The "GIRALDILLA" again with us
This remarkable sail ship, now quietly swinging at her Real Club Náutico de Valencia moorings, hides from the layman's eyes a long cherished history beyond her wonderful looks. Anyone who had seen her previous sad and sorry state as she lay abandoned in the Tajo estuary in November 2002, would not be able to believe their eyes now.
When faced with the impossible there is nothing to match the redoubtable human will.
The "Fundación Hispania de barcos de época" decided to bring her back to the sea. A sea that kept wondering at her absence while trying to arrange another meeting by lovingly swinging her abandoned hull and achieving nothing but her progressive deterioration.
And today she is back here with us creating widespread admiration at her beautiful lines, and creating anticipation for future voyages.
There was a lot to be done, first of all to "bring her back home". We knew from the very beginning that nothing can be accomplished nowadays without first gathering a team of knowledgeable and able helpers. At the Fundación we all share the belief that our greatest strength lies in the capacity for generating new operational ideas, and we are aware of being reasonably well able to develop them. My profession has taught me that this organizational capacity truly is our best asset. We also know our weaknesses, the most limiting one being our material capacity. Thus, the only way out was through sharing the enthusiasm needed to generate the synergies wanted to overcome our shortcomings. Yet, as we were planning her transport, we thought it adequate to present our project to the Institutions that so far had always approved of the Fundación's activities; we could not do without their financial support.
Once again, the Consell de Mallorca was there when needed. Its Lady President María Antonia Munar's feeling towards the vintage and classic sail boats was well known to us ever since she staunchly defended in 2002 the insularity of the Trophy "Almirante Conde de Barcelona", which the Fundación has been organising for 20 years. So it became publicly clear in her words at the Almudaina prize giving ceremony before H.M. the King.
Now, two years later, her generous contribution, as important as necessary, has made available to us the support needed to assure a restoration calling for a swift, large, intensive and costly action on such a mistreated ship.
Talking of sea and sailing under canvass, the organization we felt we had to turn to for the restoration was undoubtedly the Spanish Navy. And so we did. We took the boat to Cartagena on a truck; most humiliating for one used to riding the high seas. Once the funding was granted we only needed the Navy's support and its shipyards, above all the capital city's whose experience and reputation are beyond any doubt and proved vital to the results achieved. The help given by the Arsenal Admiral was very enthusiastic from the very beginning. The shipwrights taught us a practical lesson on the best procedure possible: order, control and know-how combined together. It was most interesting to see "wood charts" and "paint charts", the detailed descriptions and remarks: "...beam wood hounds; Oregon pine… upper works: priming specifications - "International Interprime 820" (2 coats)...". One could easily think of those days when this very shipyard built and launched galleons for the King of Spain, what centuries have past! "Galleon San Justo; CANVAS: 2 sails for the main mast, with their bonnets and bolt-ropes..."
It was so touching to witness how little by little the hull's old, injured, useless skin was peeled off, how the rusty ironings disappeared all corroded and scaly, how the roughly laid plastified deck had to be lifted. It all looked like the final breaking. Yet, all that scary toiling hid a rigorous methodology aimed at step by step strengthening that ailing boat without missing any feature nor overdoing any stage.
Like a new phoenix emerging from its ashes thanks to the joint effort of those institutions sharing a common purpose.
But, of course, what would we not do for a boat so significant to the Fundación? Albeit it is already well known, a short glimpse at History will be befitting. This beautiful ship rigged as a yawl with the mizzen mast aft the rudder axis was born under a different name: "GIRALDA". Her first captain was HRH Don Juan de Borbón, Conde de Barcelona (wGk). And so he sailed her until the arrival of the present "GIRALDA" and subsequent change of name to her present "GIRALDILLA". As time went she started her pilgrimage from one owner to another. Away from the caring hands of Don Juan, she began to decline. The following years seemed to bring true the curse the sailors say that plague all boats that change their name. Yet these curses are often rendered ineffectual by undertakings based on common faith. Today, Don Juan, our mentor, he gave us our first ruling: "as far as is possible do not our tradition and Spanish naval heritage be lost through abandonment", could be imagined moving in the depth of the night checking beams, frame timbers and blocks master built by artisans and carpenters, and obviously smiling at seeing his old boat at last in good hands. Therefore, when nobody sees me I am looking for, I do not know exactly what, perhaps an air swirl in one corner, and just in case quietly say "order accomplished. Sir". You may think it sentimental… but I must confess that I do it".
