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The crew of the yola during their row off Gibraltar on Monday. SUR
Fifty years since the first crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar in a yola rowing boat
History

Fifty years since the first crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar in a yola rowing boat

In 1973, a team of four rowers and a coxswain from the Calpe Rowing Club of Gibraltar made history on the pioneering journey

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Gibraltar

Friday, 18 August 2023

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This week was the 50th anniversary of the first crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar by a yola rowing boat (a rowing boat with a sliding seat system).

The record-breaking crossing of the Strait in 1973.
The record-breaking crossing of the Strait in 1973. SUR

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said on Monday, "Today we celebrate the anniversary of an extraordinary event. Fifty years ago, Richard Labrador, Ernesto Sanguinetti, Abby Suissa, Charlie Pérez and Francis Cosquieri crossed the Strait of Gibraltar in a rowing boat for the first time. It was a remarkable achievement that many thought would be impossible to accomplish and captured the attention of local and international media. I take this opportunity to congratulate the magnificent crew, who have come together once again to celebrate this well-deserved anniversary."

The rowers all belonged to the Calpe Rowing Club of Gibraltar and on August 12, 1973, they set out to make history and become the first crew to cross the Strait of Gibraltar in a rowing boat.

Choppy seas

However, choppy seas and strong winds aborted this initial attempt after just a few miles.

A new opportunity presented itself just two days later and the "Red Devils" of Calpe, as they were known, began their heroic row from Punta Cires on the Moroccan coast.

The official timeline published that same afternoon in the Gibraltar Evening Post detailed the arduous trip aboard the yola during those three dramatic and thrilling hours of almost incessant rowing. The point of arrival in Gibraltar was the Calpe Club slipway, where a huge crowd had gathered to await their heroes.

Serious doubts

The feat was accomplished against all odds. Expert rowers and even Gibraltar's sports press dean, John Sheppard, had doubted its feasibility.

The four rowers reunited on Monday and took a quick spin in the sea off Gibraltar in a boat similar to the one they had used fifty years ago.

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