INTERVIEW WITH JOSÉ LUIS ÁLVAREZ by PEDRO SARDINA. Published in the supplement ABC DE LA NAUTICA of ABC on January 31, 2019
The historic Monte Real Yacht Club of Baiona has had, since its birth in 1965, six presidents. Between 1965 and 1973 it was Ricardo Valeiras, Alfredo Romero and Carlos Zulueta. In 1973 the stage of Rafael Olmedo began, which would last for 42 years, until his death in 2015. That same year, and after a brief presidency of Gabriel Baltar, who held the position for a few months, José Luis Álvarez was the winner in the elections held at the club, who became the sixth president of the Monte Real Club de Yates.
How did your presidency at Monte Real Club de Yates come about?
Well, when Don Rafael Olmedo passed away, who had presided over the club for more than 40 years, some members proposed it to me. An honor for me, and an important personal challenge. I have always loved this club and after thinking about it in my head, I believed that I could do good things for it. And in those we are, working hard with a great team, so that Monte Real continues to be what its partners and everyone who visits us expects of it.
How did you find the club when you arrived?
Well. There are always things to improve. There were when I arrived and surely there will be when I leave. In a club with as much activity as ours, it is difficult not to have something written down on the to-do list. There is always something to do, something to promote, something to fix… and there needs to be, because that shows that you have ambition and a desire to improve. But everything was heading in the right direction and I think we are still on the right track. Moving forward, always moving forward, and working very hard. In this sense we are ambitious.
Sportingly speaking, at what level is Monte Real now?
To the highest. We continue to be one of the most important clubs in Spain, and not only because of our history and our reputation, which is something that transcends beyond our borders, but above all because we are capable of continuing to program, year after year, a large number of competitions. Few clubs program as much and at as many levels as we do.
What happens to the Galician boats that do not leave the fjord to compete as they did before?
It is something that we should ask the owners, but I understand that it is basically because there are not as many resources as before. I am not only speaking economically, since the crisis situation has been improving in recent years, but to get professional crew, travel dates, logistics to move the boats… it is complicated. There is also the issue that in Galicia we have ideal conditions to haggle and compete. When you can enjoy sailing so much “at home”, and there are difficulties in going out, it is normal for many to choose to stay.
We have spent many years with the Prince of Asturias Trophy at a standstill, what measures should be put in place to move it forward?
Stopped? I honestly don’t think it’s stopped. We maintain very good participation figures, the support of numerous administrations and companies, and satisfaction surveys reveal that shipowners and sailors are delighted with the competition. It is evident, clearly, that it is not like in the most buoyant years, when the economy was in another situation and the sponsorships were different; but in the current situation, the Principe de Asturias Trophy is at a very good level, and continues to be one of the three most important regattas in Spain.
Shouldn’t a trophy like the Prince of Asturias have more regattas one day?
It is something that has not been valued for various reasons. One, the tradition. At the Monte Real Club de Yates we like to maintain traditions and the Príncipe de Asturias was created in 1986 with a three-day regatta format that continues to function well. How do we know? Well, because of what the participants tell us. At the end of the trophy, we launch satisfaction questionnaires, and the responses of the owners show us that they agree with the competition model. That is another reason, something that we take into account, since the opinion of the participants is very important to us.
Don’t you think that the participation of so many classes distorts the trophy?
Not at all. I think it only distorts the fact of communicating the final results, because there is no clear winner and it is a bit difficult to understand that in a competition there can be 7 or 8 winners. But it is like that, and that is also the essence of a trophy like this, which is open to the participation of many classes, different types of boats, sailors… we always say that the Prince of Asturias Trophy is a “sailing festival ” and everyone should be able to participate in it.
Why don’t the Mediterranean boats go up to compete in the Príncipe de Asturias?
Well, I understand that it is a bit because of the same thing that happens with Galician shipowners who do not go to the Mediterranean to compete. Because it is complicated. There are not so many resources and in the end one, if he does not see himself with the possibility of obtaining a title or a prominent position that the whole operation deserves, then he chooses to stay at home to haggle, or to go to a place where he can move the ship does not cause a great disturbance. For example, a large number of Portuguese crews come to the club to compete. Why? Well, because they are close, or relatively close, and moving the boats is not that complicated, neither in terms of budget nor logistics. I wish it were easier and the owners would be encouraged to come to the Prince. We are sure that they would love it and repeat it. It is a great competition.
