This was another well planned and enjoyable international event sponsored by the CIPC and hosted by the Portuguese national club - which did a fantastic job. In addition to the slow smoke competition, participants were treated to a Gala Dinner and spectacular Fado show in the elegant Estoril Casino, as well as to an interesting pipe show organized by Peter Heinrichs, with many well known European carvers (and some newer ones) in attendance. There were endless opportunities during the weekend to visit with pipe smokers from around the world, to catch up with old friends and to make new ones - or just to smoke and gaze out over the sea.
The U.S. was represented by Raymond Lykins, the current national champion (accompanied by his wife, Paris), and Vernon Vig. They held their own against competitors from 22 countries and more than 80 pipe clubs. Raymond ranked 34th out of 285 with a time of 1 h 45 min 45 sec. Vernon came in 117 at 1 h 4 mins. Although they could not match Gianfrano Ruscala's world championship time of 3 h 10 mins plus, this was the best American showing so far. (Note also that Vernon has invited Gianfranco - who attended college in Arizona and was seen wearing a NY Pipe Club cap after the competition - to join the U.S. team next year.)
UPCA's only regret is that more American smokers could not attend. Next year the international compeition will be held in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The Dutch host club already is hard at work and no doubt will put on another not-to-be missed pipe smoking frolic. All members of UPCA clubs are eligible to attend and invited to participate. So stay tuned for more information as the year goes on and let's plan to send a larger UPCA delegation to Holland next October.