Photo: Boatshed Gibraltar.
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Morocco ahoy!

This Friday (12 June) sees the 15th yacht rally to Port Smir, Morocco.

This Friday (12 June) sees the 15th yacht rally to Port Smir, Morocco, sponsored by Ocean Village and organised by Boatshed Gibraltar. Last year 34 yachts registered (although only 32 started), and there was a colourful backdrop as gunboat HMS Sabre, provided by the RN Gibraltar Squadron, provided the starting signals.

This year the event is getting bigger. HMS Scimitar will provide the starting and so far 40 boats have registered to take part. More will be welcome, although Boatshead owner John Alcantara warns that latecomers may not qualify for goodie bags, to be given out at the Skipper briefings. There will be two of these, a champagne reception on arrival in Morocco sponsored by Eroski Gibraltar and a dusk briefing with beer and canapés sponsored by Ocean Village.

At the time of writing it’s too early to predict the weather with any certainty, and it’s fair to say the event has had mixed luck in this area. Last year it was fine with light winds only. At the time of writing the forecast says light cloud, but this can change.

All comers have always been welcome. On the event’s Facebook page, Alcantara says: “Every seaworthy boat is welcome, whether sail, motor or powered by solar energy! The start will be given by a patrol boat from the RN Gibraltar Squadron at 13:00.” Unusually, Gibraltar has a public holiday for the Queen’s birthday this coming weekend, adding to the festive atmosphere as several Skippers and crews will have decided to stay in Morocco for an extra day.

The event is growing. Last year for the first time the organisers were able to donate £2000 to the Gibraltarian Red Cross, a target they’d like to exceed this year. Helping in this effort will be the addition of a charity auction for the first time this year, as crew getting to Smir (and only people completing the race) will bid for:

1. A free haul out/re-launch and three days hard standing at Isla Verde and free International anti-fouling paint. The organisers estimate that for a 12m yacht this represents nearly £1000 of value and a lot more for a larger yacht.

2. A Makita power tool combination pack with power drill, angle grinder and jig saw.

There will also be raffles of donated prizes including iPads and cameras.

The emphasis during the 25 nautical miles (40KM for the rest of us) is on safety of course but there’s a lot of fun involved too. Last year’s event was typical, with skippers calling in swiftly after the off to claim “First to Spot a Dolphin” prize as well as visiting the souks once in Morocco and claiming the “Biggest contribution to the Moroccan Economy” prize, in spite of everyone having agreed not to buy any rugs. There will be the customary fancy dress party on the evening of arrival, and people will leave on the Sunday or Monday.

Anyone interested in taking part will need to know entry fees, which go in their entirety to the Red Cross. These are £40 or €55 for yachts under 12m LOA and £50 or €65 for yachts over 12m LOA. Contact information and further details are available from the event’s Facebook page, where there is also a list of sponsors: - the page being part of the reason the event gets called the “world’s most sociable rally”, although the briefings and post-event party on the 20th will help in that area too.


We are grateful to Boatshed Gibraltar for supplying pictures from last year’s rally.

Guy Clapperton is the freelance journalist who edits the New Statesman’s Gibraltar hub. You can also find him in the Guardian, Computer Business Review and Professional Outsourcing which he edits.

Photo: Getty
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Gibraltar and Europe: caught in the slipstream?

The British papers are full of who has the lead in the European in or out campaigns – Guy Clapperton considers the fallout for the smaller territories

Let’s start by acknowledging that there is no clear pattern emerging in the Europe debate, as long as we understand “Europe debate” to mean whether the UK should stay in or leave the European Union. This week alone we’ve seen Boris Johnson “warning Obama off” (as the BBC put it) getting involved in the debated, the same London Mayor and MP having a radio spat with Chuka Umunna involving telling each other to man up and various insults traded as either side accuses the other of scaremongering or making it up as they go along.

Divining who’s going to win is more difficult. The Daily Telegraph reports that “out” has it by a tiny margin but, crucially, the anti-Europe vote is likely to be more motivated so will actually show up on the day, expanding the margin by which it will win. Meanwhile the Times’ daily Red Box email points to Elections Etc. whose research suggests a 58% “remain” vote but with a plus or minus 14% error margin; so somewhere between 44% and 72% will go for staying in the EU. This, readers will note, tells us precisely nothing.

So the outcome, even if there weren’t 100 days in which Presidents and world leaders will offer counsel, claims and counterclaims will be made and the “leave” campaign will eventually decide who the official “leave” group actually is (there are two factions at the moment, doing the best impression of the Monty Python Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea that they can manage), we wouldn’t want to call a snap referendum even if it were to be called this afternoon.

What’s clear is that the outcome will ripple beyond the British mainland’s shores, and the ramifications of an “out” vote are already being felt on Gibraltar. Anyone doubting this should check today’s Times (subscription required), in which the Gibraltarian Chief Minister Fabian Picardo highlights recent Spanish statements about what would happen in the event of a Brexit.

Spain actually caused a few eyebrows to raise and some other people to panic just a little with its recent statements. Essentially the country’s foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, suggested that there would be conversations on the sovereignty of Gibraltar the “day after” an announcement of a British exit, according to the Daily Mail and other reports. He also said (much, much further down the report) that he didn’t want Britain to leave: “God forbid” is the phrase he uses.

He raised the idea of joint sovereignty once again more recently, reports the Gibraltar Chronicle, this time suggesting that if Britain leaves Europe then Gib could do what it nearly did (he says) in 2002 and start transitioning towards Spain. This is an interesting definition of “nearly” when 98.48% of the electorate actually voted not to do so, but remaining British when this might exclude the Rock from Europe would inevitably raise different issues if not a different final outcome.

Outside Gibraltarian interests the effect could be more severe than that. SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made no secret of her wish to make a fresh case for Scottish independence. The once-in-a-generation referendum on this was lost in 2014 but should Britain exit Europe with a majority of Scots clearly demonstrating that they want to stay in, the case becomes stronger (although the collapse of the oil price would blow the original blueprint out of the water).

So we could end up with Scotland as well as Gibraltar wanting to remain in Europe while Britain made its exit. Whether this would be legally possible if both stayed tied to Britain is untested as yet – and with Spain eager to enter talks the day after an exit is agreed but the Gibraltarians implacably opposed to becoming Spanish, the way forward would not be clear.

Guy Clapperton is the freelance journalist who edits the New Statesman’s Gibraltar hub. You can also find him in the Guardian, Computer Business Review and Professional Outsourcing which he edits.