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Training ship ‘Juan Sebastián de Elcano’
Training ship ‘Juan Sebastián de Elcano’
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Training ship ‘Juan Sebastián de Elcano’
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She is a four mast brig-schooner
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Bidding farewell
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Etching of Juan Sebastián de Elcano
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1st Training Cruise in Montevideo (1928)
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A group of officers during the 1st Training Cruise
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2nd Training Cruise (Patagonia)
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Landing in the Straits of Magellan during the 2nd Training CruiseMagallanes
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3rd Training Cruise
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Lifeboat (1931)
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Ship’s rigging
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Ship’s stern
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Ship’s jibs
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The ‘Juan Sebastián de Elcano’ at night
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Ship’s sections
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Drawing with the ship’s sails
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The Commanding Officer of the training ship ‘Juan Sebastián de Elcano’ welcomes you to the website of this unit which belongs to the Maritime Action Force. The ‘Juan Sebastián de Elcano’ is a very well-known ship both at home and abroad, especially for our countrymen living overseas who enjoy visiting the vessel whenever she makes a port of call as part of her training cruise. This four mast brig-schooner with crossed foresail is also a floating embassy. Her presence in foreign countries and ports contributes to the Spanish foreign policy. When showing the flag, apart from giving a good image, it allows Spanish citizens living abroad to step onto a ‘small part of the Homeland’. Her silhouette is also easily recognized by most tall-ship lovers.

As training ship, the ‘Elcano’ (as she is normally known) is entrusted with the formation and training of future Spanish Navy officers: the midshipmen. To this end, a six-month training cruise is organised every year, usually sailing outside Spain. Most of the instruction is carried out at sea where midshipmen receive classes and take part in all types of manoeuvres. Of all the cruises she has completed since her commissioning in 1928, ten of them have been around the world. In all these years the ship has sailed in strong winds and rough seas showing her seaworthy condition.

Training Ship ‘JUAN SEBASTIÁN DE ELCANO’ - (A-71)
LENGTH 113.1 meters
BEAM 13 meters
PROPULSION 1 DEUTZ MWM diesel engine of 2.070 HP with a 4-bladed propeller
CREW 197
WEAPONS Two 37 mm BAZAN mountings (for gun salutes) Two 12.7 mm BROWNING Machine-guns Two 7.62 mm MG-1 machine-guns
SENSORS 2 DECCA BRIDGE MASTER Navigation radars 2 SPERRY Mk-27 Gyroscopes 1 SAGEM LHS Chip log 2 ELAC LAZ Echo soundings 4 GPS 1 AIS SAAB R4 Antenna
MISCELLANEOUS Operating theatre (tele-medicine) 2 lifeboats 2 RHIBs (CORMORAN and BRIO) ECDIS CONAM NAV/C2 System 2 Cranes (4 tons) 4 davits

The main mission of this ship is to train future Spanish Navy officers in navigation and seafaring procedures and techniques. Her most important task is to keep the midshipmen in their 4th academic year, in continuous and intimate contact with the sea, an environment where they will later carry out their main professional activities.

This, along with the eminently practical teaching on board, contributes to consolidate and strengthen their technical and nautical expertise, aimed at achieving a high level of general culture, as well as getting acquainted with the principles, customs and virtues which make up the soul of the profession.

In accordance with the current syllabus of the Naval Academy, the students embark on board the ‘Juan Sebastián de Elcano’ during the second semester of the fourth academic year. During this period they follow an Instruction Cruise on board. A standard cruise consists in a six month voyage to America sailing 20,000 miles with 155 day’s runs. Upon conclusion of the instruction cruise, Navy midshipmen will be promoted to Ensigns and those from the Marine Corps to Second Lieutenants.

The ship’s home port is in ‘La Carraca’ Arsenal (San Fernando – Cádiz) where most Maritime Action Force units have their base. This port is a station especially devoted to the maintenance and repair works of other naval units. The name ‘Carraca’ derives from the name given to an ocean-going boat – Carrack – much used in the 15th century.

Unlike most Navy units, this four mast brig-schooner has no combat weapons like torpedoes or missiles. Nevertheless the ship has a series of light weapons for self-defense, should an unexpected threat occur either at sea or in a foreign port; namely 2 BAZAN mountings, 2 Browning machine-guns, 2 MG machine-guns and an assortment of rifles, pistols and other portable weapons.

