Portugal, with its long Atlantic coast, has become an emerging sailing destination. With its mild climate, bright sunshine and favorable winds, sailing along the Portuguese coast is a great pleasure. Long known for its sailing prowess, the small coastal country laid the foundations of an empire dating back to the celebrated Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries. Recently, a number of reasons have attracted Americans to sail to and in Portugal:
- Proximity to the US with the Azores in between;
- Mild climate year-round;
- Good ports, services and sailing outfitters;
- Favorable winds;
- Best regatta locations in the world.
Crossing the Atlantic, Portugal is the place to go. Faial, in the Azores – and whose marina in Horta is legendary among yachtsmen worldwide –, is the ideal place for a “pit stop” in a mid-Atlantic yacht trip. The Azores are just 2,000 nautical miles away from the North American East Coast while the Portuguese mainland is just another 1,000 miles away to the East. From the Tejo to the Douro, from the Sado to the Ocean, the waters can both offer temperamental and calm environments for a smooth and relaxing sailing experience. As a matter of fact, sailing, in a variety of classes, can be enjoyed along the 600 miles of coastline. From the north to the south, as well as in the Azores and Madeira.
A few places, however, stand out. With three World Heritage Sites, the Douro Region, offering historical landscapes, has become an emerging destination for visitors, with large numbers of reservoirs and quiet waters contributing to touristic and recreational sailing, as well. From Porto all the way up to Spain, it is possible to sail waters once traveled by the “Barcos Rabelos”, an old Portwine “routeway”.
The south of Portugal is well known for its long coastline. Cascais bay, near Lisbon, and Lagos bay, in the Algarve, are considered amongst the best regatta locations and ports in the world, which is why they regularly host some of the sailing’s most prestigious events and trophies, such as the Tall Ships Races and the Volvo Ocean Race in Lisbon, the Clipper around the world Regatta in Madeira and so on.
As you arrive, you will easily find many places to safely dock and eat some fresh Portuguese food. The marinas and yacht harbors offer all the amenities and services a yacht might need, and many proposals for those who just want to experience the sport. They also tend to attract many visitors arriving by land for their idyllic sceneries.
Traveling to the islands, Madeira and the Azores may vary from world class racing to laid-back exploring sailing. Comprising 9 islands, the Azores host sailing ships from all around the world, with many captains meeting up at the famous Peter Café sport, in Faial, for a drink. Madeira’s warm climate, mountains and beautiful views over the sea, make it a dream sailing and golf destination. The small island of Porto Santo, just a 30-mile sail away, is certainly one of the very few places in Southern Europe where you can comfortably sail all year long.
To sail in Portugal, one needs an appropriate sailing license, insurance and proof of identity. For further information, visit the Portuguese Sailing Federation (Federação Portuguesa de Vela or FPV) website.