Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Westeros Cup: The Fighting Races

"This isn't how we race back in King's Landing."

"You're a long way from King's Landing."

Tyrion grunted: Jorah had a point.

"And entering the fighting race was your idea."

"Yes, but the alternative was death and castration - in that order. You can see how I was against the whole concept."

The starting horn sounded and Jorah tacked on the start line.

"Of course I usually sail with Jamie, double-handed, but that's where he'd fall short now, if you know what I mean."

Jorah said nothing, eyeing the opposition.

"They're on port, we're on starboard: do you think they'll give way?"

"No."

"Nor me."

The two racing skiffs collided, and the slaver's prize fighters jumped across the gunwales, swords in one hand and knives in the other. Tyrion ran to the stern while Jorah kicked the feet away under one then stabbed in his right eye. He was about to tackle the other when the skiff accidentally gybed and the boom knocked him over-board.

"Shit" said Tyrion, as the prize fighter approached, grinning. Tyrion grabbed the tiller and pulled it across, forcing another gybe, but the fighter ducked under the boom, approaching closer. Tyrion retreated behind the back-stays and the fighters sword flashed, cutting it in two. The mast collapsed and the fighter was covered in the mainsail. Tyrion teetered on the edge of loosing his balance and falling overboard, but his foot was caught by the tiller and he flipped inwards, landing on the prize fighter.

"Shit!"

He jumped up and ran to the bow, trying to hide under jib.

"Got you runt" said the prize fighter, moving forward sword in hand and grin on face.

"Bugger" said Tyrion. He looked left and right for escape but there was none: the other skiff was drifting away and he had no weapons.

Then an arm reached from out of the sea and grabbed the fighters foot dragging him over-board. There was a swirl of spray that turned bloody red, then Jorah Mormont crawled over the stern.

"We will take their boat and win this race."

Tyrion nodded, for once lost for words.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Westeros Cup: The Mark on the Spinnaker

There waterside at King's Landing thronged with the undesirables, desirables and the simply plain.

Hawkers cried out for grilled rats, smoked goat's tongue, fried eels and jellied locust. Pockets were picked, roving eyes were caught, honours lost, gossip exchanged and a thousand barrels of mead emptied.

It was the day of the second race of the Westeros Cup, when the great racing yachts of House Lannister and House Baratheon would go head to head for the first time. The betting shops were doing a roaring trade, gold and silver stacked high, odds fluctuating by the minute.

Suddenly a great cheer arose as the two boats were sighted. They were to sail close by the quay-side, as close as possible, as fast as possible, to hear the cheers and receive the bouquets of flowers that would thrown by admirers, both men and women, to the sailors.

It would be a fine spectacle, with the wind on their quarter, maximing their speed, and the conditions were perfect: each would be raising their largest most impressive sail.

First the Lannister yacht, "Hear Me Roar" approached first, followed closely, almost touching, by the Baratheon of Dragonfire yacht "The Furious Fire".

They battled for inches, racing parallel to the enthusiastic, cheering crowd.

Then they raised their great spinnakers.

"They will show a lion and a stag" said a voice from the crowd, male, trying to impress the young woman on his arm.

But when with a crack the great canvases unfurled both were identical. Two triangles, interleaved as an hour-glass, with hands one either side.

The Iron Bank of Braavos.

Which ever yacht was fastest, there would be but one winner today.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Westeros Cup: The Protest

Varys missed Tyrion's wit. Meetings were not just boring without his quips but lacking in ideas and vision. In particular, Pycelle was a moron!

"Let's get this over with" said Varys. "Remind me exactly why we are holding the race protest hearing in Lord Baelish's.... establishment? Err.... hello... Pycelle, concentrate."

Pycelle turned back from exchanging smiles with one of the young ladies and would have blushed if his pulse or conscience had been strong enough.

"Well, it was thought he'd be here and not... where ever he is. And also on the committee there is Tyrion, it was considered it would be convenient for him but he is .... somewhere else. Finally we expected the crews to be here."

"So where are they?"

"Well the Black Watch have returned to their Wall and the Wildlings were either killed in the incident or captured."

"Well, I suppose we better hear from some of the captured Wildlings."

"There would be a problem there: it appears they all fell on a sword and died except one who dunked his head in a cauldron of molten lead."

"Oh."

"Well, who was going to pay for their food?"

"I see your point."

"But there are these reports."

Varys looked at the scrolls, picking up one with a sneer. "As if they matter. The key question is who we want to win."

"On the one hand the Black Watch serve the King while Stannis Baratheon is a rebel."

"That is true."

"But if we disallow the Black Watch's win then there's no chance of them defeating Stannis in their semi."

"Tricky. Are there are any mitigating circumstances?"

"The bribes are equally impressive."

