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Dear Ulysses… (homage to lonely sailors)

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A souvenir for the 2018 URGO – LE FIGARO regatta

As I write these lines, I imagine you on the bridge of your ship; facing straight ahead, staring destiny in the face; absent from all that surrounds you, be it storms, temptations or suffering.

Kavafis offered you a piece of advice, which was wishful thinking:

“When you set out on your journey to Ithaca

ask that the road be long,

full of adventures, full of experiences”.

Our seas are different. Your Mediterranean is a deceptive sea: its peaceful serenity is turned into unforeseen storms by the action of strange winds. The gods, blowing with force, entertain themselves by making us feel our insignificance in a sudden way. You know it well, in your eternal navigation you have been subjected to hard trials, always overcome thanks to your conviction and desire to return to Ithaca.

Your heart will be overflowing: the road has been long and the adventures many.

Our sea is different, it does not assume to conform to a previous characteristic. It admits no definitions, no limitations; in its enormity it is almost infinite, like your sailing. The Atlantic is the gateway to everything. Atlas held the eternal sky, and that sky was reflected on this sea.

The sailors of the La Solitaire 2018 URGO – LE FIGARO regatta are also setting out on a long journey. From the outset, we might think that their route is very different from yours, that in their eagerness everything is a rush, looking for the shortest route, the best wind, driven by the desire to arrive first. It is a race, certainly, but the important thing is not the speed or the result, what can I tell you! The important thing is to sail.

Sailing and getting to port. Harbours are part of sailing. They welcome you with joy, offering you their best gifts. The sailors also arrive with joy. Arriving in port is therefore an experience of sharing. Offering and receiving. To exchange and to discover.

” Ask that the road may be long.

May there be many summer mornings

when you arrive – with what pleasure and joy!

to harbours never seen before.”

This year 2018, the organisation of the regatta proposes to take a new course, towards the Ría de Muros Noia, A Ría da Estrela, in Galicia. A place where mystery becomes legend, legend becomes belief, belief becomes mystery… and everything begins again, eternally, like the waves of the sea. That sea that envelops everything, that reaches our senses. You smell it, you taste it, you hear it, you touch it, you see it. An eternal place where history becomes stone and stone becomes memory.

This is what the Galician estuaries used to be like and this is still what the Ría de Muros Noia is like. A natural harbour that offers a close mooring to pilgrims who wish to approach Santiago, thus becoming the authentic sea of Compostela.

This is an estuary where the primitive forts become sailors (Castro de Baroña). An estuary where the exceptional gastronomy is pure sea (the best cockles in the world, oysters, Sanmartiños, sea bass, blue fish…). In which the museums gather all the knowledge of the seafaring men (Museo do Mar de Noia, Museo Marea de Porto do Son, Museo Sel de Muros). In which the temples are also a reflection of that sea (Virxe do Camiño Sanctuary and San Pedro Church in Muros, crosses and souls’ breastworks). Where mountains and viewpoints seem to be located to enjoy the sea (Monte Tremuzo in Outes, Culou in Lousame, Enxa in Porto do Son)… or to enjoy “with” the sea (Monte Louro). An estuary with a string of beautiful beaches, where it is easy to find one to suit every visitor’s taste (Ancoradoiro, San Lorenzo, Broña, Testal, Aguieira, Queiruga, Furnas…).

The Galician is a unique people. I am sure you would like to meet them, Ulysses. They may seem gifted with a tragic sense of life, in which a curious relationship with death (Museo de Laudas Gremiais de Noia) or even with the Devil (who must be expelled from the body: pilgrimage of San Campio in Outes) stands out. The Galicians offer a first impression of melancholy or “saudade”, like their Portuguese neighbours; but the slightest apology is enough for a bagpipe to appear and a party to begin. A little octopus “a feira”, some wine, the traditional “queimada”… and celebrate.

That’s how they are, they celebrate everything and for everything; be it the abundance of fish (Azul de Portosín), or that history has been generous (Noia Medieval Fair) or simply that the sea is there (Muros mira ao mar).

Fernando Pessoa, an Atlantic like those of this estuary, says: “Ancient navigators had a glorious phrase: to sail is necessary, to live is not necessary”. I like Pessoa. You would like him too. He’s right, it is a glorious phrase. The kind of glory that only the sea can give. The glory of Columbus, of Magellan, of Elcano, of Cook, of Cousin. Your own glory, Ulysses, and that same glory that the participants of La Solitaire 2018 URGO – LE FIGARO deserve to share.

Boa proa!