Vaqueta ball

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The vaqueta ball (Valencian: pilota de vaqueta, IPA: [piˈlɔta ðe vaˈketa]; vaqueta meaning "little cow") is the kind of ball used to play some Valencian pilota variants: Escala i corda, Galotxa and Raspall. Its name derives from the fact that it is made of bull's skin, hence its black colour (that tends to become brown as it is used), this way the ball contrasts with the white colour of the trinquets' walls.


Vaqueta ball, as new

The vaqueta ball has a diameter of 44 mm, its circumference is 138 mm, and its weight is around 42 and 48 gr, depending on the variant (in Escala i corda lighter balls are preferred, while in Raspall heavier balls are used).

The actual weight of the balls is the end of a process, that is, historical pilotaris such as Quart in the 1930s played with balls around 28 and 33 g. The lighter the ball the slower it goes and the less it flies (its direction). This change of weight has been favoured by "rest" players, who tend to be stronger and have to send the ball longer, but it is an extra handicap for "mitger" and "punter" players, who have to stop the ball or strike it in the middle of its trajectory and while it is still carrying a lot of force.

During the matches, and before beginning every "quinze", the team who stands at the "dau" is allowed to change one of the six disposable balls (each team previously chose three of them). This way, if playing again a double team, a trio would choose a new ball, which are fast and with a long bounce, so that the opposing two players are forced to move constantly. Otherwise, the attacking team tends to choose heavier balls, since they exhaust more when defensing.


Vaqueta ball, used

The making of a vaqueta ball is a piece of Arts and crafts. The "piloters" are mainly leather workers such as Emili López (Alberic), Enric Álvarez (Carcaixent), Miquel Baixauli (Catarroja), Joan Montañés (Llíria), Josep Bernet (Massalfassar), and Miquel Pedrosa (La Vall d'Uixó), or retired players as el Rovellet (València).

First the "piloter" chooses the bull's skin, specially from the nape of the neck, which has to be 6 or 7 mm thick and which has to be very tough, so that the ball becomes a real stone when it is finished. Once the leather is chosen, it is steeped until it becomes 3 mm thick. During this process the skin becomes softer and the "piloter" may work with it. Next, eight triangles are cut and sewn up from the inner side with nylon so that they form a sphere. But before the last triangle is sewn up, the ball is stuffed with fluff. After that the last triangle is sewn up and the ball gets closed. It will be pressed for 3 or 4 days in order to acquire a perfect spherical shape. The elaboration process is finished around 1 month later, when the leather is absolutely dry.

There are a number of reasons to explain the expensive price of the "vaqueta" balls: The handcrafted elaboration, the time consumed, the quality of the materials, and the few number of renowned piloters. Hence its price may be around €40–80, but there also on sale balls used by the professional players, though they are not as fast or tough as new ones.