Wouldn’t a meeting between the presidents of Palma, Valencia and Baiona be a good idea to try to organize a “triple crown” with the three best regattas in Spain?
Yes, very good indeed. For our part, of course, we are willing to participate in that meeting and do everything in our power to make this “triple crown” a reality.
The three great Galician regattas have been in crisis for many years, is it not because the three great Galician clubs have isolated themselves from each other?
I don’t think they are in crisis, really. Both the Rías de Vigo and the Príncipe de Baiona and the Rey Juan Carlos de Sanxenxo Trophy continue to be regattas with a very high level of participation. And they all imply, in a way, a relationship between the three clubs. We collaborate with each other and even organize other regattas together. I think we all work to get the best for our clubs, but we get along well, the relationship is certainly good.
After challenging for the Copa América three times, has the world forgotten about Baiona?
Monte Real is still very present in world sailing as one of the reference clubs. We maintain a relationship with the most important clubs in the world and not long ago many of them attended the Galicia Atlantic Destination, which we organized to talk about international nautical tourism. In addition, every year many clubs choose Monte Real for their events, competitions or simply This summer, for example, we have activities with such important associations as the World Cruising Club, the Irish Cruising Club or the Royal Cruising Club.
Is Olympic sailing the unfinished business of Monte Real?
The truth is that it has never been part of the Monte Real project, but we have supported specific projects, and perhaps we will do so again in the future.
For when a Women’s Cruise League?
Well, at the moment it is something that we do not have in mind, but promoting women’s sailing is something that we always keep in mind, from the beginning through our Sailing School, to the Ladies Cup that we celebrate within the Prince of Asturias Trophy.
And a Spanish Adapted Sailing Championship?
For 4 consecutive years, until 2016, we organized the 2.4mR Iberian Championship, which was part of the Iberdrola Paralympic Sailing Circuit, and was one of the most important adapted sailing competitions in Spain, but since Iberdrola withdrew its support has reorganized. Waiting for an opportunity to arise and we can get involved in a specific trophy, we continue working for adapted sailing through our Sailing School, with courses, activities and initiatives… and through some of our competitions, in which someone participates. adapted sailing boat
What international events are planned for this year?
Well, we have several international events on the calendar, both regattas, rallies and events, all of them in summer. At the beginning of July, from the 3rd to the 13th, the Pornic-Baiona-La Rochelle is held, for which the registration period is now open. Also in mid-July, we will celebrate the Irish Cruising Club nautical meeting at our facilities, and we will receive the visit of a fleet of more than 20 Royal Cruising Club boats. And the ARC Portugal Rally, which celebrates 25 years of history this year, will make a stop in Baiona at the beginning of June.
Would it be possible to internationalize the Terras Gauda National Sailing Awards?
would fit And the truth is that the possibility of including among the prizes a special mention to an international sailor, team or project has been considered. It would be, yes, a special mention, since the awards will continue to be, and we are clear about that, both the sponsor Terras Gauda, and the club as organizer, “national” sailing awards. In Spain we have great sports projects and great athletes whose merits deserve to be recognised, and that has always been, and will continue to be our objective and that of these awards in the future. It is necessary to continue promoting sailing in Spain, and we believe that these awards are a very good way of doing so.
How is the season presented at the Baiona regatta course?
Well, very intense, as always. Except in August and December, which are months in which there is more social than sports activity, in the rest of the months we have competitions practically every 15 days. We start and end the year with our J80, winter and fall leagues; we continue with the classic winter and spring regattas for cruisers; we have a couple of dinghy sailing competitions with which we intend to continue promoting grassroots sailing in Galicia; and we organize again, one more year, the Galician Championship of Solitaires and Two. We also co-organize several international regattas, which I told you about earlier; and in July and September we have our main dishes: the Count of Gondomar Trophy and the Prince of Asturias Trophy. It’s going to be a busy year.