Host report by Pauline Durie:
Funchal is the capital city of Madeira – the largest in an archipelago of 4 islands. It is situated in a large bay surrounded by mountains and is a popular destination for cruise ships that arrive and leave daily.
Funchal like all of Madeira is completely captivating for its natural beauty. The flora and fauna of the municipal gardens provide some spectacular species of trees and plants growing round a lake populated by gracious swans and fountains. The botanical gardens which are best reached by cable car were still boasting several flowering plants even in the middle of November. The year round warm climate provides ideal conditions for the business of terrace farming which is the main occupation of the inhabitants of Madeira. Local markets are abundant with vibrant colours of fruits and vegetables. Several guests took advantage of the view point tour that culminated in a steep climb up to Sierra Santa where the weekly Sunday market was bustling with people buying their weekly groceries whilst enjoying a glass of the local ‘poncha’ – a fiery cocktail not for the faint hearted.
The panoramic island tour was so popular a large bus had to be provided and we were amazed at the precision and care the driver took as we climbed mountains and travelled through forests of eucalyptus and laurel. Rumour has it that Romans used to visit the island to gather laurel for their head dresses. The tour continued down to the coastal village of Porto Moniz where the natural salt water swimming pools are the highlight of the village.
In the sixteenth century the Portuguese started building levadas to carry water to the agricultural regions. Many are cut into the sides of mountains, and it was also necessary to dig 25 kilometres (16 mi) of tunnels. Anyone who has walked along one of these is amazed by the feat of engineering needed to build over a thousand miles of irrigation channels. Guests were offered a half day excursion which took us on an easy levada walk guided by our lovely tour guru, Rita, who, along with help from mum, husband and son provided the walkers with an excellent afternoon tea.
Remembrance Sunday was marked with bridge players observing a two minute silence at the start of bridge. A service in the English Church remembered members of the family of one of the guests who had lost their lives in the First World War.
The Four Views Baia hotel provides magnificent views in all directions and sitting on the terrace by the pool overlooking the bay on one side and mountains all around was a popular activity. A short 10 minute walk from the hotel takes you into the centre of Funchal with its old cobbled streets and modern harbour. The hotel offered a complimentary shuttle bus into Funchal several times a day. The bridge room was quietly situated away from the live music provided in the bar and was bright and spacious. The usual bridge discussions in the bar after bridge provided some interesting conversations as always but hopefully everyone went away with friendships and relationships intact.
Director’s report by Nigel Durie:
Competitive bidding was the theme for the second week. The following hand gave rise to some competitive auctions in our Championship Pairs Qualifier:
What does West bid after:
West has a very useful looking hand with only 4 losers. Any bid in clubs at this point will not show the strength of the hand. Double followed by a club bid is better. But North is now likely to bid spades to an appropriate level, probably 3♠ or even 4♠.
Now South will support spades, seeing a probable 9 tricks and realising that EW probably have a fit in both minors. Similarly West thinks that he will have no defence against spades and will put partner with a singleton/void. Combining this with his singleton heart, he will probably gamble on 5♣. It then depends whether NS bid on to 5♠, pass or double.
In fact 5♣x -1 was the second best score for NS (after 4♠ making by one pair). Actually 4♠ should be one off, losing 3 diamonds and one club, but 5♣ will make as long as West is aware of the danger: after a heart lead to the ♥A followed by the ♥K, West must ruff high to avoid the overuff by North. South, of course, must cash his ♠A before leading the second heart or West will discard the losing spade from dummy on the fourth diamond and make 12 tricks with 2 spade ruffs in dummy.
On the night, one pair made 5♣ and the rest of the scores were 5♣x -1 or 5♣ -1 alongside 4♠/5♠ in the other direction (two going off and one game contract making). One fortunate North was allowed to play in 3♠ making. Quite a mixture of scores on a very competitive hand on which the optimum result is 5♠x -2 by North for the result of -300.