Celebrating Portugal Day in South Africa

The Portuguese have played a significant role in the European exploration of South Africa. Vasco da Gama, Bartholomeu Dias, Pedro de Ataide, João da Nova, Antonio de Saldanha were all Portuguese navigators and sailors during the Great Age of Sail and Discovery. They've left their mark throughout South Africa in the form of statues, monuments, place names and even museums … like the Dias Museum in Mosselbaai. dias cross at cape point

According to Wiki, Dia de Portugal is celebrated annually on June 10th as an official national holiday in Portugal. The date commemorates the death of Portugal's national literary icon, Luis de Camões, who died on 10 June 1580. Camões wrote The Lusiads, an epic poem celebrating the rich history and achievements of the Portuguese, especially during the 15th century. It has become symbolic of Portuguese pride and nationalism. So when local friends, Jannie and Christine asked if we'd like to join them aboard Radiance for a Portugal Day pursuit race in Table Bay, we were thrilled. What better way to celebrate the Portuguese heritage and influence in South Africa than take to the sea?

portugal day race

The morning was cool and foggy and at 10:30am, I wasn't holding out much hope for a clear sailing day. We couldn't even see Radiance berthed on the next pier across the way. Then voilá … as it happens so often in Cape Town,  a brilliant sun broke through the mist and fog, the sky turned blue in a matter of minutes and the day turned perfect … cold, but clear. It seemed odd heading out of the harbor leaving Cups behind.

nine of cups in berth

We had a crew of eight aboard, all with varying degrees of sailing experience and some, like us, with no racing experience at all. No matter … it was a fun race with over 50 boats participating.

heading into table bay

We learned that a pursuit race had staggered start times and Radiance was scheduled to cross the start line at 12:22. Michele and Christine kept track of the time as we approached the line.

michele and christine check start times

Throughout the day, the weather alternated between brilliant sun and dense fog. The wind piped up to 15-20 knots and then died to 3 knots. We tacked frequently as the fickle wind shifted.

steve and david tack

The 13nm course took us into Table Bay with a loop around South Lion's Paw, a rock said to resemble the paw of the famous Lion's Head Peak. There's a North Paw as well and both are reportedly good dive sites. We were just interested in getting around the South Paw.

approaching south lions paw

As we neared the rock, the wind left us and we were sailing perilously close.  Since we were nowhere close to being competitive in the race, Jannie decided to retire us and kicked on the engine. The engine cranked right up, but we made no headway. A quick inspection indicated the Morse cable was not shifting the gearbox. Jannie was able to put it in gear manually from the engine room, got back to the helm, and we were soon heading back to the Royal Cape. Beyond the problem with the gear box, we were all afraid the red wine would be gone by the time we got back to the clubhouse!

lions head

As we approached Radiance's berth, David headed into the engine room to shift manually between forward and reverse gears on Jannie's command. The wind picked up at the wrong moment and there was an adrenaline rush as we neared one boat and fended off, reversed closely to another boat and fended off and Jannie finally managed to maneuver us into the berth. No harm … no foul. With Radiance snug in her berth, we tidied her up and all headed to the clubhouse where a post-race party was well under way.

post race party

I'm happy to report there was indeed red wine available for a cold, thirsty, hungry crew. A hot Portuguese soup and Portuguese rolls were being served followed by a seafood and rice dish … and  red wine, of course.

wine and portugal flag

We watched as the Portugal Day trophy was being awarded, a rather large cup indeed. Portuguese music was playing and dancers in traditional dress entertained a merry crowd.

portugal day trophy

All in all, a fun, enjoyable day with new friends. Who could ask for more?

jannie and christine