Yesterday, 24th June was Sao Joao in Oporto, the city’s annual festival. The traditional race of the Port Barco Rabelos takes place on this day. These boats used to bring the young wine down the river from the Douro vineyards to Oporto and Gaia on the Atlantic coast.
The boats have no keel as they had to shoot the rapids on the river. So if the wind is not directly behind the boats, there is no way of controlling their direction and some years we all end up on the river bank and in other years, like last year, there is very little wind so we go backwards.
This year was a marvellous race, the wind was blowing reasonably strongly from the south west and the start was better organised than in previous years. The race started at 12.30 exactly and with a good wind, the boats set off at a good pace from the mouth of the Douro river near Foz, up river to the historic Ponte Dom Luis.
The race is always good natured and winning is largely a matter of good luck. The Symington family as usual helped crew each of the family’s boats, Charles was on Malvedos, Paul was on Warre’s Cavadinha and Rupert was on Dow’s Rio Torto. Our Quinta dos Malvedos boat twice got rammed by competing boats (see photograph), but still managed to complete the race in good style and the crew celebrated with a good glass of Tawny Port once we had crossed the finishing line.
There were many thousands of people on the river banks watching the race, most nursing hangovers from the previous night’s festivities. A great day for the city and good exercise for our Malvedos boat on its annual outing, Malvedos is the only full sized Barco Rabelo to take part in this historical event.