Brest 2008: Spotlights Galicia

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After yet another fantastic spectacle on the water yesterday afternoon with the arrival of the new North Atlantic Record holder Thomas Coville at Brest 2008, today it is the traditional craft in the limelight once more.

Wednesday 16th July is Galicia Day and the country's colourful fleet of Dornas, Bucetas, Galleons, Lighters, Steamships and Schooners, are the festival's honoured guests. Today is also about increasing the awareness of various maritime projects, from the marine environment to the salvage programme focussing on a schooner dating back to 1924 and sadly lost en route to this maritime event of the year in France.

Indeed Brest 2008 is playing host to a traditional fleet of some 25 varieties of boats from the shores of Galicia including Gamelas from Da Garda and La Coruña, Dornas and Bucetas from southern Galicia, Galleons and Lighters (Lanchas xeiteiras) from the area of Mouros, a mixture of craft from Vigo, Cesantes, Ribadeo and Caril and even a 1966 steamship and a schooner from 1918.

The fleet has been brought together by the Federacion Galega Pola Cultura Maritima e Fluvial, a massive programme to promote the area's abundance of maritime heritage as well as the vitality of its institutions and economy, and its rich musical and gastronomic input, all of which are geared towards the sea. Benvida Galicia!

Often known as the 'Seafood Coast', geographically Galicia, in the north-western part of Spain and divided between the Cantabrian Sea and the Atlantic Ocean is dominated by the presence of many fjord-like indentations along the coast, which were flooded as the sea levels rose after the ice age.

These areas are today referred to as rias, divided up between Rías Altas (Cedeira, Ortiguiera, O Barqueiro, Viveiro, Foz and Ribadeo amongst others) and Rías Baixas or Bajas (Muros and Noia, Arousa, Vigo and Pontevedra), which effectively split Galicia into inland and coastal territory. These predominantly large rias are important for fishing, and the area's spectacular scenery and the wildness of the coast prove to be a Mecca to tourists.

Brest 2008 is also continuing to prove to be a Mecca to tourists and locals alike and so what better place to raise awareness for various projects from all around the world. WWF-Columbus at Brest 2008 is the brand new ambassador ship for the NGO and it performs missions at large events to increase awareness about the maritime world, as well as serving as a platform for scientific missions in order to increase knowledge about the marine ecosystems.

By exchanging ideas with the representatives of the association and measuring their ecological footprint, visitors realise the impact of the way we live on the health of the planet. 'Like a lot of other professionals, we work at sea on a daily basis. As a result we are more aware of the marine environment than others' points out French sailing legend Isabelle Autissier. Indeed, the sailing world is a privileged witness of the state of the oceans, so it would seem natural that it is associated with the work performed by the WWF in France and internationally on this matter.

Another deserving cause in the spotlight today is the sinking of the 1924 Majorcan schooner, Tho Pa Ga, en route for Brest 2008. The 42 m vessel sank on July 8th off nearby Ile de Sein. The 9 crew members escaped unharmed following the rapid intervention by the French coastguard, the Navy and Brittany Ferries' Pont Aven but today this historical monument, one of the jewels of Spanish maritime heritage, is lying 116 metres down in an area to the SW of Sein.

An association 'Sauvez la goélette Tho Pa Ga' (Save the schooner Tho Pa Ga) has been created at Brest 2008 and the plan is to raise funds to refloat her before the autumn. Bearing the beautiful Tibetan name Tho Ga Pa, 'he who listens with delight', the boat has been home to owner Gerald Delgado for the past 35 years and he and his crew were involved in a particularly emotional press conference this afternoon to publicise their plight at Brest 2008.

French round the world sailor, Olivier de Kersauson, the patron of this maritime event, refers to himself as the first of the festival's 'clients'. 'This gathering of 2,000 boats from every corner of the globe, is like no other. It's a living exhibition of everything in the world that is capable of sailing. Men (and women) have made boats which correspond with their seas and their needs. '

Olivier de Kersauson went on to say 'Whatever the boat, it represents a real exercise of applied intelligence and to see them sail is the best way to understand that. I am extremely touched by all the boats which are present at Brest 2008 because they have all helped write a different page in the history books and, as far as the older boats are concerned, if they have survived the test of time, it is because they were and are exceptional and the best of their time and hence worth saving and restoring.'