VIII International Azorean Whaleboat Regatta Faial & Pico, Azores, Portugal July 4,5,6 2015
The International Whaleboat Regatta, first held in 2004 in New Bedford and is a major City-wide event and tourist attraction. The Regatta alternates each year between New Bedford and the Azores. The 8th International Whaleboat Regatta will be held in Faial and Pico in partnership with the Portuguese government and local Azorean Whaleboat clubs. The Regatta attracts US and international tourists and wooden boat enthusiasts as well as civic leaders and dignitaries from the US, Azores and mainland Portugal.
In 2011, the event helped to welcome over 1,000 people to the waterfront district of New Bedford. Two teams from the Azores will travel to the Whaling City to compete against our local team in both sailing and rowing competitions. Wrapped around the actual “on the water” events is a week full of land-based activities, social events, lectures, cultural performances and exhibitions.
The Committee decided that up to a maximum of 10 women and 10 men could be selected, but fewer if possible to keep costs down. We presently have 9 men and 10 women selected.
2015 Women’s Team: Lee Socorro, Sara Quintal, Lara Harrington, Robyn Branco, Melissa Branco, Danielle DeBurgo, Erica Thibodeau, Melanie Leonardo, Alexa Kretsch, Brooke Baptiste
2015 Men’s Team: Fernando Viveiros, Luis Pereira, Gary Viveiros, Paul Curado, Donald Rei, Paulo Baptista, Israel Monteiro, Rui Machado, Ryan Dwelly
Crew members agree to continue the following:
Proficiency in sailing and/or rowing;
Willingness to sail and row;
Support and involvement in AMHS, including fundraising ($200 initial deposit + fundraising to cover half of ticket cost) and boat maintenance;
Positive attitude and team spirit;
Available to participate in all regatta races;
Attend all regatta events (there will be at least 1 free day following the regatta); and
Willingness to reside in the free accommodations provided by host islands (or pay for your own).
Nineteen AMHS crew members boarded a plane and represented the USA in the VIII International Azorean Whaleboat Regatta. The crew accompanied by a few family members experienced the wonders and magic found on these Portuguese islands. For many of us, it was the first time visiting the Atlantic archipelago and the first time competeing in such a world- class sporting event. The planning and preparation started as soon as the last regatta was finished in the USA back in 2013.
AMHS members vied to be considered for the crew making the 2015 journey to compete in the Azores. Members committed time training, preparing the boats, exercising, festively planning and fundraising.
The hard work paid off! The woman’s team took 1st place in one race and placed second overall in the 2-day rowing competition. The men’s and women’s teams finished third overall in rowing and sailing. Up against seasoned Azorean crews, we walked away from the experience with new insight, new friends, and a thirst to improve on our results. For example, we knew the waters were going to be choppy there, but we were not prepared for it.
We learned from the Azorean teams that to get a solid rowing start, we need more half strokes in those conditions. Now we know what to work on!
Sailing proved difficult for both the men and women. The women’s team had a brilliant start in one race. They were leading up to the last mark, but with shifty winds and another boat near the mark, they floundered hitting the mark and having to do a penalty 360o turn, giving their Azorean adversaries a chance to overtake.
On July 4th, there was a special regatta that included 14 Azorean Whaleboats. Team USA had two boats in the competition. It was a thrill to be towed out to the starting line, to look back and see so many boats tied up together. The boat captained by Fernando Viveiros, placed 2nd overall and Sara Quintal’s boat finished 8th. Team USA’s results were admirable. Congratulations teams! Both captains were interviewed by RTP, the national TV station, and then were ceromonially dunked in Faial’s harbor by Team USA members. A celebratory water fight ensued afterwards, which also involved many Azorean crew. It was an experience that will be forever etched in our memories.
Our Azorean hosts treated us to many fabulous events over the week. Traditional barbeque, elaborate catered events, home cooked meals, freshly picked lapas, festivals and even a pig roast welcomed us. We were brought on special tours of the islands of Pico and Faial, honored by local government officials, toured various whaling, historical, viticultural attractions and museums, traveled to four azorean islands, swam with octopus, climbed Pico, visited with family, and last but not least sampled a Gin and Tonic at Peter’s Cafe.
In 2017, the regatta returns to New Bedford. Do you have what it takes to make the team?
by Paulo Baptista