The Ecologically themed regatta, organised by the Associação dos moradores (residents association) was back after a break of one year. This year marked the 18th regatta and it was bigger and better than ever before. Leading up to the actually race there had been a week of events at the community centre, a football tournament, social dances and children’s presentations. The race itself took place on Sunday 15th December with two racing categories, the first race was for the Paquetes (mid-sized jangadas) and the second for the larger jangadas over 6 meters in length.
Neu was not taking part in this regatta, he would have raced his own jangada but it falls into a category for which there was no race this year and, although several people had asked him to make up part of the crew on their boats, Neu didn’t feel strong enough to race on a bigger jangada, they require far more physical effort and he didn’t want to let anyone down by not being able to pull his weight. It is hard for him to not take part, he loves racing but he is focusing on the future and hoping that after a kidney transplant, which hopefully will happen within a year or two, he will once again be able to compete and win.
The regatta is an expensive event to organise and is paid for by sponsorship. The smaller donators (as in amount not height) get a triangular “sail” in a bamboo frame painted with their logo, these are placed around the area of the community centre on the days leading up to the regatta and then along the beach on the race day. The bigger donators (yes, as in amount) have their logo painted onto the boat sails.
Ahead of the regatta, the village school run a competition for the children to come up with phrases and designs with an ecological theme, some designs are chosen to be reproduced on the boat sails along with the sponsors logo and the phrases are reproduced on the smaller sponsor sails.
The day dawned over cast with occasional spits of rain, not the best forecast for those hoping for a sunny day down at the beach but as I was photographing the boats for the Association, I was grateful for the cloudy skies. I was down at the beach at 8 in the morning and knew I would be there until at least 3 in the afternoon, the boats have to be photographed with their sails open but as the boat crews have so much to do, I can’t ask them to open the sails just for me, so it can take hours to get all the boats done and involves a great deal of walking up and down the beach, then there is the races themselves and finally the trophy giving, all good fun and I love it but it’s a long time to be out in the sun.
This year the Marinha (the Navy) were participating in a regulatory manner, this is a first in my experience of regattas. They inspected each boat, checked the life-jackets and gave the master of each crew a breath test, thankfully all passed in every respect. It was also the first time I have seen the crews taking to their boats with life jackets on, I am sure there were some who were unhappy about this requirement, life jackets are bulky and the men don’t like using them, it is only relatively recently that they have started taking them to sea when they are fishing (because they are obliged to) and they should be wearing them then but most of them don’t, preferring to store them inside the boat.
Mid morning, the sun was back and the boats began to prepare for the race. There were 19 paquetes in the first race, slightly confusing in that the numbers went from 1 to 22 but some boats had retired prior to the race day. As I have a small water proof video camera (Panasonic HX-WA10) I waded out to get some good shots of the boats leaving the beach, this is always a bit hit and miss as the surf here can be really rough, thankfully I managed to keep my feet and got some good shots.
The paquetes all got off without any obvious difficulties, at that time in the morning the surf was still relatively mild, but it was clear that the boats in the later race would have a harder time getting out, as the day wears on the surf gets bigger at this time of year. Thankfully non of the paquetes capsized and as far as I know there were no incidents at sea. A few jangadas retired early, once they realised they were effectively out of a chance of a top position but non were forced out due to damage to their boats.
The winners were:
- 1st: PATO, no. 17 from Ariós
- 2nd: MANOEL NETO, no. 19 from Prainha do Canto Verde
- 3rd: JOSÉ, no. 18 from Prainha do Canto Verde
- 4th: SEU GERALDO, no. 13 from Prainha do Canto Verde.
While the first race was under way, the beach remained a hive of activity, the crew of a boat were frantically working to reduce the size of their sail, they had taken the decision the day before to go with a large sail but over night the wind had changed and now their large sail was a positive disadvantage. With less than an hour to go before their race, they had to remove the sail from the mast, cut the sail down then re-sew it to the cord which in turn had to be re attached to the mast, that’s a lot of work under pressure of time.
You may be familiar with the “Where’s Wally” books, I’m tempted to create a photographic series with a similar theme. There is a man here called Zé, he is a fisherman but also works on building and repairing jangadas. On the weeks leading up to the regatta he is always working flat out, someone is always looking for him and quite how he manages to get around to everyone is a bit of a mystery. Zé cuts many of the sails here and I have often seen him in the last fading light of the day, laying out meters of sail cloth on the sand, to be cut with a knife into the required shape, ready for the pieces to be stitched together.
On the morning of the regatta, it seemed to me that where ever I pointed my camera, Zé would be there, hammering, sawing or measuring something. One photo I missed was him wielding a sledge hammer on the mast housing of a large jangada, he hit the wooden block with such force I expected to see it explode, needless to say it didn’t. Later as the jangadas were lining up for the start, I was astonished to see Zé was making up part of a crew, he must have been shattered and he later told Neu that the regatta had nearly killed him but his boat came in 4th, a good enough position for Zé to collect a trophy, fabulous he’d certainly earned it.
