Monday, July 7, 2008

Regatta to São Jorge and back

The inside boat in our raft-up (Per Mare) entered a regatta over the weekend. When it was time on Friday to move Solstice so that Per Mare could get out, we decided it would be easier and a lot of fun to join the regatta too. So we did and now we’re back.

The regatta was for the Clubes Naval of Horta (on Faial where we are now) and Velas on São Jorge, a sort of community yacht club that’s open to the public, and they welcomed any cruisers to join in. It was a 20-mile course straight from Horta to Velas, overnight there, and reverse the course the next day. The fee to enter was 10/boat and for that we got dinner and drinks for two nights plus free moorage at São Jorge. How could we go wrong?

It was our first regatta. Saturday (Horta to Velas) we were pleased not to embarrass ourselves and finished fifth (out of seven). When we arrived at Velas, we discovered that there was a huge festival going on. The streets were lined with booths of associations selling food and drink and some handicrafts to make money. A tent city had sprung up on the cliffs to house all the young people who had made their way to the village, from whence we know not where, for the party. Down at the harbor, a stage was set up for a rock concert.

We walked around town in company with the crews of the two other "foreign yachts" until it was time to find the location for dinner. Dinner was plain, traditional food: vegetable soup, marinated pork, bread, a potato and vegetable salad, and drinks. It was served family style in the school cafeteria, and it was generous. As soon as a serving plate looked a little empty, someone replaced it with a full one. The same was true for the bottles of Portuguese red wine.

When everyone had eaten their fill, the awards for the first day were announced. We each got a certificate for completing the first leg and a cloth bag from the club with local cheese and cookies in it. There were probably some actual awards too, but it was in Portuguese, so we don’t know what they were.

By the time dinner was over, the festival was in full swing. Local marching bands and folk dancing groups had a parade that lasted until nearly midnight. That’s when the rock concert started, and Gerry hosted an informal party on Per Mare. When we went back to Solstice, the rock concert was over, but disco music was just starting up. We were tired enough to sleep through it, but we’re told it went on until four or five in the morning.

The race back started at 10 o’clock. We were the middle boat in the last raft up, and our raft needed to break up before anyone else could get out. The young people on the outside boat (a cute little Beneteau) were still sleeping, so we had to rouse them. They were quite good-natured about it and thanked us for being their alarm clock.

The beginning of the race was promising, and we were doing over six knots. Once we were clear of the island, though, the wind dropped to next to nothing. We got out the spinnaker right away instead of waiting as we’d done the day before, but even with it, at one point we were doing less than a knot. Solstice is a heavy boat and needs about 10 knots of wind to make our average speed of five knots. Since we’re cruisers, not racers, John made BLTs for lunch and we took turns taking naps until we were finally the last boat to cross the finish.

There was some confusion about where the finish was. A regatta of traditional whaling boats had been going on in Horta while we were away, and the race committee had changed which buoy marked our finish line. We couldn’t understand them on the radio at first, but they were telling us that we had to change course in order to cross the finish. John quickly put the sock on the spinnaker so that I could jibe and get us to the buoy.

In the short time we were gone, many boats left Horta and others arrived. Per Mare got a regular slip, and now we’re rafted to a huge catamaran. Instead of climbing a ladder to get to the seawall as I sometimes had to with Per Mare, I now sometimes have to jump down. The cat is leaving Wednesday, and we’re considering whether we want to get a slip or maybe leave Wednesday too. The rest of the mini-rally is leaving on Saturday, and we’ll sail with them up to the English Channel, but we could join them from a different island.

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