The Rally Portugal Story

Tony Porter
Fri 4 Sep 2009 10:32
With greatful thanks to our author Terry, here is the hitherto untold story that was written as we sailed!!
Many thanks to a great crew.



A Wednesday departure turned into Thursday as we waited frustratingly in Brighton Marina, due to howling winds from the west.  The 28th May, a 06:00 trip to the fuel pontoon and a lengthy motor-sail to Mayflower Marina, Plymouth.  Leaving our departure a day later certainly proved wise as the storm had blown over, presenting a more relaxed trip and opportunity to marvel at the auto control.  A couple of minor problems arose, i.e. a faulty connection on the starboard navigation light and a recalibration of the radar, generally all the preparation fell nicely into place.

A scenic and effortless entry into Plymouth, after twenty eight hours from Bob (and “Eric”, the auto pilot for future reference).  Not forgetting “running bear”, our engine, who certainly worked hard enough for 160 miles.  Bureaucratic formalities completed, an enjoyable introductory gathering in the evening when Bob’s son Phil, joined us and then a final nightcap to ensure a good night’s sleep.

Saturday the 30th May, cleared up a number of small jobs, cleaning, refuelling, etc and unfortunately another drink, just to be sociable.   The marina bar had a talented trio belting out my type of music, therefore the early night was a shame, roll on, the Sunday start 09:00 hours.

Bang! We are off, third over the line, then holding fifth until the yachts separate and the faster one disappear over the horizon.  The different courses chosen make it difficult for the comparative novice to determine you’re placing due to the angles and handicaps.  Mind you, I am writing this on the second day and am being told by our extremely expert in all aspects (and if he ever reads this probably increased ego) skipper, to go with the experience is a big dollop of guesswork and experimentation.  Improvisation in the very light winds, interrupted with considerable gusts, cruising chute up and down, huff and puff I’ll have to start walking John’s dog.

Seven to eight knots under full sail after six hours with “running bear” and Bob is getting as bad as John.  In warmer waters he is the only one to see flying fish everywhere.  Now it’s Bob and his dolphins and sharks, probably old beer barrels.

Twenty four hours, one hundred and twenty two miles, average approximately five knots.  Behind expectations? But now putting our foot down and Tony’s smiling.

Monday evening and Tuesday night provided plenty of excitement dealing with large traffic transiting Biscay between the traffic separation schemes off Brest and Cape Finnesterre.  A joint effort with the radar and Automatic Identification System resulting in us advising two ships of our position as they seemed to be “sniffing our tails”.

Seven knots and one hundred and forty four miles raise us to an average now, of six knots.  We are all alone going down to the east, the rest taking it further west, winds and weather against distance?  Radio banter suggests some of the fleet may cut in; however it could also mean we are the ones to alter plans.  At the moment I feel like David vs. Goliath.

We believe leaving our engine in reverse with a misaligned folding propeller has cost us about twenty miles or three hours.  This was something unfortunately not discovered sooner.  Skipper shrugged his shoulders and said “that’s life”.  He is conveying an admirable attitude to his crew.

Good speed on a lumpy sea overnight until the wind dropped early morning and “running bear” started work.   Port watch of Tony and Terry alert on duty as always with the “Boy” and “Elder” fast asleep as nearly always when Renegade was attacked by  an armada of dolphins, at least twenty five playing their war games.  We felt starboard watch must need their sleep and the charge may end any time, Tony’s decision “sleep on”, did we ever get xxxxxxxxx (expletive).

No sooner had the violence ceased when the skipper had a cuddle up with “little tits”; if you want to know more you had better ask him.

Alright, I’ll tell you.  A small tit, i.e. bird had landed unseen on the push pit, six inches from my arm whilst on the helm.  I had spent five minutes trying to find the source of what sounded like an instrument malfunction before discovering her amazing appearance.  She promptly flew onto the skipper’s shoulder, hopped onto his head and duly exercised her authority.  Head high, she strutted around the cockpit for ten minutes, and then departed without even a “Dear John”.  Poseidon must have decided the skipper’s hat was not now acceptable and Aeolus promptly blew it off his head.  The more he cursed the more I laughed, disrespectful, okay! But certainly funny.

Same watch, same dozers, one single solitary dolphin, two quick peeps and no Bob, so she left us for another.  Let’s just say, again a few chosen words from starboard watch.

Dinner before our expected 9p.m. arrival to the east of the Cape Finnisterre north bound shipping lane, twelve miles offshore.

With another drop in wind and a flat sea the opportunity was taken to top up the fuel from a twenty litre can.  Prevention is better than cure as possible bad weather was forecast and ensuring enough diesel in the tanks for a leeward shore. Our journey round the cape and down to Bayona with a combination of fishing boats and fog highlighted the compatibility of radar and A.I.S. working in unison.

