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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Anarchy in the UK(‘s) most famous fortress – part 2

Last week we left Gibraltarian workers fascinated by the beliefs of anarchists. Gareth Stockey, Chris Grocott and Jo Grady continue with the story.

The result was a noticeable increase in labour agitation on both sides of the frontier. The tactics adopted by local workers confounded local employers and the Gibraltar authorities, not least because anarchism proved remarkably successful at encouraging boycotts of businesses and ‘sympathy’ strikes in favour of fellow workers in disparate industries. When necessary, anarchists were also willing to adopt ‘direct action’ to combat what they perceived as the inherently violent practices of the bosses and local political authorities who protected them. The rhetoric of meetings gives us a flavour of this new-found militancy, with one worker threatening to ‘eat the liver’ of a local tobacco merchant during a strike in 1902. Following an earlier dispute in October 1901, a local anarchist newspaper urged its readers to remember the long-term goal of ‘total and definitive emancipation […] the abolition of private property with all its consequences, state, religion, militarism, magistrates […] a great work, larger than the massive Rock we have in our view’. Crucially, anarchists were willing to act as well as to talk. Several local bosses were assaulted during industrial disputes in the period – so much so that Gibraltar’s employers occasionally resorted to using firearms in self-defence – and ‘scab’ workers had stones thrown at them as they attempted to cross picket-lines.

Arguably what offended local businessmen more than the threat to their person was the very real challenge that anarchism offered to their economic interests. If we might dismiss as hyperbole, in the context of a heavily garrisoned British colony, the question posed by one local businessman to the Governor of Gibraltar in 1892, ‘are our goods and chattels safe?’, we can nonetheless point to several successes of anarchist militancy at the turn of the century. Across numerous industries, wage settlements favoured workers thanks to the effectiveness of strikes, boycotts and the occasional spot of physical intimidation. Most impressive of all, employers were forced to concede the dream of the ‘tres ochos’ (three eights) to many local workers – that is to say eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep and eight hours for leisure. Committed to improving living as much as working conditions, local anarchist groups also made up for the absence of state provision by offering schooling to hundreds of local children, as well as myriad cultural initiatives to bring learning to the local working classes.

Gibraltar’s employers were so shell-shocked by the growth and success of anarchism that they offered to pay the salary of a British union official who had been sent to the Rock in 1898. In his memoirs Lorenzo Quelch, who had been sent by the nascent Social Democratic Foundation, left a vivid account of his time in Gibraltar, but he decided not to take up the employers’ offer. The culmination of all of this activity was a ‘general strike’ of industries in Gibraltar in 1902. This time, having prepared meticulously and coordinated their response to the dispute, the employers emerged victorious. On the Spanish side of the frontier, the anarchist movement was to face worse, as the local political and military authorities staged a bloody massacre of local militants in October 1902, closing down workers’ centres and confiscating their funds.

Much work needs to be done, but this brief account of the infancy of labour organisation in Gibraltar highlights the intimacy of relations across the frontier. Many years later, in 1919, Gibraltarian workers would formally attach themselves to a British gradualist, rather than Spanish anarchist, form of organisation through the TGWU. But as we have noted, the Gibraltar TGWU retained strong links with its counterparts in the Campo for several decades and workers continued to fight side-by-side for better living and working conditions. The early successes of Gibraltarian and Spanish anarchists shows just how much workers on both sides of the frontier stood (and stand) to gain by recognising common grievances and acting collectively to address them.

Gareth Stockey is lecturer in Spanish studies at the University of Nottingham. He has published widely on the history of Gibraltar and Spain, including (with Chris Grocott) Gibraltar: a Modern History (University of Wales Press, 2010).

Chris Grocott is lecturer in Management and Economic History, and Jo Grady is lecturer in Industrial Relations and Human Resources Management, at the University of Leicester.