NEW BEDFORD – The nice weather on Sunday made for a great evening for sailing and for Azorean Maritime Heritage Society (AMHS) crew members to sharpen their skills on New Bedford’s Clarks Cove in preparation for the International Azorean Whaleboat Regatta taking place in the Azores in September .
“We get out as much as we can,” explained AMHS Vice-President Lara Harrington. “We have been practicing a lot and the rowing team is really strong as well.”
The AMHS will be competing on the waters off the islands of Pico and Faial with four teams, more specifically men’s and women’s sailing and rowing crews. The three-day international regatta pays homage to the rich whaling history shared between the United States and the Azores, and has been alternating between the Portuguese archipelago and New Bedford since its inception in 2004.
“I know that I personally need a lot of practice,” admitted Harrington, noting that she will be competing for the first time on the sailing team as she previously participated as a Rower. “We have a couple of new faces on the sailing team, and it’s going well. We meet about three times a week. “
AMHS President Donald Rei, who used to compete in J / Boats in Newport and Marion, has been giving them some great pointers.
“He helps us a lot because he knows those boats, the water and the wind inside and out,” she said. “He is really amazing. It’s been great and exciting. “
She said the AMHS teams are ready to put their skills to the test against the Pico and Faial crews, and have a good time.
“We’ll either be first, second or third,” she said laughing, before adopting a more serious tone.
“I feel good about it,” she added. “I feel everyone is ready to go and compete. It’s been a long couple of years. “
Rei said the men’s teams are coming along.
“I think they’ll be ready to go and be competitive there,” he told O Jornal. “I hope we will be winning, but as long as we are competitive, we are doing well.”
Nevertheless, Harrington stressed that the regatta is so much more than just a competition.
“We do compete pretty well, but people in the Azores have become such good friends,” she said. “It’s so much more than team USA; we have really become such a family. “
Recent weeks have been especially busy for the AMHS.
In addition to the practice sessions on the water, the group hosted a successful “Sails of Portugal Wine and Food Tasting” fundraiser on June 4, attracting about 400 people to the Kilburn Mill and generating about $ 20,000 for the organization’s cultural programming and community scholarship fund .
“Because of Covid, we didn’t have any events the last couple of years. This is really going to help, ”Rei said. “It was an excellent turn out, and I think everybody had a great time. It was a brand new venue, and we loved it. Considering Covid and all, I think it was really helpful to have an event in a huge place like this. “
Harrington said the expenses associated with the regatta had been covered prior to the event.
“The teams are paying for most of the trip this time, because we have not done fundraising in two years,” she said. “But we have a lot of things going on – scholarships and the new Casa dos Botes (boat house) being built.”
The AMHS is in the process of raising $ 600,000 to erect the Casa dos Botes on a vacant lot on Taylor Street in New Bedford, which was donated by Castelo Real Estate founder José Castelo.
“We are working on a capital campaign for that,” Harrington said. We are at about 50 percent of our fundraising efforts. We have not gone very public yet, but once we do that, it’ll give it the push it needs. We are feeling pretty good about that project. “
The group is also planning a Boat Builder Fundraising Dinner for Saturday, July 30, starting at 6 pm at the Our Lady of Angels Band Cultural Center. Proceeds from the event will help defray the costs associated with bringing a master boat builder from the Azores to restore one of the AMHS whaleboats.
Currently, there are only 63 authentic Azorean whaleboats in the world, and three of them – Pico, Faial, and Bela Vista – are under the maintenance of the AMHS, which was founded in 1997 with the mission of preserving and educating the public on the Azorean whaling tradition.
Master builder João Tavares and his son-in-law João Silveira will be here two months to work on the Pico whaleboat.
“That boat is 20 years old and it hasn’t really been worked on,” Rei said. “For us to keep it sailing, we basically need to replace the ribs, the seats, and there is a lot of major work that needs to be done.”
Made entirely of wood, each whaleboat measures 40 feet and carries a boat steerer (coxswain) with six rowers.
During the summer season, the boats are docked in Clarks Cove at the New Bedford Community Boating Center, located at 1641 Padanaram Ave., New Bedford.
Those who would like to experience a row or sail on a whaleboat can do so free of charge courtesy of the AMHS. The boats are made available to AMHS members and the community by certified coxswains during scheduled open row and open sail events.
An individual can row or sail up to a total of two times before being required to become a member and pay annual boat dues. For more information and a complete schedule of open row and sail events, visit https://azoreanmaritimeheritagesociety.wildapricot.org/Open-Rows-and-Sails
Rei said he is looking forward to bringing the Casa dos Botes project to fruition and hopes to have the community support.
“I am sure there will be some more fundraising directed towards that,” he said. “When that happens, I hope the community will support us.”
For more information about the AMHS, visit https://azoreanmaritime.org/
Lurdes C. da Silva may be reached at [email protected] To read more stories about the Portuguese-speaking community, in English and Portuguese, please visit ojornal.com.