Friday, December 28, 2007

After Christmas

This is Santa's dirty little secret, this is the post-Christmas boat. Barges loaded with empty containers waiting their turn to dock at London's Western Riverside Waste Authority off Smugglers Way (honest, that is its address).

Empty containers ready to be filled with used wrapping paper, Christmas card envelopes, gift labels, tinsel, present boxes, wrapping ribbon, used rolls of sellotape, inkless pens, broken daleks, empty boxes, pages containing completed or not completed lists, plastic bags from Sainsburies, Tescos, Waistrose, Selfridges and a thousand other shops, uneated roast potatos, sprouts, carrots, the carcass of the turkey, plastic bags used to hold the veg, string bags to hold the clementines, empty bottles of cranberry and red current jelly, used batteries, batteries that have some life in them but what the hell, the plastic bowl the Christmas pudding came in, empty milk bottles, juice bottles, wine bottles, champagne bottles, beer bottles and tins, cream bottles, brandy butter, used napkins, dead candles, corks, unwanted presents, sofas to be replaced in the sales, stale ends of bread, the remains of salad that made everyone feel a bit queasy, that quiche (don't ask!), receipts (so tough if you wanted to return or change that present you already have/didn't want/doesn't fit), newspapers, the old razer now replaced with a new one, shirts absolutely ruined, broken plates, bowls, glasses, shattered Christmas tree decorations, burnt gravy, toast that no wanted, empty marmalade jar, several thousand clementine and banana skins, those little plastic envelopes washing machine and dish washer tablets come in, empty deodorant sprays, shower gel bottles, last year's phone, a printer no one knows how it works and a cable that no one knows what its used for, that old router that isn't fast enough any more, cat and dog food tins, empty bags of crisps (chips), stale biscuits and buns, couple of Christmas cards got the message wrong so had to start all over again, piles of the usual junk mail, empty tubes of pringles, silver and red foil that was around a chocolate Santa, empty (alas) boxes of chocolates, turkish delight, nuts, figs, tin foil splattered in Turkey fat, ..........

Give the Earth a year long Christmas present - and recycle!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Crisis in Pakistan

I try and avoid politics on this blog (as it leads to flames which are best left in fire places) but can't ignore the news from Pakistan.

Having visited Karachi in the autumn I've followed with interest what happens in this turbulent land, and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a tragedy not just for her family but the country.

There was mixed views from those I talked to about her - some attended the welcome back rally (where those bombs killed so many) while others remembered how she left under a cloud of corruption.

But all will have been appalled by this outrageous act of violence. Where will Pakistan go in 2008? What will happen to the elections?

They are entering turbulent times and can only hope they all weather it to calmer water in 2008.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

White Christmas in the London Fog

Fog not snow turned London white today. A thick dense whiteness sat all day on all the houses, offices, shops, roads, rivers, bridges, towers and palaces of this old and great town.

It was rather wonderfully atmospheric. Biking back from delivering presents to my two godsons over in Chiswick, people would be shadows that appear out of the murk, Hammersmith Bridge materialised glowing lights followed much later by the hidden iron work.

The Thames path was deserted. It felt like being a kid again, biking home through country lanes, with the only sounds the geese of the wetland centre and distant church bells.

Happy Christmas everyone!

ps as I'm sure to have lost the bet with Turinas I propose to give the necessary donation to Shelter, as it must be horrid to be homeless over Christmas when its so cold - unless he has another suggestion!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Piracy hits Liverpool

One of the great maritime cities in Britain, Liverpool, has suffered the first act of attempted piracy in nearly 200 years.

No this is not some April fool, but yes it is a bit of a stretch to really call it piracy. As you can read here in an article in the sensational soar away Sun one of the less than competent scousers was caught and the other made off with nothing.

So less blood or victory and much more of a hot-water bottle type of pirate!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Circumnavigating: power vs sail

The time is getting close for the start of the Earthrace's attempt to beat the world record for racing around the world under power. According to this story they need to break the current time of 74 days 23 hours and 53 minutes set by Cable and Wireless Adventurer in 1998.

I've previously posted that the eco-benefits of biofuels are to say the least dubious, but at least it seemed they would be the fastest round. Now that is in doubt - as it could well be that sail remains faster than power.

For Ellen's time of around 71 days is quicker than C&W Adventurers's, and her record is currently being smashed by Francis Joyon on IDEC.

Look at his latest position from their web site:

Joyon is thousands of miles ahead of Ellen - nearly a week ahead. And his trip is truly the eco-friendly voyage, using not just wind for power but also solar panels for power.

This is sensational sailing - and he is alone, not able to go off watch like the crew of Earthrace.

Multi-hulls maybe out of the Olympics but there are showing their worth down in the southern oceans.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Lawsuit hits Celebrity Yacht Race!

Just had our Buff on the line literally gasping with excitement. Without further ado lets hear what he has to say. Take it away Buff!

Howdy folks! Its Buff Staysail here, buff by name and buff by nature!

