Patí vela - Sailing in its simplest form

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With less than a quarter hour to go before the race’s first warning signal, there are still no boats in sight on Somorrostro beach, close to Port Olimpic. The course markers have been laid, the sea is calm, the wind is blowing 225° at 10 to 15 knots, and the sun is shining. All that’s missing are the participants in one of the five weekly races organized by the Club Patí Vela Barcelona. Where other committee boat crew might be starting to get impatient, the race director is very chilled: “You’ll see, everyone will be on the line on time. People leave the office for their mid-day break and quickly get to the club. Time to change and they’re ready to sail!” Indeed, in less than five minutes, some twenty sails appeared and were approaching the starting line, located half a mile off the beach. The speed with which the “sail-skates” can be put to into action means that the customary 2-hour Spanish lunch break can be used for tacking back and forth with the backdrop of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral and the city’s emblematic skyline. An idyllic setting... and a lively atmosphere too: rounding the marks can give rise to some great battles, and while the level of competitors is uneven, the enjoyment is shared by all!

Patí vela: 150 years of history

Originally created by Carlos Geli in its primitive form (without a sail), the patí was used to row away from the shore to bathe in less polluted water offshore. The first race took place in 1871, and the industrial boom of the early 1920s accelerated patí production. The small multihull gradually gained in popularity for its simplicity and authenticity: devoid of daggerboards and rudders, it has the distinctive feature of having a perfectly flat bottom, like a pair of skis, so that it can be pulled easily across the sand, even over reasonable distances. The addition of a sail – lateen-rigged at first - soon gave rise to the first racing in Catalan waters, with a wide variety of boats in terms of weight and size. Once the civil war was over, in 1943, the Mongè brothers, residents of Badalona (on the outskirts of Barcelona), brought together all existing Catalan patís to compete in a single regatta where the aim was to find out which one performed best. The two brothers’ skate came out on top, becoming the one-design version of the minimalist catamaran. Still handcrafted today, these sailing skates have evolved very little since then - a wooden or GRP multihull measuring 18’5” (5.6 m) in length, 5’3” (1.6 m) in beam, with a lightship weight of 195 lbs (89 kg), and 135 square feet (12.6 m²) of Marconi-type sail on a mast culminating at 21’4” (6.5 m) high.

Rudders, daggerboards, boom, battens? No, thank you!

“Sailing in its simplest form”, as Rafael Figuerola Camps, the largest patí builder and president of Club Patí Vela Barcelona, explains. This slightly bohemian 40-something, son and grandson of fishermen, never gave up on his dream of developing this Stradivarius of the seas, designed entirely by ...

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