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I sailed a carbon fiber racing yacht (Part 1)

 

The start

I knew through a friend about a skipper in Cascais looking for crew to continue his voyage to Caen. It would be on a IMOCA Open 60 and the skipper was Richard Tolkien. I got excited immediately and said yes. I got the skipper’s email and got in touch with him on the 1st of October informing I was available to be part of the crew though my only sailing experience was with dinghies and 40ft cruisers. I had not a single offshore mile sailed on yachts, despite a few days on board tall ships, let alone on a racing yacht.

I got a positive reply and straight away the date of departure was scheduled to the afternoon of the 6th of October.

Going to sail offshore on a racing yacht felt such an endeavour I still was a bit skeptical.

 I was only sure I was going to board on this voyage when the skipper asked me if I could bring bread and fruits just 2 days before the departure day.

 The departure

 I met with boat in Cascais marine on the afternoon of the 6th and we departed straight away! It was a hot day and we were just using shorts and t-shirts. Around just after 15 minutes, already motoring to open ocean we notice in the distance a wall of fog. As we were finishing trimming the sails and getting the ropes fixed we were already in the middle of the fog battling 25 knots wind upwind and everything on deck was already completely soaked so we quickly changed to foul weather gear. Things were happening fast but I finally could snap some photos to send and say goodbyes before the cell phone signal broke. Oh and just as usual, this time I forgot my sleeping bag at home. Glad there was a spare one on board!

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I sailed a carbon fiber racing yacht (Part 2)

The voyage

Inside the boat was nothing like I ever experienced. Once through the hatch, which is always open day and night, there is the main area with a central navigation table and one bunk on each side. Everything was minimal. My bunk was in another area aft. I had to squeeze through a hole in the bulkhead to access it and could only remain sited since it was below the deck and on top of a massive water ballast tank.

The fog cleared a bit towards the end of the afternoon and it was time for dinner. Still on deck we ate pasta with big cheese chunks and it felt really good. With my belly warm it was time for me to go inside and take a 4h rest. Seasickness was already affecting me and my mind was already dominated by fear but still I was excited for taking on my duties later and doing my best. 

I was suddenly awaken from my light nap. I couldn’t get much sleep. It felt like an amount of water was inside the boat sloshing just beneath my bunk and everywhere. There was also a shhh continuous sound of the water moving quickly through the hull and an occasional banging of a wave not to mention the jerky movements of the boat. I put on the boots, jacket and head torch. 

On deck it was a glorious night with a shinning moon. The fog had gone and the wind had decreased. We were crossing the Traffic Separation Scheme so had to keep a good look out and a eye on the AIS. The skipper decided to take a reef out of the main sail and I had the chance to work on the grinder and rope locks. The deck was a mess of ropes so I started coiling them. Oh boy, in the end I was feeling completely seasick and throwing up soon seemed unavoidable. I let my mates know I was going to throw up and head to the transom and try to justify it with the coiling of the ropes while using my head torch. Spent the next 2h fighting the urge to throw up while watching the lights of huge ships speeding past us but at least had the chance to helm a bit and get my mind occupied

Second day woke up in the morning to a sunny day for my next shift. We were mostly sailing with auto pilot so there was not much to do. Around us only the immense blue ocean as far as the eye could reach. Was hungry and dehydrated. Was able to eat an apple and drink some water but soon threw all up again and again and again despite the sea being almost flat. Highlight of the day was seeing the white sails of another yacht in the very distance.

I tried to sleep with not much success through the afternoon. Finally took some pills for the seasickness and slept on the deck almost until dinner time. My mates said I could rest that night. Next morning I try to go out on deck but throw up again and go back inside. I was miserable. Dehydrated and hungry with nothing to throw up on my stomach. I think it was a huge mistake to come on this voyage. I was paralyzed on my bunk. I was not made to be at sea and here I was in the middle of its vastness far away from land than ever before. I was doomed.

I completely lost sense of time and wondered how I was still alive drinking almost zero water for so long time. Lying in my bunk the wind increases and the bow climbs the waves and falls in the void between them. We are going upwind sailing off of Cape Finisterra I assume. I get up only to throw up again. The shakes and noises of the boat when it lands on the trough of the waves are so violent sometimes they wake me up and it feels like the boat is going to break. I was able to eat a sandwich for dinner and sometimes I made an effort and sip a bit of a bottle of orange juice next to me. I get more sleep for the night and wake up a few times contemplating the cabin illuminated by the orange and green lights of the navigation displays.

