Coinciding with Easter, from 9 to 12 April 2020, the most legendary regatta on the national calendar brings together two hundred vessels and over a thousand two hundred crew members in the waters of the Mediterranean.
The history of this regatta goes back to May of 1846, when the blockade imposed on Barcelona by the Carlist army gave rise to a severe shortage of salt. At the time, a well-known businessman summoned the most renowned navigators of the day to put a challenge to them: he would pay for the service of transporting salt from the Pitiusa islands to El Garraf (Barcelona) in proportion to the order of arrival of the ships, so the first to arrive would be paid in gold, but the last ones may not even be able to pay for their sailors’ wages. Thirteen boats took up the challenge, and the first one to arrive was the Maltese Falcon, a 32-metre Baltimore clipper skippered by the Greek Andreas Potrus.
Inspired by this historical event, in 1989 the Associació de Navegants d’Altura Mediterranis (ANAM) started the first sporting version of the La Ruta de Sal, or Salt Route, which linked the Barcelona port of Port Ginesta with the Pitiusa islands. Thirty-six vessels took part in that first race. Two years later the East Version of the regatta was created, leaving from Denia, with 119 boats departing for Ibiza and Formentera.
Since then, the number of participants has grown constantly, and the Salt Route —which has managed to retain all the charm of the very first day— has become an important event for sailing enthusiasts. In the year 2000 a record figure of more than 300 vessels registered. The event now mobilises more than 1,500 racers and a fleet of sailing boats that plough through the Mediterranean paying homage to those ancient crossings in search of white gold.
This is the offshore race with the highest number of participants in the Mediterranean, although the crossing is by no means easy; the routes are long and it is held at a complicated time of year in terms of weather, lending it the charm of adventure and the allure that being classified is a victory in itself. The Spanish Merchant Navy’s State Maritime Safety and Salvage Society and the Civil Guard of the Sea collaborate in the tasks of maritime monitoring and control.
Three versions have now been established which culminate in Sant Antoni (Ibiza): the North Version leaves from Port Ginesta (Barcelona) and covers a distance of 140 nautical miles; the East Version departs from Denia (Alicante), and is 120 miles long. And in the West Version, the port of departure is Andratx, in Mallorca, with a distance of 103 miles.