For journalistic reasons I get press releases about property round the world which I usually glance at and delete in one fluid operation, but today I got one about the northern Spanish region of Cantabria, and the words "fierce local rowing competitions" just leapt off the page.
A quick Google and I discovered a rather wonderful boat called the trainera (pronounced try-nera), the traditional rowing boat of the Basque country.
The trainera gets its name from closely-woven nets called traina, used to catch anchovies and sardines. the working traineras of yesteryear were broader for greater carrying capacity and could also be sailed, but they were raced from at least 1859 when the first recorded regatta was held at Santander.
The introduction of the infernal combustion engine made traineras obsolete for fishing but racing continued, the boats evolving into a much slenderer shape for speed. New ones are high tech indeed, using carbon fibre and kevlar, but they still use a traditional single thole pin with the oar attached by a loop of rope called an estribo (known in Catalonia as an estrop and in Scotland as a humliband. I love these words).
The hulls are 12m long and carry a crew of 12 rowers in pairs plus a bowman (callled a proel) and cox (called the patron).
The stern is an interesting canoe shape. Apparently, turning the boat any sort of a sea is a very tricky operation, which I imagine may be because the stern would slice through an incoming wave and risk swamping the boat whereas the little transom on a Cornish pilot gig would lift the stern out of the water. Mind you, turning a gig away from the wind is not a risk-free operation either.
Another joy was discovering Pamela Cahill's lovely blog, from which I ruthlessly stole these pictures. An Irishwoman living in Santander, Pamela's club sounds like fun. She writes: "When it’s warm outside we go over to the Puntal sandbank and park up to have a swim. When it’s cold – it’s a hot coffee before we go – a fast row with our fleeces on – and a coffee again to warm up on dry land. The destination is determined by the wind and the weather rather than anything else. Some days we are adventurous and pack a picnic and head off for a few miles up river to the Rio Cubas. (When I say picnic, you should read banquet fit for a king.)"
Sounds just like Langstone Cutters. Who, incidentally, are rowing out for a Full English at the Marina Bar tomorrow first thing.
Pamela's blog is at http://pamelacahill.com/2014/06/21/trainera-rowing-santander-bay/. Scroll down for lots more pictures of traineras, and other local boats.