 

 

A beautiful corner on the Tagus

It is hard to describe Seixal. It is one of my favorite corners of the estuary. Some say Seixales as a funny reference to the Seychelles archipelago, but unlike the latter, Seixal is no beach destination.
A city of 31,600 inhabitants situated along the Judeu river, just a bit over 1 hour sailing across the Tagus river estuary from Lisbon, the municipality of Seixal evolved over the centuries, always with the connection to the river.
A land of fisherman, it was across the river that the region’s products were carried on sailing boats to Lisbon and various dockyards and shipbuilders began constructing river boats and ocean going sailing ships. Due to the great effects of the tide in the river, several tidal mills were built along the intertidal muddy shores.
It was here that Paulo da Gama was based in his manor house supervising the construction of the fleet of vessels that would take him and his brother Vasco da Gama on their voyage to India in the 16th century.
By the 18th century, the municipality became an aristocratic retreat for the nobility in nearby Lisbon, resulting in the construction several vacation properties or villas which rich architectural heritage endured until nowadays.
A booming oyster industry established here in late 19th century and early 20th exported them mainly to France where they were much appreciated.
Nowadays there is a nautical station on the bay in front of Seixal equipped with a quay and anchorage area besides other support services to the sailing community. While taking a stroll along the river side it is possible to see traditional sailing wooden boats, appreciate the fish cousine, the historic center of Seixal, the natural landscape just opposite where lots of birds migrate to.

 

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When entering the river Judeu it is common to see kids diving from the pontoons next to the Ponta dos Corvos beach
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Another look to the Ponta dos Corvos beach when entering the river Judeu
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Sailing boats from far away in the quay in front of the city
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More sailing boats
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Tidal flat at Ponta dos Corvos beach
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View from the Seixal sailing club with Lisbon in the background

 

A navigator for the modern times

The renown Portuguese solo sailor Ricardo Diniz as embraced another sailing project. This time he is going to race on the 15th Original Singlehanded Transatlantic Race edition, OSTAR, between Plymouth UK and Newport, Rhode Island US, on 29 May 2017 on board his Open 60 Taylor 325, being the first Portuguese entrant to do so.

The port wine route

Besides being a solo sailor, Ricardo Diniz is also an entrepreneur and for that he put up a promotion campaign in partnership with his main sponsor, the famous Port wine brand Taylor’s, currently celebrating their 325th anniversary.

The promotion campaign main objective is to reenact the first Taylor’s port wine exports done by sea from Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal to London, UK. This way, on board his Open 60 he is going to transport a cask full of port wine part of a limited edition celebrating the 325th anniversary.

The race

For the second part of this project, Ricardo counts not only on his 5 Atlantic crossings and over 100,000 miles sailed all over the world but also on his Taylor 325.

The OSTAR is a single-handed race against the prevailing winds and current across the Atlantic over a distance of around 3,000 nautical miles It takes over than 20 days and was held for the first time in 1960 and happens every 4 years since then. Five yachts sailed from Plymouth to New York and, remarkably, all five finished with Francis Chichester coming first in Gipsy Moth III.

The second OSTAR in 1964 was won by Eric Tabarly in Pen Duick II and many famous sailors since then took part in this race such as Loïck Peyron, Francis Joyon, Yves Parlier, Franck Cammas, Ellen MacArthur, Thomas Coville or Samantha Davies.

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The yacht

Taylor 325 is an Open 60 designed by the British architect Philip Morrison, built in 1990 and has already raced on two OSTAR editions in 1992 and 1996.

Characteristics:

Length: 18,28 m

Breadth: 4,20 m

Draught: 4,30 m

Mast high: 23 m

Ballast: 5 ton

Displacement: 12,5 ton

Into this yacht was also applied portuguese cork in different areas aiming to increase the comfort and safety inside and outside the vessel.

Once again Ricardo Diniz joins forces with Portuguese companies to promote the best of Portugal through sailing.

We will follow closely Ricardo Diniz as he takes the name of Portugal across the seas.

 

Top 5 water experiences to do in Lisbon

You have seen everything on your list, don’t feel like do more walking, bored of doing every time the same thing, want to try new things or want to surprise someone. Here are a few exciting things that will change your routine and put a smile on your face.

Top 5 water experiences sailing tour
A creative engagement proposal

Sailing Tours

These are my favorite. There are plenty of sailing tours companies mostly located at one of several marinas but not all of them are the same. Some of them have scheduled sailings for which you can buy a ticket and you will sail together with other people. It is really easy. Just buy the ticket and sail. Other offer a more personal tour where you book a trip. You can take your partner on a romantic sunset tour, do a bachelorette party, have dinner onboard after a birthday party and even stop for a swim. The limit is your imagination.

