The GLY World Odyssey 500 fleet arrived in Seville earlier this week in preparation for the start of this round the world rally on Sunday 24 October. Sponsored by the French Grand Large Yachting group of companies, this official event of the quincentenaries celebrations will be commemorating the 500th anniversary of the first round the world voyage between 1519 and 1522, which also started from here.
The presence of the rally fleet in the capital of Andalusia was planned to coincide with a special ceremony: I have been awarded the Order of Naval Merit in recognition for my sailing achievements and 35 years of close cooperation with the Spanish Navy. The formal award ceremony was held at the Naval Headquarters and was attended by all rally participants.
The award presentation was conducted by Captain Carlos Mate San Roman on behalf of the Quincentenary Commission and officiated by Captain Javier Albert Perez, Naval Commander of Seville.
Extract from my speech of thanks:
My relationship with the Spanish Navy goes back to 1986 – from the bridge of the naval ship El Ferrol – I gave the start in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria of the first ARC, what was then, and continues to be, the largest sailing event in the world.
In 1992, on another quincentenary event, I was on a naval ship for the start of America 500 from Palos de la Frontera. On 3 August 1992, in the presence of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, exactly 500 years after Columbus’s three ships had left from the very same spot, the America 500 fleet left on the same historic route. The 146 boats followed the original route by calling at the islands of Gran Canaria and La Gomera, and finishing at San Salvador in the Bahamas.
In 1992 I was made an honorary Canarian and I now feel that this very special order makes me an honorary Spaniard. It is indeed a great honour to be counted as one of you.
Another special ceremony was held that evening at the church of Santa Ana. An image of the Madonna is kept there and the sailors who set off from here in 1519 worshipped here on the eve of the departure.
Three years later the surviving crew of that expedition led by Juan Sebastian Elcano gave their thanks here for their safe return. Following in their footsteps, the participants in the World Odyssey attended a special ceremony where Padre Ildefonso Milla Reyes blessed the fleet and wished the sailors a safe voyage.