"Even more tricky."

Varys wondered what Tyrion would have done, then it came to him.

"I say we accept both bribes and decide the result is there must be a re-race and if there isn't a winner then the previous result stands."

"But neither crew are available."

"Exactly: win - win"

"Very good" said Pycelle. He picked up the bribe purse.

"If you'll just excuse me" he said, totting out in the direction the young lady had left.

Moron, thought Varys.

Where was Tyrion?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Westeros Cup: The Yacht of Queens

Cersei Lannister gave the simpering snake her warmest smile and the room grew colder.

So what if all those common people had died? Why was Margaery telling her about this?

"And who invited Lord Walder Frey anyhow?" she said. "I mean, he looks like a caretaker."

She laughed at her own joke, the fool.

"I wouldn't know" said Cersei. "I am not familiar with caretakers let alone what rags they choose to wear. What matters to me is the Cup, our Cup."

"Indeed" said Margaery. "And our yacht. The Yacht of the Queen."

Her chin went up a faction at the word, but Cersei spotted it. Queen indeed: there'd be only one queen here, just as there could only be one captain on a boat.

"Or should that be Queens." Margaery was being diplomatic. "There'll be no talk of the girls boat, will there?"

Cersei snorted at the idea. Not if they wanted to live. "You say such sweet things" she said, while wondering if Qyburn would sew the troubling trollop's lips together forever if she asked.

"Of course not, after all you're the Queen Mother now, not some slip of a girl."

Cersei's lips tightened. Sewing was too good for her.

"I will be in command" she said. "As you are so kind to remind me, I am the senior."

"No, I am the Queen. You can be in charge of the foredeck, as you are so strong. I will be in charge of the afterdeck."

It was like a tacking duel, move and counter-move until in the end they each received a DNF.

There never would be a yacht of queens, but it didn't matter as long as that upstart wasn't helming.

Jamie would sail for her.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Westeros Cup: the Iron Cup

Tommen Barartheon was alone in the Great Hall with the body of his grandfather, Lord Tywin Lannister.

Alone, but not free.

He had the power to order the courtiers out, that was new. He no longer feared the random cruelties of his brother, Joffrey. His mother might control everything but Margaery was opening his eyes.

But not free, never that.

He turned his back on the body and walked down the hall towards the great Iron Cup. Forged from the anchors of a thousand yachts, it was said, melted by the fire of the great dragon Balerion, hundreds of years ago.

His grandfather might be dead but his voice echoed in Tommen's head. "It is our Cup, it is ours by right, never to be lost."

Nothing was forbidden when it came to the Cup. "You race or you drown", so mother said.

He sighed and raised a hand to touch its surface. The harsh iron sucked the heat from his hand, ice cold that only dragon fire could warm.

He would never be free of the Iron Cup.



Previously

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Westeros America's Cup: The After Party

"A little more red? Ser? Your grace?"

Arya Stark circulated the party, the perfect serving boy. It was a risk, she knew, someone might recognise her, though it was a risk worth taking. Jon Snow might be here! She longed to see her half-brother. So many tales to tell, so long since Winterfell. And he'd won his race, the first in the Westeros America's Cup!

She knew what to do, having been taught by none other than Lord Tywin Lannister. Be invisible but watchful, which suited her, so she could listen in and hear of news of the Starks.

"Yes, the race committee is to meet: there has been a protest."

She spotted a well filled purse on the belt of one guest and was tempted: she hadn't eaten for several days now.

"L plus R equals J" said a monk, face hidden in the shadow of his cape. "Now where did you hear that?"

Suddenly one guest gasped, choking. Green foam formed around his mouth, eyes went red then tears of blood were streaming down his face. Hands grasped at neck, nails attempting to dig inwards. Then the body collapsed on the ground and began to twitch, shudders that grew and then slackened, easing into death.

There was a scream, several screams, then dozens and the guests were falling like cattle on feast night.

Ayra tried to pull back, in case it was contagious, but then she realised: the wine! It had been poisoned!

"Hahahahahaha!"

A voice was triumphant.

"Ha ha ha ha ha! That will teach you, scum, worthless sons and daughters of swine!"

Ayra turned to recognise Lord Walder Frey, Lord of the Crossing, addressing the corpses.

"So! You think you can change the Westeros America's Cup class and not receive justice! Many years I worked on monohulls and hah! you think you can change them to multi-hulls just like that! No, no no! It will no be! You will not treat me like that!"

She had to escape: there would be questions. But first that purse.

Tonight she would eat the finest roast meats.



Next
Previously

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Westeros America's Cup: Round 1

There were two crows on the ridge over looking Kings Landing and the rotting carcass of a sheep. One crow dug at the sheep's eyeball, loosening it, cawing in triumph. The other watched, as if waiting. Then a figure clambered from beyond, a giant, dragging a boy on a sled.

