On Easter Sunday a community called Ariós, just a short drive up the beach from here, were holding a regatta. Neu is no fit state to be racing his boat but when one of his older brothers asked to take Neu’s new jangada, Neu couldn’t resist the chance of putting it to the test.
Regatta’s are taken very seriously and local ones usually have a heavy presence of boats from Prainha. Only the biggest races offer anything substantial in prize money, often also providing the boat owners with a new sail which, for the larger jangadas at least, represents a considerable incentive but the average prize money of a small regatta, if there is any at all, is unlikely to cover the boat owners costs, especially if you add-on the man hours spent in preparation.
Prize money or not, the simple truth of it is that the men love racing their boats, as my brother-in-law said they “work hard all week and then play serious games at the weekend!
For the week preceding the regatta, when Neu was not at the dialysis clinic he was down at the beach doing something to help with the preparation of his boat, trimming a sail, shaping a bit of wood with a plane or axe, helping his brothers do, test and then re-do. Racing was something Neu loved and was good at, it’s hard for him not to be actually out on the boat but in a bitter-sweet way he is pleased to be strong enough to participate at all.
Neu’s boat was being crewed by two of his brothers and a cousin. On the morning of the race, having been up since dawn for the final bits of fiddling about on the boats that the men always insist on doing on the day of a regatta, Neu’s brothers sailed the boat up the coast, while his cousin drove us (how many people can you fit in a beach buggy? probably more than you should!) up the beach.
The regatta was due to start at midday but, being Brazil, nothing ever starts on time. We arrived to find the usual chaos with no one knowing what was happening, who was in charge, what the course was, which category of boats was going first, pretty much the usual thing. I found a bit of shade and got on with my knitting.
A group of the boat owners and crew got together and after what seemed like a very heated argument but was really just the way things are done, the course was set, the categories were organised, the positions drawn and the regatta got under way about 2 hours late.
In the first race our friends boat got off to a bad start, getting caught in the surf and ending up being the last boat out but turning it around and coming home in first place, we were very happy for him and it was a win for Prainha.
Neu’s brother Kito Velho had already told me that the sail they were using was not really big enough for the conditions, the wind having dropped shortly after we arrived. Kito had altered the boom to allow the sail to billow as much as possible and thereby catch what wind there was but he wasn’t optimistic of a win, especially as the local boat was sporting a huge sail. Still you never know what might happen in a race. I can’t say I helped much, I was asked to draw their start number and got the worst position I could have got them, whoops sorry!
Neu’s boat came in 2nd in its category, behind the local boat. That sounds a good result but as there were only 3 boats racing, it can hardly be claimed as indicative of racing prowess, still Neu was happy they hadn’t come in last, that would have been too much.
Having been told at the start of the race that as there were only 3 boats in it there would be no prize money, Neu’s brothers opted to take the boat home as soon as possible, so we didn’t stay for the last race but we had a nice day out, even if I do now look a little bit pink from an overdose of sun and Neu’s boat got its racing baptism, hopefully next time Neu will be on it and it will be coming home first.