LISBON was in a festive mood last weekend, when thousands of well-wishers congregated at the city’s Alcântara docks to bid scores of sailing ships good luck for the next leg of their voyage.
As part of the 50th anniversary of the Tall Ships Race, which each year traditionally makes Lisbon its port of call, the myriad sailing frigates, sloops, clippers and barques sailed up the River Tejo on July 20 and glided into dock where they stayed moored until July 23, before setting sail on the next leg of their journey to Cadiz in Spain.
The body organising the event was originally called the Sail Training International Race Committee, and its key founding members were London solicitor, Bernard Morgan, and the then Portuguese Ambassador to London, Dr. Pedro Teotónio Pereira, who both decided to organise a race for sail training tall-mast ships.
The original race consisted of 20 ships from 10 different countries, manned by several hundred young naval trainees, who gathered at Dartmouth in the UK in July 1956 for a race to Lisbon.
Now, 50 years on, the race is legendary, with a very different group of tall ship enthusiasts arriving in Lisbon in the renamed Charity Sail Training International competition. With over 100 vessels from 20 different countries, manned by thousands of trainees between 15 and 25 years of age, the event has grown so large it can no longer gather for pre-race formalities in the mouth of Devon’s River Dart at Dartmouth, as it did 50 years ago. Instead, the mustering venue for this year’s 50th anniversary race was Saint- Malo, France, between July 6 and 9.
The event this year experienced a further change. Rather than finishing in Lisbon as is traditional, the ships will go on to Cadiz and La Coruña, Spain (August 7 to August 10), before sailing off for the final lap of the race to Antwerp, Belgium, where they are due to arrive on August 19.
The Resident’s Chris Graeme had the chance to go aboard some of the vessels, which interestingly were all only a little more than 30-years-old, but based on original 19th century designs from the golden age of sailing.
A US Naval Academy cadet, Briana Strand, said: “This is my first time in Lisbon and the boat that we’re on, the Juan Sebastian from Spain, wasn’t part of the race! It is a midshipman training boat belonging to the Spanish fleet.” One enduring memory for Briana was a great party they had on the boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to celebrate St. Carmen’s Day, the Spanish patron saint of the military. “It really has been a blast, I’m only sad because we are leaving the ship in Lisbon and heading back to Boston,” she concluded.
At the official reception ceremony at the city’s port, Lisbon’s mayor, Carmona Rodrigues, said that it was “a great honour to receive the annual event”.