Athletic Club Announce Agreement To Begin Restoring La Gabarra

La Gabarra will officially be restored for use by Athletic Club (AC)

For 36 years Athletic fans and players have dreamed of taking out La Gabarra. The last time the mythical boat sailed down the waters of the River Nervión was back in 1984 when the Basques won both the La Liga and Copa del Rey titles. Since then, the club has come close to winning more trophies but have fallen short.

Over the decades La Gabarra has remained unused and is no longer seaworthy. Today it sits in dry dock on display at Itsasmuseum Bilbao, but that won’t be the case for much longer. On Friday Athletic officially announced an agreement with the Maritime Museum and the Bilbao City Council to restore La Gabarra for use by the club in times of special importance and celebration.

As part of the agreement, Athletic will fund the restoration process which will cost approximately €200,000 in total. At that point the Fundación del Museo Marítimo who own La Gabarra will then be responsible for all maintenance and Athletic will have freedom to use the boat on special occasions for both the men’s and women’s teams. The contract is valid for 20 years but will be automatically extended unless a termination is requested by either side.

Athletic president Aitor Elizegi was present at Friday’s ceremony at Itsasmuseum Bilbao. along with club legend José Ángel Iribar. Andoni Goikoetxea and Dani Ruiz-Bazán were also in attendance as representatives of the 1984 team that last used La Gabarra to celebrate a title. Dani was the team captain that season.

The restoration process will begin next week and could be finished by September (AC)

“I want to thank Dani, Goiko, and Iribar for being part of this journey,” Elizegi said. The former players fully understand the importance of the project. “La Gabarra is a symbol, it can’t be left for scrapping,” Iribar shared. “I get excited when I see La Gabarra,” added Dani. Goikoetxea shared his own thoughts on the value of restoring the mythical ship. “It’s a respectful project.”

Several other important figures attended the event including the Director of the Itsasmuseum, Jon Ruigómez, the Director of Operations of the Port Authority, Luis Gabiola, Mayor of Bilbao, Juan Mari Aburto, the Provincial Deputy of Euskera and Culture, Lorea Bilbao, and members of the Athletic Board of Directors.

Elizegi explained that he had already contacted Real Sociedad to inform them that restoring La Gabarra was a long-term project with a significant impact and not being done solely in preparation for the upcoming Copa del Rey final. “We think this project makes more sense now to try to celebrate it all together after the pandemic,” he said.

“It’s a city project and what we want is to have the option to celebrate toghether is something good happens in the coming years. This project was promised to Gaizka Garitano during the preseason in Germany and it clears the doubts about the Women’s team. If they were to win a title they would also celebrate it on La Gabarra because there is only one Athletic.”

La Gabarra currently sits in dry dock on display at Itsasmuseum (AC)

Lorea Bilbao also spoke and emphasized the importance and impact that Athletic has had on the local community. “The illusion of Athletic is to celebrate the successes of girls and boys on La Gabarra,” she said. “We want to thank Athletic for the club’s support in the cultural and sporting aspects of the territory and for maintaining its support for the grassroots sport.”

Juan Mari Aburto stressed the same points as Elizegi. “I ask that no one misunderstands me, that this is done with all respect for La Real,” he explained. “This is a symbol full of meaning and emotion that can return to the area. Athletic supports local and this is a project for Bilbao and Bizkaia and for this reason we laid the foundations so that La Gabarra could return sooner rather than later so sail the Estuary.”

Restoration will begin next week with the hoisting of La Gabarra. Sanitizing will be the first phase followed by addressing more serious issues such as corrosion. Jorge Gómez, who is involved in the project, estimated that the entire process can be completed within a period of nine or ten weeks. “The will be no problem getting the seaworthiness permit,” he ensured. If so, La Gabarra will be in compliance and cleared for use by September.

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