La Concha Flag
La Concha flag is one of the oldest and most famous boat-race along the bay of San Sebastian in la “Kontxa”. The race takes place on the first two weekends of September and it gather more than 100.000 people, many dressed in the colors of their team, and the best 8 rowing of the Bay of Biscay. It was first held in 1879 and has been celebrated consequently with the exception of the war years. Undoubtedly is the most important sporting event held in the Basque country, if we consider the number of spectators who come to see them competing. In 2007 women’s competition was held for the first time.
The bay is crowded of people looking for the best place to see the race and there are some who prefer to see it from the hillsides overlooking the bay. Others followed the race from their boats, from recreational to fishing boats which come from nearby ports to add the final color and sound with their flags, horns and whistles. The streets of San Sebastian and especially the Old Town become the hub where the “experts” predict the possible outcomes. A lot of people bets who will be the winner or how many seconds will shave and this day this is the conversation throughout the city.
La concha regatta has a different format and instead of having four lengths and three bends it only has two lengths and one bend which it is located once passed Santa Clara island. Even so, the regatta has the same length, 3 nautical miles. The Thursday before the first weekend there is a qualifying regatta where more than 20 teams take part and classified 8 teams. Then on Sunday the 8 boats are divided into two groups of four at random and then on the second Sunday the two batches are formed according to the time of the first Sunday. So the winner is the boat which scores the best time adding up both times.
The number of oarsmen inside the boat is the same, the only change is the length and the rules, because they haven’t got any limit with the amount of own oarsmen as it happens in the league. What is really particular is to see the boats passing next to Santa Clara island and the good atmosphere in the ramp after the regatta when the boats arrive. Everybody is encouraging their team, some because they have won and others to cheer up. But what always win here it´s the spectacle and the nice atmosphere among supporters.
The most awarded team in this race is Orio “aguiluchos” with 31 flags, a little fishing town next to San Sebastian. They are followed by San Pedro with 15 and Donostia with 14. Historically the teams from Gipuzkoa had been stronger but in the last years Biscayans teams are winning the race.
The tradition of this singular boat race called traineras regattas comes from a distinctive way of life: open sea fishing. The boats need strong men capable for rowing for hours on end to the fishing grounds. And after catching the fish they have to return as fast as possible to get the fish to market before the other boats and sell it in the best price.
Then with the years the strength of the men was replaced by the motor power, but for years rowing competitions continued to be closely linked to fishing. The best oarsmen came from the best fishing crews of the coast. Now the oarsmen are athletes who come from all type of athletic background but still are enlisted to teams from villages with long fishing traditions.
La concha was organized for the first time in 1879 as part of San Sebastian´s summer events program. The boats which take part were fishing traineras, which until that time had been used in competitions of force between fishing crews making bets. The first boat winning the race was a trainera called “Avante” and there were so many people that they added the race to the next summer events program until today. With the exception of civil war years the regatta has been celebrated consequently.
My team in La Concha
My team, Deustuko arraun taldea, has took part three times in the qualifying regatta in 2009, 2010 and 2011 with modest outcomes. This year Deusto has not participated in the regatta because we were fighting to save the category and we had to row the weekend after this regatta the play off, only if we didn´t get in the last position in the league. So we weren´t interested in getting tired. Ultimately we got in the last position so we didn´t take part in the play off to save the category, because we descend directly, neither the qualifying regatta. But this year we are going to win the league and we will return to the ARC-1 league obtaining the chance to take part again in this qualifyin race.
Some nice pictures here:
A report about la concha in Canal Plus:
Kontxako Bandera. (2009).Wikipedia, the free encloycopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kontxako_Bandera
Bandera de la Concha. (2012.).Wikipedia, the free encloycopedia. Retrieved from: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandera_de_La_Concha
Donostia/San Sebastian. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.donostiasansebastian.com/regatas/