

· Although the materials have evolved over time, the philosophy with which the Optimist was created remains intact and remains a simple boat that allows the little ones to enjoy the sea and sailing


Group of Optimist in the bay of Baiona in 1970 – Photo from the archive of Javier de la Gándara


At the end of this month, the Monte Real Club de Yates de Baiona will commemorate the half century of life of the Optimist class in Galicia by holding a new edition of the Galician Championship that the club itself hosted for the first time in 1970.

On board the “Canario” and the “Tortuga”, the brothers José and Javier de la Gándara were the winners (first and second respectively) of that first edition, which was held on August 22 and 23, 1970 under the name of “ I Regional Optimist Regattas – Galician Championship”.

17 young sailors from the Sailing School of La Foz, the Real Club Náutico de Sanxenxo, the Real Club Náutico de Vigo, the Club Náutico de Panxón and Monte Real itself met during those two summer days in the bay of Baiona to compete several tests in a triangular field of Olympic route.

Javier de la Gándara and his Turtle preparing for the I Galician Optimist Championship – Archive photo Javier de la Gándara

After the Gándara brothers, third place on the podium of that first Optimist championship went to “Anduriña IV”, manned by Santiago Campos; Pablo Vasconcellos was fourth aboard the “Bayona II”; and “Don Ramón”, by Ramón Alonso, from RCN Vigo, signed the fifth position.
A special prize was then also awarded to the youngest sailor, which went to Pablito Pereiro for “demonstrating -according to the chronicles of the time- great skill handling his mini boat to perfection”.

With the celebration of the first Galician Optimist Championship, the Monte Real Club de Yates gave, at the beginning of the 70s, the great impulse for the consolidation of a class that arrived in Galicia some years before the hand of Pepe Gándara , the father of the historical Javier de la Gándara.

Gándara learned about this new type of boat in the American magazine “Popular Mechanics Magazine” (distributed in Spain under the name “Mecánica Popular”), in which some simple plans were published with which, in principle, anyone with some tools And with a bit of skill, you could make your own Optimist out of wood.

Training of the first Optimists in the Bay of Baiona – Photo from the archive of Tomás R. de Robles

After seeing them already built in Barcelona, Gándara decided to bring them to Galicia. The first Optimist who sailed in Galician waters in the year 68, he called “Don Andrés”, in honor of his young son. In 1969 there were already 15 units of these new sailboats, known as the “Ferramentas”, because they were built by a carpenter from Ladeira known by that name, with sails of nylon manufactured in an awning company in Vigo. They were boats with which, during the first years, they only sailed in the summer months. Barely a year later, with the Optimists already established as a small fleet at the Monte Real Club de Yates, the First Galician Optimist Championship was held.

Press clipping of the First Optimist Championship of Galicia in 1970

The press at that time congratulated the Baionese club for “contributing to creating numerous young skippers who in the future will constitute the crews of the numerous cruise ships that the sports units of the Vigo estuary have”, it said verbatim. So it was. Because those children are today some of the outstanding sailors who sail in the Galician estuaries.

Both the Spanish Sailing Federation and the Galician Sailing Federation of the time, chaired by José Ramón Fontán, helped consolidate the class in Galicia by subsidizing the purchase of numerous units. Some boats that went from the 3,000 pesetas (about 18 euros) of the first “Ferramentas” to the 8,000 pesetas (about 48 euros) that were paid for those of higher quality and the 10,000 pesetas (60 euros) that they cost at the beginning of the 70s

In the autumn of 1971, only one year after the celebration of the first Optimist Galician championship, nearly thirty units participated in the class competitions in Baiona, and it did not take much longer for the optimist to exceed 60. In Galicia there were around 200 optimists (currently there are about 400, of which about 120 participate in official competitions). Among the young sailors of those early years were José, Ángel and Javier de la Gándara, Pablo Vasconcellos, Jaime Varela, Alberto Torné, Rodrigo Andrade, César Casqueiro, Fernando Yáñez, Genoveva Pereiro, Ignacio Retolaza, Alfonso Zulueta and Piluca Presa, among others. Many.

Manuel Pereiro, Javier de la Gándara, Ramón Alonso, Pablo Vasconcellos, Jose Antonio Marquez and Jaime Varela – Archive photo Javier de la Gándara

The Spanish Optimists were built in Barcelona (La Industrial Velera Marsal), in Palma de Mallorca (the Copino and Darder shipyards), in Torrejón de Ardoz (Spanish Taylor) and here in Galicia, in the prestigious Lagos de Bouzas Shipyard (Vigo), from which a large part of the units that sailed from the year 70 left. They were Optimist that were made in the image and likeness of the first boats of this type born in Clearwater (Florida).

There, in 1947, a group of children “haggled” through the streets of Clearwater with small boxes of soap and a candle that they made themselves. The mayor of the city decided to ban these races in the streets, so that they would not bother people, but he met with a boat designer, Clark Mills, and asked him to turn the soap boxes into a boat for children as soon as possible. cheap possible.

And that is how the Optimist was born, the first gaff sailing boat and a single crew member that over time became increasingly famous, both nationally and internationally. In 1954 “the puddle jumped” and the first ones in Europe began to be built, specifically in Denmark; in 1962 the Optimist Class Racing Association was born in England; and soon after the European Optimist Association was formed. Finally, in 1995 the Optimist was accepted as an international class.

The first Optimists were made of wood – Photo from the archive of Tomás R. de Robles

Although the materials with which they are built have evolved over time, the truth is that both the shape of the Optimist and its philosophy remain intact. It was born as a simple boat that would allow children to enjoy the sea and sailing and, more than half a century later, that purpose has not changed.

Celebrating this idea and the five decades since the first Optimist Championship held in Galicia in 1970 is the aim of the Galician Optimist Championship – Baitra Trophy that will be held at the Monte Real Club de Yates at the end of February.

(Report: Rosana Calvo, head of communication at the MRCYB / Photos: Archive of the MRCYB and provided by Javier de la Gándara, César Casqueiro and Tomás R. de Robles / Documents: Astilleros Lagos / Press clippings: Archive of Javier de la Gándara and newspaper library of Faro de Vigo)


The Turtle and the Canary of the Gándara and the Eolo de Casqueiro – Photo from the archive of Cesar Casqueiro
Optimist Team (October 1971)- Photo from the archive of Cesar Casqueiro
Some of the first Optimists that sailed in Baiona 50 years ago – Photo archive MRCYB
In the foreground the Turtle by Javier de la Gándara – Photo from the archive of Tomás R. de Robles
Pablo Vasconcellos aboard The Scotsman, one of the first Optimists in Galicia – Photo archive MRCYB

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