Seine boat races
Seine Boat Racing is the highlight of the Fiesta sporting activities, dating back to the first city-wide celebration ever held in Gloucester. It is a true test of strength, endurance and team work. Three boats, the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria are manned by twelve member crews. Starting at Pavilion Beach, each boat must row out a half mile, turn around a flag and then row back. The first to hit the beach is declared the winner. Saturday is the elimination race. The top two finishers get to face the defending champs on Sunday. There are also women and junior races. Each crew is made up of ten rowers, a helmsman and a coxswain. Each job is equally important. A small lapse in concentration can mean the difference between first and third place. The rowers provide the strength that propels the boat. Each stroke must be long and smooth. Rowers must be able to endure the grueling mile course without tiring. The helmsman's responsibility is to steer the mighty craft. Many times a crew was the first to the turning point but the helmsman could not negotiate the turn properly. Valuable seconds were lost and so was the race. The coxswain's job is to make sure all the rowers stay in sync. If even one rower is out of sync then the boat is not moving at optimum speed and which be costly. The seine boat was a common method used long ago by the fisherman to haul in fish that were captured in their floating nets. The fish and seine boat were then loaded onto a larger vessel and when the boat reached it capacity, it headed for port. Since most of Gloucester's fishing fleet stayed in port during the Fiesta, the seine boats were available for competitive racing. large enough to hold most of the crew of a fishing boat, the seine boats were used to settle race challenges issued between boat crews, each boasting the best and the strongest men in the fleet.
The Greasy Pole is a most unique contest indeed. It takes place 200 feet off Pavilion Beach. A forty-five foot telephone pole is attached to a platform and extends out over the water. A red flag is nailed to a stick at the end of the pole which is then heavily greased. Then, one by one contestants take their turn trying to tear off the makeshift flag pole before slipping and and falling into the water. Some contestants sprint out like racehorses hoping momentum will carry them to the end of the pole. Others take a very slow approach, one step at a time, always trying to maintain their balance. It is not uncommon for these daring individuals to come away with scrapes, bruises or even broken ribs. The first round is considered the courtesy round. Nobody is allowed to capture the flag. This allows all contestants to participate in the event. Once the first round is complete the contest officially begins and each individual gets his chance to walk. The event usually takes two to four rounds for someone to win but sometimes it can go as long as six or seven rounds. Once a contestant captures the flag he then swims to the beach with all the other contestants. He is then lifted onto to the shoulders of his fellow walkers and paraded around the town. The Greasy Pole contest takes place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Pavilion Beach immediately following the Seine boat races. The Friday and Saturday contest are for those lucky enough to get their names on the select list of walkers. The Sunday walk is composed of only of the previous day's winner, past champions and protégés who walk for former champions.