Traineras, history with a taste of the sea
Traineras, history with a taste of the sea
Without a doubt, one of the most well known and spectacular sporting competitions that we can experience on the Cantabrian coastline are the traineras (traditional fishing boat) regattas. Rowing boats from different municipalities that competing to see which one is the fastest.
As in other sports like football, basketball or rugby, this highly professionalized sports discipline has an entire network of teams, trainers, sponsors and captains. They work every day to ensure that their boat is the best.
The world of regattas continues to attract more and more support each year, passionate about the sport. Depending on the interest in the regatta, thousands of people move around following the clubs. Also, institutions themselves promote and support these gatherings. This is due to, on one hand, they’re considered an economic driver for local municipalities hosting the trials, and on the other, they’re an expression of our culture, history and marine traditions.
Presently, different clubs are comprised of professional rowers many of whom have actually no previous ties to working at sea. However, it hasn’t always been that way.
The Origin of Trainers Linked to Fishing Work
Since bygone eras, people needed physical strength to get their boats to reach grounds where they carried out their fishing work. Rowing was a necessary compliment to the power of the wind. These boats normally comprised of 13 rowers and a captain. The latter was generally the owner of the boat, oars, nets and other fishing-related tools.
The crew were usually contracted via a verbal agreement spelling out the working conditions and proportional sharing out of the earnings from selling the captured fish. Generally, it was done in the following way… The fish were sold and total income calculated, the expenses from buying supplies and other types of provisions, such as bait for fishing would be subtracted. Once covering these expenses, the 25% remaining was to take care of any damage and repairs to nets and the boat. The rest would be divided in equal parts amongst the crew.
Normally, the boats that arrived early to port with their cargo sold their fish at the best price in the auctions. This started to generate certain number of disputes amongst the separate fishing crew.
The Origin of the Trainers Related to Hauling or Towing
Another job done by these boats was the ‘atoaje’ (towing) or hauling of fishing or cargo vessels of enormous sizes, up to the port. Work was carried out in ports like Bilbao or Pasaia and was profitable.
This labour intensive work was also left to the fishing crew. The tougher ones and the more experienced would approach the larger fishing or cargo boats with their traineras, sometimes miles away from the port, to later tow them in. As it was well-paid work, there were races to see who could arrive first.
In fact, the first competition documented amongst traineras dates back to the year 1854 featuring three boats of Pasaia dedicated to towing work.
The ‘Alas’, boats for transporting goods
Aside from the traineras, another type of boat existed used for transporting goods, and occasionally, people. They were known as ‘alas’ or wings.
They were constructed out of wood and were generally eight to nine metres long. They were flat bottomed, had a narrow and flat stern and a flat and pointed bow that would permit them to dock in sand and silts. There were also ‘alas’ dedicated to fishing, in which case their measurements varied reaching up to between 10 and 12 metres long.
In any case, they were mostly used for transporting goods. Between one bank of the river and the other, between the ports and the wharves and the anchored boats at the port entrances.
Currently, the cider houses Petritegi and Lizeaga have promoted an initiative called ‘Urumea, Sagardoren Ibaia’. The aim is to highlight the important work carried out by the boats that used the river Urumea iban de Astigarraga to San Sebastian (Donostia) transporting every type of merchandise, specifically cider, produced on farms further up river.
The arrival of the steam engine
With the arrival of the steam engine, at the end of the 19th century, the need for rowers began to disappear. It was no longer necessary to have an enormous workforce of rowers to reach fishing grounds or to tow-in the great fishing or cargo boats that wanted to approach the port.
From that moment, their work went from being a necessary activity to being transformed into a tradition turned competition.
Trainers as a Sporting Event
As we mentioned earlier, in the year 1854 and during the festivities of San Juan (Gipuzkoa region) the first documented competition of traineras is recorded. The participants were rowers from Pasaia dedicated to ‘atoaje’ or towing, and the crew of the trainera ‘San Pedro la ganadora’.
Despite the fact that work for traineras was no longer necessary, the competitions amongst the different crew continued thanks to the passion of the coastal population.
Therefore, the first competition of the Bandera de La Concha (San Sebastian) was held in 1879. San Sebastian City Council included this sporting event in its programme for the festivities of the San Sebastian week long ‘Semana Grande’. From that date onwards and given the success of the first event, they made the decision to celebrate the regatta every year.
From Fishing Boats to Competition Boats
Until 1916 they continued using the traditional fishing boats in the sporting regattas. However, that year Vicente Olazabal fabricated, for the crew of Getaria, a sleek boat weighing 400 kg of which they baptized with the name ‘Golondrina’. Much later in 1944, Pedreña constructed a boat that weighed just 165 kg of which they gave the name ‘Cantabria’.
No longer needed for its original purpose, the design of the boats started changing and adapting to competitive needs. Since 1930, the sizes of the traineras are 12 metres in length, 1,75 m in width and 0,9 m in depth approximately. Furthermore, the weight began reducing making it faster and easier to move.
Modern trainers have little to do with those needed for fishing or towing back in their day. Even the way of rowing is different, adapting itself to the new boats and its uses.
Even the function of the captain has changed. Before, they were the owners of the fishing and rowing boats and had ultimate command. Nowadays, a diversification of roles exists. There are physical trainers, sports physicians, head coaches, technical trainers. The captain is no longer the senior rower with acquired knowledge and leadership qualities directing the boat with a strong hand. Today, the work is done by young sports people prepared for work, skilled in rowing or steering and capable of keeping the boat directed. Neither are the rowers the seamen that carried out towing work or took their boats up to the ports. Today the total practice of the rowers are as professional sportspeople, selected for sports teams and in many occasions with little or no connection to the sea, excepting the competition.
Tradition, Sport and Entertainment
Trainers are without a doubt one of the traditions, thanks to the sporting practice and the competition, maintained in collective memory right until today. That is why, up to now, old and young, women and men gather from miles around to take part at the different events celebrated across the length and breadth of the Cantabrian coastline.
At Troka Abentura we’re passionate about the boats, we love our traditions and we live with the sea, so much so that we have all the ingredients to be enthusiasts of this beautiful and demanding sports practice.
For that reason it would be fantastic to convert and adapt this practice into an experience directed at companies wanting to work on groups and team building dynamics. That is how the experience ‘traineras for company events’ was started. An activity aimed at businesses whereby participants can put themselves in the seat of a rower and together, as a team, row through waters of the Cantabrian sea.