Candidates to Navy Officers are called Midshipmen (Guardia Marinas) since 1717 when Quartermaster General José Patiño founded in Cádiz the Royal Company of Midshipmen during the reign of King Phillip V, the first Spanish Monarch of the present Bourbon dynasty.
The city of Cádiz was therefore the city that welcomed the first Midshipmen and it was fit that the same city built the training ship ‘Juan Sebastián de Elcano’ 200 years later.
Since the very beginning, the Royal Company of Midshipmen – the one already mentioned in Cádiz and two further schools in Ferrol and Cartagena – gave great importance to the practical training of students. No wonder that six of the eight years that lasted the military instruction of candidates until promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade, were spent on board different warships; their Commanders and Senior Officers were also their teachers.
It was in 1862 when the concept of an exclusive training ship for future naval Officers took shape. To this end the frigate ‘Esperanza’ was tasked with this mission along with the corvettes ‘Villa de Bilbao’, ‘Santa María’ and ‘Trinidad’. They were subsequently replaced in 1874 by the frigate ‘Blanca’ and in 1881 by the ‘Almansa’ and ‘Asturias’.
In 1886 the corvette ‘Nautilus’ was entrusted with this instruction task. Her first training cruise with midshipmen took place in 1888 under the command of Commander Fernando Villaamil.
In 1910 the ‘Nautilus’ was decommissioned as training ship and in 1933 she was broken up at La Graña shipyard. Her last Commander was Manuel de Mendívil Elío who, in turn, was the first Commanding Officer of the ‘Juan Sebastián de Elcano’.
After decommissioning the ‘Nautilus’ in 1910, the Spanish Navy had no training ships. Midshipmen trained on board other operational warships although they did not fulfil the necessary instruction requirements. A new ship was needed, capable of meeting those demands.
The project began to take shape in 1923 when the Ministry of the Navy signed a contract with Horacio Echevarrieta y Maruri on April 6th to fit out the sailing ship ‘Minerva’ as training ship for midshipmen. Next year, a Royal Decree dated June 30th approved the shipbuilding of a new ship also called ‘Minerva’.
Once the Spanish Navy gave its consent, a project based on the model designed by English engineer Charles V. Nicholson was signed with the Echevarrieta & Larrinaga Shipyards. The keel was laid on November 24th 1925 in the presence of Infante Don Carlos, Prime Minister General Primo de Rivera, the military governor of Cádiz Pedro Mercader and other authorities. During the ceremony, Horacio Echevarrieta suggested general Primo de Rivera to change the name for ‘Juan Sebastián de Elcano’. The general raised the proposal to King Alfonso XIII who accepted the change.
With her new name the ship was launched on March 5th 1927 in the presence of Carmen Primo de Rivera, daughter of the Prime Minister. In all fairness and after four centuries after his death in 1526, Elcano received a most wonderful homage.
In the course of all these years, the ship has sailed 10 times around the world and has visited 68 countries and 181 different ports. The ship has sailed one and a half million miles which amounts to 26 years of continuous sailing.
The ship belongs to the “Sail Training Association” and participates in its races and Naval Weeks. In 1974 she got for the first time the “Boston Tea Cup” awarded to the ship that travels the longest distance in 24 hours in full sail. She has also won that Cup in 1979, 1996/1997 (ninth cruise around the world), 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2006. In 1997 she established a new record sailing 275.2 miles in 24 hours. She has reached 17 knots with 75-knot winds and spent 42 at sea without visiting any port. She has also crossed the Magellan Strait twelve times recalling the heroic feat of the Portuguese sailor.
In 1937, 38 and 39 the ship did not sail because of the Spanish Civil War. There were important overhauls in 1956 and 1978.  The ship’s hull is made of iron and her four masts are named after previous training ships: ‘Blanca’, ‘Almansa’, ‘Asturias’ and ‘Nautilus’.

The ship’s complement consists of 197 people: 24 officers, 22 non-commissioned officers, 39 leading seamen, 107 ratings and 5 civilian personnel. Apart from the ship’s own crew, the ‘Juan Sebastián de Elcano’ can accommodate up to 78 midshipmen who embark to complete the 4th year subjects on board.

Every year the training ship ‘Juan Sebastián de Elcano’ welcomes midshipmen from the Naval Academy who embark to further their studies on board. During the cruise they combine the syllabus subjects, conferences, astronomical observations and cultural activities with the routine errands of a tall-ship side by side with the ship’s crew.

The vessel has two classrooms where the midshipmen attend the different courses and lectures. A typical school day has five hours of classes on Navigation, Astronomy, Meteorology, Geography, Naval Manoeuvers and English, among other subjects.

Apart from those academic subjects the students participate in all joint activities with the rest of the crew including daily watches. In this way the midshipmen share and get to know the demanding life on board a tall ship and understand the difficult tasks of command and leadership, something they will have to exercise and improve throughout their lives.

Another important aspect of the training ship worth mentioning is her role as an instrument of the State in support of its foreign policy, thus sometimes referred to as a ‘floating embassy’. The ship welcomes local authorities whenever she visits a foreign port and conducts an intense schedule of activities on board; but midshipmen, officers and crew members also pay official visits to institutional and cultural organizations of interest.


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