Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Madmen across the Water – Part 4 – Portugal 23

Miki hitches a ride in the JCB

Miki hitches a ride in the JCB


Race day, and my nerves were jangling. Timed laps began at 10 am, where Brian would have a chance to edge up a few places in the starting line-up. This meant I had to be down in the pits for around 9.30. After the drivers meeting,. it was all hands on the boats, as one by one they were manhandled down the dreaded incline to the water’s edge to suffer the slings and hooks of outrageous JCB’s.

Most of the crews opted to use brute force to get the boats down there, and we were no exception, the chief reason being that the fat kid on the quad who was there to “assist” seemed oblivious to where the hell he was going, and everyone thought their boats weren’t going to make it to the water in one piece.

The river was thankfully higher today, the risk of bottoming out reduced. Brian completed his laps without incident, and as a result were placed 8th in the starting line-up.

That afternoon, after another hair-raising launch at the quayside. The utility boat came and picked us all up, French, Portuguese, English and Hungarian crews alike, and took us across the vast expanse of the Douro to the waiting pontoon anchored off the other shore, where the race proper would begin.

Captain and Crew confer

Captain and Crew confer

We’d managed to get a young Portuguese lad to help us, and the boats came in and tried to line up with their sterns to the pontoon and angled upriver. It was incredibly difficult getting them all in line and reasonably stable. My new “assistant” was given the task of holding a length of rope through the harness “eye” atop the superstructure. He had to use it to keep the boat near the pontoon, and when the 30 second marker was shown across the water, quickly play it out and pull it clear so it wouldn’tfoul the prop.

I was crouched down holding the engine cowling in two hands, keeping the craft steady and angled correctly. I had to let it go at just the right moment….



"All aboard the Skylark" - Heading out to the Race start pontoon

"All aboard the Skylark" - Heading out to the Race start pontoon

The stillness hung across the water…the 30 second board went up…..the, green…GO!! I pushed forward and let go as Brian throttled and surged off into the river..a huge sigh of relief, I’d done it right! Now, there we all were, marooned on the pontoon, cheering the racers on, and the bridge across the Douro was lined end to end with spectators, as was the Quayside opposite us.

Somewhere in the midst sat Miki, hopefully taking photos. I hadn’t dared to take my camera, in case I fell in!

Brian was performing steadily, but couldn’t seem to overhaul Marie, one of the French contingent, and the only female competitor. Mark, the current World Champion was having his own battles, and was hanging on in sixth place until a beautiful maneouver on one of the turns resulted in a fifth. Scott, the youngest of the Brits had been having a strong race in third, but with scant laps to go, cruised up to our pontoon, presumably with a blown engine. The frustration was evident as he climbed from the cockpit and slammed the cowl shut. Another Brian, Brian Shulver, the fourth Brit in the Championship, had gone into the race gambling that his last-minute repairs would see him through, but he endured the entire race without any trim control and was lucky to finish.

Mark hits his stride

Mark hits his stride

We were ferried back at the conclusion, and I arrived quayside to find Brian desperately trying to get the boat hooked up to the crane. He shouted “she’s sinking!”. I leapt down onto the pontoon to help.

The Unsinkable Brian Block

The Unsinkable Brian Block

Sure enough, the back end was going under and she was taking water at an alarming rate. As we finally got it hooked, she went skyward and gallons of water gushed out. We manhandled it onto the trailer, and everything became clear. One of the other racers had tried an illegal pass at the first buoy.(The rules state you must hold your line to this point) and rode over Brian, holing the boat. It explained  why he couldn’t move up the places during the race, he was constantly taking on water. It was amazing he even finished.

Tight Turns

Tight Turns

Back at base, he was amazingly calm as he talked about the cost of a new engine and the boat repairs. The Brit team had been blighted with bad luck this tournament – but their enthusiasm and dedication to this underrated sport is infectious, and Miki and I will be following their exploits as they do battle around Europe in the future. As they packed up and left Barca one by one, we were overwhelmed by sadness, tempered by the joy and pleasure they had given us. We were so lucky to have stumbled on this place, and this event. My heartfelt thanks go to Brian for letting me be a part of it.

"Okay folks, show's over"

"Okay folks, show's over"

Kev Moore


July 22, 2008 - Posted by | Art, culture, events, Festivals of the World, life, photography, travel, writing | , , , , , ,


  1. brilliant story, it was my good fortune and pleasure to meet such a nice couple,may you live long and prosper( mr spock, i believe). i could not have done it without you….

    Comment by brian | July 22, 2008

  2. Welcome, Brian! Great to see you on here, and thanks for your kind comments – please say hi from Miki and I to the rest of the British team. We hope to see you all again soon.

    Comment by kevmoore | July 23, 2008

  3. Hi Brian, what a pleasure to see you here in Cafe Crem! We had a fantastic time with you, we will never forget that time and we already plan to go to Lisbon and Barco de Alva next year to follow the power boat number 3 on water… and the others from the English team of course… and well, the French ones too!!!!
    I have much work right now but in autumn I plan to do a series of power bots paintings, I can’t wait to do that, it was so beautiful!!!
    Good luck for the next races

    Comment by Miki | July 23, 2008

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