The wind picked up for a couple of hours, leading us to imagine a flying finish, only to drop away on the final approach, not really flying at three and a half knots.  A total of ninety six hours and fifty minutes of thrill, education, humour and camaraderie.  Five hundred and seventy two miles gave us an average speed of a fraction under six knots, Plymouth to Bayona, a town and harbour of character and beauty.

Our emails on arrival included this from Gail, a long shot for Poet Laureate.


 Four “Indians in Brighton set out to sea

Very excited and full of glee

Plymouth bound for the start of the race

With hope in their hearts and joy in their face

First stop Bayona, wow what a trip

Good weather, dolphins and a bird on the ship

Finished second, very well done

Next leg, try harder and be no. One


Bob and John were designated the task of “Dressing the Boat”.  Beer’s before this undertaking are not a good idea as they put them all on upside down and the situation certainly became amusing.  Easy time around the boat before commencing the arduous chore of socializing and generally mingling, probably better described simply as a lively night.

Work, work, again cleaning, washing, polishing, will this terrible life ever end?.  Hopefully before the “sangria night” at seven thirty.

After the welcome, forty five of us proceeded to a restaurant to be recommended, “La Candela”, excellent in all ways.  The evening progressed, with the wine from serious discussion to humour, hilarity and complete farce.  Ridiculed for my attempts to communicate with the pretty young waitress, “PLEASE”, I begged, “NO PEAS ON MY PLATE”, then convincing my mates I probably ordered double peas.  When she correctly presented my dinner her delight was so great, she kissed me in joy.  So as not to offend I gallantly accepted her unwelcome advances.

Saturday morning began with an unfortunate event, John, alone on the pontoon, discovered a body in the water.  He dealt with the situation in his typical practical way; ensuring recovery and respect were immediately put in place.  John related the circumstances in a small statement for the authorities and took the surprise and emotion in his stride.

The tour to Santiago de Compostela was marred slightly by dreary weather, however very worthwhile.  My return saw the remaining crew, who had stayed on board; arrive at the fuel pontoon as I was passing.  Tony was holding his head in frustration, Bob laughing at the inevitability as wherever they go in the world I seem to appear at the quayside.

Not to be described as an unruly mutinous crew, we seem to have demoted the skipper to the galley, another of his fortes.  Therefore another fine meal was followed by a film, three on whisky, one on water.

This weather was the prelude to “Bad in Bayona”.  Apart from a shopping expedition to obtain another in the line of hats for the skipper, thunder, lightning, wind and torrential rain confined us to the boat.

 We awoke Monday the eighth of June to more of similar weather conditions and the now possible delay of two days.  The skipper’s briefing is still on tonight followed by possibly a more formal dinner and prize giving for the Biscay leg.

Slight impatience and boredom in the confinement of Renegade and Bayona and a day or so longer than appreciated, perhaps gave rise to our first sign of disagreement.

John has now agreed to take charge of the “kitty”, my rather free and easy method of evenly putting in a small amount and then just topping it up when low was deemed inappropriate.  I must stress, my laxidazical book-keeping was fully explained prior to departure and accepted.  More detail is now requested and feeling slightly aggrieved handed responsibility to John, who had also volunteered initially.  Where my attention to exactness is glossed over, John thoroughly enjoys precision in everything. Still no hard feelings.  The Bastards!!!

Now I have that episode off my chest, the sailors have kissed and made up, I will return to, I hope, a more light hearted vein and another foolish occasion.  The skip and crew had all stated their intention to have a shorter tonsorial appearance for the voyage.  Some moron knowing this would not materialize organised a pre-departure breakfast in Cafe Rouge, Brighton Marina.  This was attended by family and friends and a well known celebrity.  The celebrity in fact turned out to be a Steve Davis lookalike, who looked nothing like the snooker star.  In fact, Bob looks more like Mr. Davis.  Prizes were awarded to the contestants, some who cannot keep their word or are too vain to be ridiculed.  A hair net, curlers and grips were among the gifts and will certainly be needed as their hair was longer than usual.  It had also been stated that shaving would not be necessary until meeting our wives in Lagos.  Macho man would shock them and state a fact of dominance. Ha!! Fat chance.  It itches, I don’t look so pretty, I’ll have a white chin when it comes off, and I’m just plain scared of my wife.  Perhaps the girls should have the beards.

Thank you Adam, but maybe you should become a Bob lookalike.

