A Coruña the point of departure for the Spanish Armada and home to the legend of Maria Pita who’s bravery helped to repel an English incursion led by Sir Francis Drake. And lest we forget, the scene of Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore’s (1761-1809) heroic evacuation of troops during the Peninsular war.
The ships were arriving after their cruise in company from Cadiz, with Cuauhtemoc and Danmark already alongside, we watched as Guayas performed her entrance in great style for the large crowd that turned out to greet her. Her crew aloft on the yards, traditional South American music playing throughout the ship until she was safely moored alongside.
Schooner Zawisza Czarny (Poland) Barque Europa (Netherlands) and Alexander von Humboldt ll (Germany) were soon to follow. A Galician sea mist had moved in behind them appearing to close off the port to the outside world. In the harbour a crowd had gathered to watch a radio controlled helicopter take off from under the bow of Cuauhtemoc, it flew down towards the old fort and back shooting video. The operator stood with his back to the events as he monitored its progress through a cunning device built into a pair of dark glasses. Impressed and tempted to slap him on the back as I took my leave, I somehow managed to refrain. It flew back in under the gaze of the old Aztec Emperor. I think he would have approved.
The following day there was a party aboard Guayas their crew smart in their white uniforms and Europa hosted Tapas evenings. A dolphin surfaced at the stern of Dar Mlodziezy and disappeared before surfacing again with a partner, they swam to the centre of the harbour and vanished reappearing on the day of the undocking for the parade of sail, an omen, perhaps a portent of good luck.
The first day had been a long one. The gate that led from the ships to the commercial port where I had earlier parked, now guarded by the police, had left me with a fair hike around the perimeter to retrieve my vehicle from opposite the fish market. The guard was certain there was another gate in about 500 metres. He was right, but a large dog stood sentry on the other side, barking aggressively with one eye on the gatehouse as if reinforcements were imminent. I plucked up the courage to enter and pushed through the turnstile and past him, the barking continued but nobody came. I drove out of the city and camped on the beach at Pontaseco, the annual display by the Perseid Meteors (pieces of the comet Swift-Tuttle) due that evening. A shooting star passed so low it was like a firework in the night sky, soon after the cloud came down like a curtain on the scene and the weather was set for a change.
The day of the parade of sail arrived along with the forecast of strong to gale force winds across the bay of Biscay, the temperature had dropped, the rain set in and the race was postponed for 24 hours. The committee met in the early hours of the morning to consider the long term forecast and further delays, but a decision was taken to proceed and the boats were given a 24 hour window, during which they would make their own arrangements for departure.
Despite the bad weather most boats took part in the parade of sail giving us some excellent sailing shots, in particular the smaller Class C and D’s, Moosk, Black Diamond, John Laing and GiGi. Of the Class A & B’s, Europa, Danmark, Mir, Dar Mlodziesy, Guayas, Zawisza Czarny, Maybe and Jolie Brise all set lots of sail.
For the race start the media boats were cancelled but armed with an invitation to join the STI race team I travelled up to Ferrol the birthplace of General Franco. In the commercial harbour there I boarded the Spanish coastguard vessel, Sebastián de Ocampo, she would provide our transport and take up position on one end of the start line. We departed around 1700 hours the vessel making its way seaward with great ease, the skipper sat at his consol our passage smooth, the wake in the view aft a straight line. As we made our way out of the port we met the Atlantic swell at a height of around 4 or 5 metres.
The start line was set at 43.27N 008.32W – Time 1900 hours, As heavy showers rolled in a handful of ‘Class A’ ships competed for the line honors, Alexander von Humboldt ll was the first to cross. We watched as the ships rolled heavily in the swell, to distant to get a decent shot. The winds had eased considerably but only a few of the class B,C and D’s had started, the others remained in port taking advantage of the 24 hour window.
As heavy showers and mist began to encroach on the land an exciting passage to Dublin was on the cards and when the last vessel crossed the line we turned around and headed back to Ferrol, leaving the Irish naval vessel LE Aoife (P22) to escort the ships to Dublin.
A Coruna 2012.