"Hurry" the boy said. "They might have started!"

The giant looked out over the city towards the sea, then started, pointing at the glistening waters.

"Hodor!" he said. "Hodor!!"

"So! It has begun" said Bran. "The Westeros America's Cup has begun. May the seven gods save us all!"

Out at sea two trimarans raced towards the mark. In one were grim men, lost, far from their home, their Wall.

"We are are starboard tack" said Jon Snow. "They must give way to us."

"You know nothing, Jon Snow" said a beautiful red haired woman. "Do you think the Wildlings will play by the rules? Are you such a fool?"

As if in answer there was a crash and over the hull's edge poured a flood of warriors, yelling screaming. The Black Watch battled hard and valiantly but were doomed, outnumbered. The foredeck team were beheaded, blood splattering across the number 1 genoa as torsos collapsed tangled in the sheets. The trimmers had time to get swords up but their enemies had spears, one of which was already jammed through a black coated chest, protruding out the back, glistening bright red in the sunshine.

But then there were trumpets and gleams of light as on either side rescuers arrived on racing skiffs, cutting down like grass the Wildlings, their limbs scattered like straw into the ship's wake. Two figures jumped onto the Black Watch's afterdeck, Stannis Baratheon of Dragonstone and Davos Seaworth.

"This is done" said Stannis. "Finnish it!"

And so the first race was won.



Next

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Boat Races Working Boats

Three boats, the RNLI, PLA and the Thames police, but a single thought: it's not a bad day to be on duty when its the Boat Races and the sun is out.




Monday, April 13, 2015

Women's Boat Race Photos

So here are a couple of photos of the Women's Boat Race, two of each boat.

Alas Oxford were already so much ahead it was hard to get both in the same frame, though you can see their wake in the Cambridge boat's pictures.
So Cambridge were literally left in the wake of Oxford :(


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Men's Boat Race Photos

These are from the men's race which was close enough to get both boats in the same frame. Alas the women's wasn't but I'll post some of those tomorrow.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Boat Races Blues

This year the Boat Races became plural as both the women and men of Cambridge and Oxford competed their rowing eights along the tidal Thames.

It is so obvious that this is the right and fair thing to do that it seems strange it didn't happen until 2015.

Anyway the result was less obviously right as I ended up shaking my head going "oh dear, oh dear, oh dear" not once but twice.

Above is the Oxford women's boat pulling away from Cambridge at Hammersmith Bridge.

Anyhow, rowing isn't really my thing.

Go Ben Ainslie!!


Thursday, April 09, 2015

Great exploration yacht



I've been pretty busy recently so haven't had much time for blogging but was very impressed by this expedition yacht, just right for high latitude (or even lower latitude) sailing.

All I need are money, time and crew... so alas must remain a dream.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Book Review: The Sea and the Jungle by H.M. Tomlinson

This is meant to be a classic travelogue from 1909 / 1910, telling of a tramp steamer's voyage from Swansea into the heart of the Brazilian rainforest. I must admit I was disappointed.

Partly it was because its attitudes to race have aged badly. Unlike the vastly better The Surgeon's Log, there was no awaking of a more open attitude as the voyage continued.

Then there was the language. If you have read "Cold Comfort Farm" you will remember there are purple passages clearly signposted with stars. Here its just text.

Take this description of dawn at sea:

"It was still virgin, bearing a vestal light. It had not been soiled yet by any suspicion of this trampled planet, this muddy star, which its innocent and tenuous rays had discovered in the region of night... Its light was tremulous, as if with joy and eagerness. .. The world was miraculously renewed. It rose, and received the new-born of Aurora in its arms. There was cloud of pearl above hills of chrysoprase."

So no Hemingway then.

The biggest problem is it goes on and on for over 350 pages and not much happens. Yes, they trundle across the Atlantic to the mouth of the Amazon and still have over a thousand NM to go. But they do eventually get to Porto Vello up the Madeira river with their supplies for a railway being built there, after much discussion of mosquitoes and butterflies.

There is a short diversion though the jungle while unloading the ship, which gets that most damming of comparisons:

"The forest was nothing like the paradise a tropical wild is supposed to be. It was as uniformly dingy as the old stones of a  London street on a November evening."

It did indeed remind me of the heart of darkness, but without the ride of the Valkyries and smell of napalm in the morning (ok, ok, that is Apocolapse Now, but same story base).

Characters are thin, described as the Skipper, Chief and Doctor; the later is left in Brazil without even a goodbye.

There's too much of the little Englander well outside his comfort zone and it really could be edited down a lot.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Lost paddle

Spotted in the Thames today.

Alas it seems broken, but it does suggest someone has been paddling in a creak without a paddle.