Back to Monday night and the prize giving dinner, a seventh place was our target over the preceding months, lowered to sixth, but with Tony hoping for a possible fifth as we had used our engine significantly less than our rivals.  The Monte Real Club de Yates was the venue for a more formal occasion.  A fine dinner, drinks and enjoyable conversation, as the evening progressed the formality began to disappear as the tension mounted.  Finally the awards for the Plymouth – Bayona leg across the Bay of Biscay.

         Third place                Ben More

         Second place             Renegade

          First place                Roanda

More than we had possibly hoped for, stunned silence from our skip and crew, quickly followed by puzzled looks, broad smiles and congratulations.  Tony’s meticulous preparation and skill had paid off handsomely.  Bob and John’s talent and advice had ably assisted the skip in his decisions.

Congratulations to Roanda, who had beaten us by less than three hours, however, I now refer to my previous mention of the misaligned folding propeller in reverse gear, estimated to have cost us twenty miles or three hours.

Oh!!  What might have been?

Tuesday the ninth, one day delay and a coach tour, hopefully Wednesday go, but 22.00 and gale force winds?

Wednesday the tenth, as predicted by our skipper the foul weather persisted.  “Dances with Waves” and “Andiamo” took their chances.  Several miles out the Essex Boys gave up and returned, while the other carried on.  Nine p.m. and returning from a meal ashore, there she was, “Dances with Waves”, nine hours at sea, all to no avail.  Tony had made his intention clear to delay our departure, thus giving a bit more security to the smaller boats and catamaran.

Misty and dull Thursday morning, but at least its dry, now we have very little wind, what extremes.  Up early and a leisurely preparation for a 07.00 departure.  It’s all go as hoped for Povoa de Varzim, nine and a quarter hours, 57 miles, motor sailing, dolphins and dodging fishing boats.  15.00 and our first sunshine since Plymouth.  Our weather delay cost us any chance of seeing the town of Povoa de Varzim, but a sumptuous dinner at the yacht club compensated adequately and the intended early night was somewhat extended.

07.00 start again and crossed the line at snail’s pace to almost immediately put “running bear” on duty.  Two hours of motor sailing and then the most competitive leg so far.  Nearly seven knots for the exhilarating journey and on the final approach over ten as we slalomed through a maze of fisherman’s pots.  The other fleet members also related the thrill of this leg.  Results to be announced later Friday evening at the Casino dinner and cabaret in Figueira de Foz.

I was the only one to take advantage of the Friday tour of Coimbra and Mortemor Castle.  Alan, alias “Horace” from Andiamo and I met the Lemo’ns sisters, Phealme and Ghentley.  Photographs were taken to confirm our acceptance into Portuguese tradition.  Perhaps the dozers made the wrong decision to relax.  A medieval market can only be described as an exceptional exhibition for the city to host regularly.  Lepers, Jesters, fighting Knights and many stalls, the only possible criticism was the cleanliness, standards of hygiene were then not so great.

The casino event began with a reception and the placings.  Tony suddenly became a bundle of joy with a satisfactory result and third place was more than that, so the evening became very special with dinner and a cabaret.  Bob and I were a tad late back after visiting a seedy little bar of my preference and then his trendy hot spot.

Sunday R+R, what a joke with “Bligh” aboard, still a small amount of the aforementioned when we could.  Bob and John have calculated our route to Nazare, which is an alteration to the original schedule because of work in Peniche.

Alison’s birthday provided an excuse for Red Skies to present a pontoon party, and then Big Derek, the Essex Geezer, invited us to join them on Andiamo for a late dinner and drink.  Alan cooked up a meal for seven assisted by sidekick Steve.  Andiamo was lit up like a Christmas tree as Derek is a great one for “bling” which compliments his character and is carried off very classily.

This splendid treat, we feel was most likely a plan to ply us with drink and render us unfit for competition.  Maybe it worked?  They did very well and were in early again, however results are not known.

Sails up all day and the jib poled out off and on, lots of work, but the fleet in close proximity all the way.  Nazare in six hours ten minutes for the thirty five miles.  Monday 15th June.

A small and shallow harbour, Volare with Andrew and Josie running aground as their allotted berth proved too shallow.  Re-allocation and manoeuvring around a strangely positioned buoy proved no difficulty for them or Tony, who had previously taken Renegade in perfectly, stern to the pontoon.  The buoy had magically disappeared by morning.

Supermercado and immediately across the street, “O Navegante”, a typical local restaurant, but with an English speaking proprietor who had worked on the cruise liners and served some very prestigious people.  Food, atmosphere and service could not be bettered and our four man crew left wined and dined to our maxim, only 44 Euros lighter, but a deal heavier in weight.

