In the late morning of Wednesday 8th October, the six teams entered in the Portimão Global Ocean Race took a short break from pre-race preparations in the host city’s Marina de Portimão for a formal press conference in the Media Centre of the waterfront Tivoli Marina Portimão Hotel near the famous Praia de Rochas beach.
Representatives of the international print, web, TV and radio media were in attendance to meet the race organisation, the competitors and Portimão’s team of global ambassadors representing Portugal for the duration of this global event.
The press conference was opened by the race Communications Director, Brian Hancock, who described two years of hard work that has culminated in the Portimão Global Ocean Race and highlighted the city’s immense attraction to international sporting events. 'Portimão has successfully hosted an enormous number of high-profile events including the recent PI Powerboat Championships and a TP52 regatta,' he explained. 'Everyone loves to come to Portimão; they love the people, the atmosphere, the climate and the city has offered everything that this race could possibly want and in return, the skippers will act as ambassadors for Portimão as they race around the globe.'
The Race Director, Josh Hall, then introduced the teams: Belgian single-hander, Michel Kleinjans with Roaring Forty, the Dutch solo sailor, Nico Budel with Hayai and the four double-handed, Class 40 teams; the South African brothers, Lenjohn and Peter van der Wel with Ocean Warrior; the British pairing on Team Mowgli, Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson; the Chilean duo Felipe Cubillos and José Munos racing Desafio Cabo de Hornos and the German double act of Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer.
'This is a proud moment for Portimão and for Portugal,' said Hall. 'Historically, Portugal has produced pioneering, seafaring explorers: Bartolomeu Dias discovered the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, and another Portuguese adventurer, Vasco da Gama soon followed his countryman around the southern tip of Africa.' The first leg of the Portimão Global Ocean Race finishes in Cape Town and the Race Director had wise words for the teams: 'The Cape of Good Hope was also known as the Cape of Storms, so we wish you good weather at the cape,' he said. With the start of the race four days away on Sunday 12th October, Hall warned of potential harsh conditions on the final night of celebrations ashore: 'I would also wish you good luck with any storms in the streets of Portimão on Saturday night!'
To bring a Portuguese flavour and presence to the race stop-over ports in South Africa, New Zealand, Brazil and the USA, Portimão has appointed two sailing ambassadors for the city; Gustavo Lima, the Portuguese Olympic Laser sailor, and Biento Amaral, a highly experienced yachtsman who was severely injured two years ago and became the first sailor to represent Portugal in the Paralympics earlier this year in Quingdao. Although Gustavo Lima lamented that he was unable to join the six teams in this year’s event, he is optimistic that he will be on the start line of the next edition of the race and provided a sailor’s insight into the challenge facing the ten sailors preparing to circumnavigate the globe. 'I have to congratulate all the sailors as they are, in many ways, ‘ocean gladiators’,' he said. 'It is OK for me to go home and sleep in my house each night after sailing, but what is ahead for all these skippers is something to do with the character of each individual.'
Amaral was unable to attend the press conference, but sent a message via video recording: 'This race is a very big adventure,' he explained. 'I admire your courage and determination and when you finish this big trip around the world, I want to meet you all in Portimão and hear all your stories. Good winds to everybody.'
Before a photo-call for the skippers, Marina Correia, manager of the Marina de Portimão, spoke of her enthusiasm for the city’s role as host and her close involvement in providing the initial base for the Portimão Global Ocean Race fleet: 'It is an honour to receive all the boats and it has been an honour meeting all the teams and a real pleasure to work alongside the race organisation,' she told the press conference. 'We wish for a Portuguese presence around the world during this race, and the opportunity is perfect for Portimão.' With formalities completed, the six teams were free to return to the race pontoons and continue with final preparations for the challenge of their lives.
An ambitious education programme is planned for the circumnavigation.Isabel Guerreiro heads up the region’s Sports and Education Department for Portimão’s mayor, Manuel de Luz, and a diverse programme involving local schools will run for the duration of the Portimão Global Ocean Race. 'This event is the top of the pack,' explained Guerreiro during the pre-race press conference. 'It is a world event and carries the name of Portimão. Six of the city’s schools will be linked with the race, each one connected to a boat,' she continued. 'In reality, they are going to work together with the skippers with each boat sending the schools information on all aspects of this voyage around the world; environmental observations, meteorological data, health aspects of the trip and how the crews use any technology available on board, keeping in contact with the boats via the Portimão Global Ocean Race website.' The education programme will gather pace tomorrow (Thursday 9th October) as students and teachers from the six appointed schools arrive at the Marina de Portimão to visit the racing fleet and meet the competitors.
Representatives of the international media gathered in force for the Portimão Global Ocean Race pre-race press conference. Naturally, the Portuguese presence was high: the national sports newspaper, A Bola and the publication’s web division, A Bola Online, will be following the race for the entire circumnavigation – a particular coup as the paper usually focuses on football. The local newspaper, Barla Vento is also following the race closely and national television station RTP and national radio station Rádio Clube will continue a strong, constant association with the event.
German producer, Wiel Verlinden, of WDR – the country’s biggest production company – are already in Portimão gathering material for a 45 minute documentary on German duo, Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme onboard Class 40 Beluga Racer with the whole race as a backdrop for the young sailors’ forthcoming challenge. Clive Lonsdale of English production company Lodestar Productions is also on site, preparing a series of 30 minute documentaries covering all skippers for the entire circumnavigation using onboard video footage and audio from the boats. 'We will take care to portray their strategy and lifestyle, what they’re eating, how they are coping emotionally and recording any technical or logistical problems that arise.' The six boats in the fleet carry a variety of HD and DV cameras that can be fixed at points around the yacht, worn as a head-cam or submerged beneath the boat with the potential to supply some astonishing footage.