Apologies to all my fans at the lack of an update on the 2008 Celebrity Yacht Race. I've been down at the race committee's office every day and they've been tight lipped, not even commenting on the riotous events of that dinner (more here for the late comers out there).

Not a bad thing actually, gave me a chance to give me ol' Ma a tour of the sights of fair New York city and catch the excellent Golden Compass with two of my other favourite ladies in it, namely Nicole Kidman (above) and Eva Green.

But enough of the travelogue, what's the latest news you ask? And well you might!!!

In a word - lawsuit! And not just one but two!

Not only that, but both are from the same person - a certain Red Hot Flea has put not one but two spanners in the works by claiming the race and entrants are against the original deed of covenant.

Now as you will be aware this was written up at about 3am during the MTV Europe awards party on a napkin (below). There has always been some debate about what clauses lay underneath the lipstick and who's number had been written on it.

However the key words are on the back, where it says "never again". Now many take this as being independent of the Yacht Race deeds and just the voice on one weary and ready for bed.

But according to Flea this was part of the race rules, which states that the race should be held just once, and hence his first lawsuit is that there should be no further races.

However the committee has pointed out the word annual implies a repeat - you can't have just the one race and call it an annual event.

But Flea has countered by his second law suit that says that the phrase "never again" means the competitors from one race are only allowed the one bite of the cherry and can't run again!

Are you confused? I know I am!

The word - strictly off the record - is that after the Gallagher brothers broke Flea's iPhone he is willing to go to any end to ensure they can't compete in the next race. If they withdraw the race is on, but at the moment the lads are sticking firm, so its a stalemate.

This is Buff, stuck in NY, waiting for the tide to bring some sailing news.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Xmas Lists

I like to read the FT on Saturday morning, and today in the Mrs Moneypenny column I read how some of her readers sent her some dressing gowns.

Now that is an interesting idea - readers of a column sending its writer some presents!

Of courses there's an interesting ethical issue here about undue influence and editorial neutrality.

So I'm glad (or sorry) to reassure you that this blog hasn't received any gifts from any of its readers.

However if you are just about to head out into the cold to get JP something my eye has been caught time and time again by the lines of the Class 40 yachts. The picture above is of the yacht Friends of the Earth which was owned by my friend Jonathan but he is alas selling it so no chance for a spin. There's a lovely piece in this months Yachting World about sailing them and they look an absolute blast.

Really, really wouldn't say no!

Ok - a bit ambitious and I'd happily settle for this calender from Sail 4 Cancer:
Some lovely photos and for a good cause :)

Ouzo Again

Back again to the story of the loss of the Ouzo and its crew (above).

I read this article on the BBC web site that one of the defence arguments for the master of the Pride of Bilbao was that there was a "close encounter with a yacht, but .. it was not Ouzo and that the boat sailed away safely".

So we're meant to believe there was another close encounter on the same night with a similar boat that was not reported despite the deaths and hubbub of the story in the news?

Well its possible - like its possible the Harry Potter film I'm watching now is a documentary.

Its just I don't believe it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ouzo Verdict

The verdict came out today on role of the crew of the Pride of Bilbao in the loss of the Ouzo - and it was not guilty. This was despite the fact that the yacht was clearly within at most a couple of feet of the ferry with its walls of steel and swamping wash.

Of course it is necessary to prove beyond reasonable doubt to find someone guilty, and those high standards are there to ensure that the innocent do not suffer, and so it is right that if there was such doubt that the verdict can only be, as it was, not guilty.

However what I don't understand is the figure above (taken from the BBC web site) which shows the defence's claim that the sinking could be due to the tanker Crescent Beaune and happened at 01:40 after the encounter with the ferry at 0107 but further back towards port.

Maybe the figure is wrong, but the only way the Ouzo could have been at that position would have been if it had been returning to port, which would only be plausible if it had been damaged in its encounter with the Pride of Bilbao.

So is he defence's argument that though they damaged the Ouzo in a close encounter and didn't stop to assist, that is ok as the yacht would have been still afloat? Which to me would be admitting to poor seamanship even if not manslaughter.

Does anyone know any more details of the arguments other than this from the BBC site?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Solo Transat for Charity

I was hoping to catch up with an old sailing friend called Tristan at or around the Earl's Court Boat Show, but alas not a pip from him.

Turns out he has probably the best excuse ever - he's just set off to sail across the Atlantic single handed to raise awareness for prostrate cancer. This is the latest of a series of expeditions, most recently his singled handed flight across the Atlantic.

So if (as we all hope) he makes it across the Atlantic he will be one of the few people to have both sailed and flown across. Rather worryingly one of those known to have done this was Steve Fossett, missing since 3rd September. And also rather worryingly there have been number of emergencies on the ARC.

My thoughts will certainly be with him and remembering when we first met - which was actually doing the ARC back in 2003. On those many hours on watch we'd chat about everything from philosophy to Frasier. I even remember as we sailed the very waters that he now sails alone how he talked about coming back, maybe skippering a boat.