Speed Boats

Speed and adrenaline are your thing and you are not afraid of getting a bit wet? If so, this is the right experience for you. This high-speed ride is done on powerful rigid inflatable boats with much horsepower. You will be taken in a high-speed run with lots of turns that will make you feel like in a roller coaster. In between of all these emotions there is also time to enjoy the views towards Lisbon and see some of the riverfront iconic monuments.

Helicopter Tours

See things from another perspective and be blown by the view over the city, the 25 de Abril bridge, the Cristo Rei, the full extent of the Tagus estuary and see the blue ocean stretching as far as the view can see. Sit back and enjoy the unique views over some of the most iconic landmarks. There are several routes you can choose from.

Surf

Certainly, you have heard about the giant waves at Nazareth beach and Garret McNamara. If they are too much high for you there are lots of beaches to choose from around Lisbon being the nearest and most popular Carcavelos which is served by the urban train. Other near destinations include the beaches at Costa da Caparica located south of Tagus. New to surf? No problem. You can always find some surf schools at the most popular beaches and if you already have the skills there is material for renting.

Amphibious Bus

Have you ever taken a bus that also goes on the water? Pretty cool no? These bus tours start on dry land and take you on a sightseeing tour to some of the best locations in Lisbon and there is a guide onboard that will give you an explanation of what you are seeing. Then at some point of the tour you will be driven down a ramp leading to the river and that is when you start doubting if your bus really floats. With a splash on the water all your doubts start to disappear as you cruise calmly through the river waters. During this second part, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the view and see some of the most iconic riverfront landmarks.

Feeling already excited about these experiences?

Have you ever tried on of these experiences?

Lisbon the capital of the Atlantic

There is no doubt Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, has become one of most popular destinations in Europe and not only for tourism. It is considered one of the coolest cities with a vibrant culture and a hotspot for entrepreneurs, artists, surfers, international students or scientific researchers.

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Terreiro do Paço Square

What many people don’t know yet is that Lisbon is becoming the city of sails of Europe.

If you already had the pleasure of being in Lisbon it is certain that you noticed this city gives you a sense of being at the beach and this is special true at the riverfront.

This is due to the combination of its Mediterranean climate that produces long warm summers and short mild winters and the presence of the imposing river Tagus.

Its estuary area is around 320km2 and since the beginning of the first settlements in the Neolithic, people took advantage of this mighty river for their subsistence. It was from here that naus and caravels departed during the Portuguese Discoveries in the XV and XVI centuries and later in the XX century a vibrant fishing industry established. Nowadays we are beginning to see a rise of its usage for recreational purposes.

Anchored yachts in front of Caxias beach, Lisbon
Anchored yachts in front of Caxias beach, Lisbon

It is home for several types of fishes, mollusks, crustaceous and especially thousands of birds who stop here during their annual migrations reaching 50 000 individuals.

If you take a stroll along the riverfront on a sunny day you will notice the fair amount of sailing boats elegantly making their way across the calm waters.

This image became part of Lisbon’s landscape and you can also enjoy a relaxed tour on one of this sailing boats through several existing tour companies.

I recall one summer afternoon when I was quietly sailing past the old quarter of Alfama, looking to the packed white houses with red roofs along the hill mixed with ancient stone religious buildings and traces of green foliage and colorful flowers, and being stricken by the beauty of this never before seen perspective of the city.

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View towards Alfama old quarter

Moreover, Lisbon has become known for hosting events such as the America’s Cup World Series in 2010, the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in 2012, the La Route des Princes in 2013, the Tall Ships Races in 2012 and 2016, the Extreme Sailing Series Act 7 and currently it is where the Volvo Ocean Race boatyard is located preparing the boats for the next Volvo Ocean Race edition following the city’s aspirations of one day becoming the VOR headquarters.

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Emirates Team NZ and Oracle Team USA at the America’s Cup World Series Cascais

There is still much to be done but it is absolutely undeniable that the river Tagus together with the sunny weather and charming Lisbon offer one of best packages for a truly unforgettable sailing experience.

Here is a selection of some nautical moments from around Lisbon.

Volvo Ocean Race 2011 - 2012 Lisbon Stopover
Volvo Ocean Race 2011 – 2012 Lisbon Stopover
Tall Ships Races Lisbon 2012
Tall Ships Races Lisbon 2012
Cunard Line Queen Mary II, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth meeting at Lisbon in 2014
Cunard Line Queen Mary II, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth meeting at Lisbon in 2014
Team SCA and Vestas Wind at Volvo Ocean Race 2014 - 2015 Lisbon Stopover
Team SCA and Vestas Wind at Volvo Ocean Race 2014 – 2015 Lisbon Stopover