What made me join the Fundación and commit myself to its objectives? Since confessions are under way, let us not drop the anchor.
In my case, the "GIRALDILLA" prompts a great deal of feelings, some closely knit to the most intimate and important experiences of my life. What began as a strictly professional collaboration from my post as a Navy officer in 1993 has grown into a firm commitment as a founder member of the Fundación. When I recall these eleven years I feel touched. My intention upon sharing these modest lines with whoever happens to read them is nothing more than to transmit an experience which besides being very gratifying has given me great sense of achievement and fulfilment.
I have already mentioned my natural inclination as a seaman by trade and by my long attachment to the sailing sport
In the Navy it is well known how important this sport is for complementing our formation to join the ranks. Yet, it is not only a question of how well accustomed we become to the boat in our care. Using the words of one of our leaders, Admiral Marcial Sánchez-Barcáiztegui, as he said at last year's sailing competition "...fosters leadership, strengthens the spirit, promotes teamwork, helps you overcome difficulties and misjudgements, and sows empathy and altruism: all this is possible in a situation of competing under sail, and all highly important to a sailor's career ".
I will also say that I feel good when "boarding with my kit". Since my age and condition now limit me to serving on land, the world of sailing offers the opportunity to share this fondness of mine with the civil society, and to amass some enjoyable experiences. The sport of sailing generates friendly ties and creates long lasting bonds of friendship. Going back to the words of the Admiral "...nothing else can make us truly equals but the sea which either puts each of us in our place or otherwise sends us ashore if not moulds and shapes us until we are engrained with seasalt...".
As a Navy officer I have had the chance from the ranks of the Sailing Delegation to participate in a project of organizational restructuring. This contact with reality is necessary to avoid landing in the pipe-dreaming domain, wonderful at times, but also a source of potential mishaps.
The Navy's present challenge lies in designing new strategies in a situation of scarce resources, where maintenance becomes growingly complex and costly; and to coordinate an increasing number of varied crews for the human factor is of paramount importance and ultimate reason for the existence of regatta boats in the Navy, of capital importance for the sport results.
I mention these aspects because at the Fundación we are envisaging a project which can be an example of the aforesaid sought for synergy; we shall see.
Of all scarce resources the most valuable is the human capital or to make it quite clear, the time consumed by a high quality human capital. Since the matter we are dealing with runs collaterally to the Navy's objectives, the Fundación can contribute its organizing capacity: planning, projecting, knowledge of working methods, experience… What for? Why?
Because the Fundación foresees its participation in the impending classic and vintage boats circuits in the Mediterranean with its "GIRALDILLA". This Navy-Fundación cooperation means that we, the Fundación, will see to the planning, participating boats, and infrastructure necessary at the sites the regattas are to take place, whereas the Navy will be responsible for personalities attending the competition, besides providing mooring place at its posts if necessary. Other institutions have also committed their help, our ultimate aim being to assemble different crews that clearly show the plurality of the State's involvement.
Francisco Benavente Meléndez de Arvás
At the same time the Navy gives us the benefit of a few words set out on the introduction to the new Sail Organic Rules's draft: "Sailing knowledge and expertise has traditionally been one of the cardinal matters at the Navy Schools… To learn how to handle small craft represents the first step in a naval career. Its mastery is part of the common heritage our schools have an obligation to pass on...".
Personally I see "clear horizons and cloudless skies". The solution appears idealistic, perhaps too much, but it is possible.
I leave aside other memories and feelings probably too personal and too old which have no place in this scenario. Yet I refer to them because they constitute the third pillar of my response to the Fundación's "call to the colours" and because I owe them this tacit acknowledgement. In this case I seek signs too to which I may quietly answer "accomplished order ..."