The larger jangadas lined up, I got in the water again camera at the ready, we waited but something must have happened to hold up the start so I got out again and the crews stood down, then suddenly it was back to starting positions so we all rushed into the water and …… stood there waiting, me trying to keep on my feet, the crews trying to keep their jangadas straight in the surf. The firecrackers popped, the race was under way, the surf was not kind and many of the boats struggled to get out but finally they were all away, as I was filming a large wave came almost over my head but amazingly I kept on my feet and kept the boats in focus, I was quite pleased with my effort and relieved to see all the boats away safely. Then it was back to the beach to wait for the result.
The commander from the Navy came to speak to me, he asked where I was from and when I said England he said in a tone of astonishment “And you like it here? I mean the English are all such snobs (and then almost as an after-thought) or hooligans” I was somewhat surprised but then I guess from what Brazilians see of the English on TV, this is not such an odd assessment of our character. I said I think I fall somewhere between the two and yes I love it here. Another man overhearing our conversation, asked where I was from, I said England and he said “Are you Swiss?” I said no I am English he said “Yes well that amounts to the same thing, I know because I’ve been to Switzerland”, not a lot I could say to that.
The film maker Charlotte Eichhorn is a regular visitor to Prainha and over the last couple of years has worked with some of the teenagers of the village, teaching them filming and editing techniques. During the regatta, with some brief guidance from Charlotte and using her equipment, two young women Marly and Jaila, filmed the days events. Marly was working on the beach, Jaila was out at sea filming from a boat, not an easy thing to do as the sea was anything but calm that day.
Jaila filmed from a larger motorised fishing boat which was acting as a safety vessel. There is no dock here so the boat couldn’t come into shore to pick her up, she was taken out to it by a smaller jangada, always a little risky when carrying a camera which isn’t waterproof. Jaila had the camera inside a sealed plastic bag and everyone involved had their fingers crossed.
On their return, as they headed into the surf leading up to the beach, the captain of the jangada realised they were about to be hit by a huge wave and ordered Jaila to jump off, to avoid being trapped under the boat as it went over. Thankfully she was fine, her life jacket held her up, she managed to hold the film camera out of the water while another crew member helped her to shore, well done that girl. I have given them my footage of the race to add to their own and they are working on a film which hopefully will be ready soon.
The second race saw a few incidents which will no doubt be argued over for years to come. Two boats collided, one suffering damage that will be expensive to repair. As a result of the collision both boats were out of the race, leaving eleven boats going for the prizes.
As the winning boat headed for the home, it’s supporters were extatic on the beach, the boat hit the shallow waters and the crew were showered in beer by the supporters who swarmed all over the boat, only to have their celebrations crushed when it was announced that the boat was disqualified for having over turned the course marker boat. Those who had been happily waiting for their boat coming in 2nd, were suddenly raised to 1st place but as the news of the disqualification was slow to spread there was general confusion as to who was in what place.
The final result was:
- 1st PALOMA no 04. from URUAU
- 2nd DEUS É BOM no 09. from PRAINHA DO CANTO VERDE
- 3rd AURILENE no 12 from PRAINHA DO CANTO VERDE
- 4th OSTRA ll no 10 from PRAINHA DO CANTO VERDE
Prizes were awarded to the boats in the top 5 positions and for the first time (to my knowledge) each participating team received a financial bonus which I’m sure was gratefully received, it is common practise for the teams to receive a parcel of basic food stuffs, beans, sugar, rice etc but I’m sure they would rather have the money.
During the award ceremony there was a moment of drama. A jangada from a neighbouring community was setting off to return home, the jangada was heavily overladen with people, non of them in life jackets. As the boat was going through the surf, it was hit by a wave and overturned, throwing all the passengers into the water. Fortunately there were several people at the point on the beach where the accident happened and they rushed to help, one young man from Prainha spotted a woman floating face down in the water, she had been hit on the head as the boat went over and knocked unconscious, the young man pulled her from the water and she was taken to hospital. Thankfully she suffered no lasting harm but it was a stark example of the risks of going to sea without taking proper caution. The captain of the boat received a serious warning from the Navy and the commander ordered the jangada to be left in Prainha, the crew would have to return at a later date to collect.
Thankfully there were no more dramas, a few people left with hurt pride at having failed to win and others were over the moon with their prize, winners and losers.
I left the beach just after the prize giving, it had been a long day and having had nothing to eat since breakfast, I was starving, time for a cool shower and some well needed dinner. The festivities continued on the beach until late in the night, it was a fabulous regatta.