Nazare to Peniche was taken as a free cruise day to get back on schedule for Oeiras, so the opportunity to visit Ilha de Berlanga, pick up our first attempt at a mooring buoy, which proved very simple and have lunch on board.  The puffin hunt was possible the highlight of this stop, apart from the spectacular scenery and fort.  Bob being young and gullible had been conned into a little wager by a much travelled, older and wiser crew member.  Needless to say this nameless person took advantage is an understatement.  The bewhiskered adolescent obviously lost the bet as the number of puffins spotted was zero.

Leisurely onward to Peniche, unjustly much maligned in conversation.  Reception on the imposing and amazing fort, an ideal location to welcome us to the town.  Further joy as an error in calculating times had promoted us from third to second for the leg to Figueira de Foz and we also claimed the estimated arrival time prize.  The wash from the unnecessary fast moving fishing boats provided a restless night as we were rafted four deep and a Portuguese yacht outside us had not fendered  adequately.  Three a.m., her tired crew of two still asleep; we rectified the situation, preventing further damage than a small chip and a couple of scrapes.

08.00 and a great deal of effort to wake the outside crew for our supposed 09.00 departure to Oeiras.

Non show of the start boat let us begin taking our own times and we were away promptly with all behind for approximately forty of the forty eight miles.  Thirty eight knot winds as the faster boats came alongside, Battling Bob on our old adversary Ben More in front, behind, ahead, then suddenly another Bob on Roanda, ducking and diving, single handed.  Mandy, his wife had declined this leg and travelled by road.  Roanda, Twister and Mystral had crossed the line, Ben More must not be allowed to pass.  Young Braithwaite on the helm, then us misjudging the finishing line by 400 metres allowed Bob and Jeff, our main rivals to attempt a final surge.  Tony and John’s experience and all credit to the boy, he had put them in their place.  Failure to capture another trophy, but a high placing and a fantastic sail.

Plush and expensive Oeiras Marina, shops, restaurants and a massive swimming pool, very luxurious surroundings.  Three nights and two days to enjoy the hospitality.  Three of the crew visiting Lisbon on the Friday, while I remain, punished yet again.

Saturday morning the 20th June and a 09.30 start for Sines, light winds, starboard tack to run along the line and sure enough, Ben More trying to get inside us.  A costly mistake, as he clipped the starting buoy and had to restart.  An error of judgement by us, lingering in the river mouth against an incoming tide and literally going nowhere, resulted in a feeling of frustration setting in to the majority of the crew.  The light winds gave me the chance to enjoy a considerable amount of time on the foredeck under directions from Bob, John manning the winches and the skip giving orders from the helm.  Cruising chute up and down, port then starboard, plenty of practice for a novice.

Four hours from our destination the gusts increased considerably, Eric the auto became overpowered for the first time and under cruising chute and mainsail the boat began to broach.  Tony with his wooden leg, but cat like reflexes was on the wheel in a flash and prevented a very wet and dangerous situation.

Sines, the birthplace of Vasco de Gama, hosted a Sunday morning reception in the beautiful castle cum fort, one of many which seem to guard every harbour along the coast.  Another fifth place made up for what had threatened to become a disappointing leg.  Our first swim in the Atlantic, off the back of Renegade into a surprisingly tolerable temperature.

Monday 22nd June another early start for the long and final leg, approximately seventy six miles, Sines to Lagos, around the formidable Cape St. Vincent, probably after Biscay, the climax of our sailing adventure.  Even on a fine day he Cape lived up to its reputation, necessitating three of the crew to sit on the windward edge.  The rally organisers commissioned a light aircraft to film some of the fleet rounding the Cape.  This was a first time experiment and we await pictures.

Joined in Lagos by our wives for a few days in a very clean, pleasant and comfortable hotel, also economical, The “Marina Sao Roque”.

Tuesday presented a beach barbecue, via a boat ride through the grotto caves.  Plenty of gratuitous food and drink soon saw a swift decline into an evening of debauchery and frivolity.  People from different levels of society mixing as the best of friends, indeed the comrades they had become.

A more formal occasion on Wednesday 24th June, also the end of the rally.  The presentation dinner excellently staged at the Waypoint restaurant and final awards.  To me an anti- climax, all boats receiving an award with an oral description of their performance and crew.  Ben More and Andiamo doing very well with the adjectives allotted to them.  On the other hand, the hard, bearded, macho crew of Renegade were said to be well behaved, early to bed, early to rise,   “the goody two shoes” of the rally.  The hard sailing and harder partying all in vain. “That’s Life”.

In summary I would describe Rally Portugal as an ideal opportunity for taking a boat south, adventurously, safely and socially and thank the organisers and staff for a wonderful time.  Many thanks to my skipper and crew mates.


Tony the skipper

Bob the boy

John the ancient mariner

Terry  the novice

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