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.
The weather in August was not especially interesting, other than to mention that it turned out comfortably warmer than average in spite of one thundery week. It was also notable in that it contrasted considerably with July – a month that clearly disappointed those who enjoy sunny conditions for the start of the holiday season. Although relatively consistent, the weather was not without its hiccoughs, especially in Gaia and Porto. Indeed, as Britain’s much hyped ‘Barbeque Summer’ evaporated (or perhaps dissolved?) in rain the wider implications of this Europe-wide bad spell were felt here as well. As a result, the hot start turned decidedly unsettled around the time most people in the wine business were returning to work after the break (around the 17th) and there were some overcast mornings which followed very cool nights. The hurricane season getting underway in the western Atlantic meant that the first of the summer thunderstorms were felt in Portugal. As far as the Douro was concerned very little of any consequence actually happened, although there were reports from Lamego of hail falling in a fashion that didn’t much damage the vines. Full Report
Another month goes by, and with it come more strange climatic patterns. All across Europe reports were pouring in of appalling weather so in many respects we were lucky that the worst the Douro suffered was one wet weekend and some rather cool temperatures. The month kicked off with a freak tornado in northern France which killed three people on the 3rd, and then another one hit Poland 12 days later with the same death toll. In the UK they were also having a horrible time with one of the worst summers on record. Over there August was phenomenally wet and the sun barely appeared. Full Report