Spirited sailing

news: Spirited sailing

Bob Hughes reports on the recent Portugal Match Cup sailing competition, held in the Bay of Cascais, near Lisbon.

Wednesday was most certainly a breath of fresh air in more ways than one. I had spent the previous day waiting to see the magnificent sailboats taking part in the Portugal Match Cup practising for the next day’s round-robin heats in the Bay of Cascais.

But the day was as still as could be, pennants drooped from masts and the teams whiled away the day. On Wednesday, I felt the wind on my cheeks as I left home and knew that I was in for a treat as soon as I arrived at the Marina de Cascais.

Despite my lack of nautical knowledge and understanding of the definitions and tactics, the speed and agility of the team members impressed me. Once a marker was passed, all their training came to the fore. The teams had to get the sails up and the boats moving in completely the opposite direction – at some stages in the heats two and three, boats passed the outer marker buoys at once and there was a blaze of colour as the spinnakers filled with air. The boats raced inches away from each other, each one trying to grasp the last breath of air to increase their lead.

The event was a pleasure to watch and the crowds that had gathered on the promenades and beaches of Cascais were entertained with sailing at its best. At the press conference held at the end of the day’s heats, I spoke to Russell Coutts, skipper of the New Zealand team and winner of one of the heats. He said he had been most impressed with the boats supplied to the competitors, commenting, “they’re well up to the task”.

Coutts also spoke about the level of challenge from the Portuguese team. “They were good. It was only a couple of mistakes in the closing stages that had helped our team to beat them.” He added that the wind had been good that day – at times the wind speed had reached 20 knots. I asked what he looked for from competing teams. “Watch for the surprises and be well prepared for almost any eventuality!” he laughed.

The competition continued through to the weekend and was not just about sailing. A champagne night and a ‘Famous Stars’ night has helped to raise money for the Portuguese Association for the Rights of Minors and of the Family, a charity that defends children’s rights.