So well done Tristan for going for it and fingers firmly crossed for a safe crossing.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Celebrity Yacht Race - the iPhone Incident

Last night was the launch party for the 2008 Celebrity Yacht Race. Our roaming reporter Buff Staysail was there, so lets hear it from ol' BS:

Howdy all, Buff Staysail here, Buff by name and Buff by nature!

Got bit of a bad head this morning after last night's bash.

It was quite a party, with most of the celebrities that took part in last year's race. Alas for some reason our invite was for one of the outlying tables, next to the door into the kitchen, but I'm told by that Elaine Bunting of Yachting World (who got a much better table - JP couldn't you have done something about that?) there was Madonna, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kylie, the Oasis brothers, Chris Martin, Britney, Paris Hilton, and the All Saints.

There were fireworks and jugglers, then after a long wait a rambling set by some pommie lass called Amy Whitehorse (Ed: I think our Buff means Winehouse). I was hoping to have a word with that Eva Green again but had to keep my ol' Ma company (Ed: translation - she wanted to keep an eye on the roving Buff when there's champagne on tap)

So I missed the start of the riot that broke out after Liam Gallagher broke Flea's new iPhone and he was not happy. Tables were turned over, chairs thrown, bottles waved like weapons. In all the fracas the guests and their bodyguards either joined in or fled the scene - so maybe it was handy we were by that kitchen door!.

Due to the disturbance the organisers were unable to present their video of the highlights of the last race let alone make an announcement about the rules and runners for the 2008 race.

I'm going down to race HQ during the week and will let you know what's up.

This is Buff, signing off, before heading to the chemist to get some asprins :(

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Celebrity Yacht Race 2008 Launch Party

The champagne is vintage, the glasses are sparkling, the canapes are even now being created by masters of the kitchen, for nothing but the best will do for the world's leading celebrities.

For tonight is the launch party of the 2008 Celebrity Yacht Race. Last year we thrilled as two dozen of the most famous men and women on the planet struggled against wind and tide from Monaco to far Miami.

There can only be one winner, and in this case there was just the one finisher: Antony and Flea on Red Hot crossed the line after 33 days 11 hours and 58 minutes. Other boats alas were not so fortunate, with one running aground, another sinking, several crew exchanges, and even a couple of arrests for drug running!

Due to lack of time JP is unfortunately unable to be present at "The Boat Shed" club in NY (the nautical theme has really taken over the night life there) so again we are proud to announce that our trusty reporter Buff Staysail - or BS as he's known in the industry - will be present.

Full story on the announcements from the Race Committee tomorrow - and which top names have booked their place in this the classic offshore race. Watch this space for all the latest news!

In the mean time catch up on the full story of last year's race, from the exciting start to the final farewell.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Earls Court Boat Show Update

All week I've been getting a steady stream of emails from various yachting companies and sailing schools I've signed up to over the years. Those exhibiting at Earls Court above (*) are joining the push for punters using two-for-one or even free tickets.

They've also got links to various clips of highlights of the boat show over at Sail TV - you can watch by clicking here.

If you want to go and see this for yourself my advice would be to contact any company that's exhibiting and see if there are any of those free tickets left.

(*) As you might notice this photo of Earls Court is not actually during the boat show but that of a small but perfectly formed singer from down under. Unfortunately the ECBS web site's photos are only available in a format that's even smaller than she is!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Boat Show Shocker

This is what the Earls Court Boat Show looked like this afternoon. Empty.

The organisers were promising exhibitors 200,000 visitors, but attendance on the first day was just 900.

Nine hundred people, all day. What will it be like tomorrow, Monday, when most people are back at work? I hope those manning the stands have books to read and the Wifi works.

Its a shame as it could be a good boat show. There's the indoor marinas, there's lots of boats and exhibitors, bars, bands, massages, Santa abseiling down from the ceiling, and all the usual suspects exhibitors.

Plus there's a couple of specials. There's the Gypsy Moth (which won't be at Excel):

There was the Top Gear amphibious car made out of a converted Triumph:

Then there was the James Caird, that Shackleton sailed across the wilds of the Southern Ocean after Endurance was crushed by the pack ice:

But the famous atmosphere of Earls Court was dead. The champagne bar (below) was deserted, as were half the other bars and stands. If you want to see a boat or talk to an exhibitor then there is no queues anywhere. I was the only non UKSA staff on the Gypsy Moth

After the show closed the organisers got the exhibitors together with an open bar upstairs on the second floor. Having manned the Blue Spirit Yachting - recommended for all your yachting needs - stand for all of 10 minutes (and almost sold a day skipper course in that time) I went along.

The organisers were upbeat, talking about quality rather than quantity, and how this was the best attended of any new exhibition. But there was no doubt that the issue of "foot-falls" was at the top of everyones mind. Many of those exhibiting are small companies and such poor returns will hurt them hard.

But there are many that want this to succeed. Even if Excel has the copyrights and trademarks of "The London Boat Show" many yearn for the days when the cosy halls of Earls Court sheltered the boaties of Britain during the winter.

If you're in London, go. There's lots to see and no danger of crowds or queues. I think the exhibitors will be very glad to see you!