Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bottle and Boat

There was a report on the BBC web site that litter on Britain's beaches is up 90%. As the Thames outside my window is tidal then technically this counts as part of the coast and yes litter seems up here too.

Drifting by seems to be everything from footballs to plastic bags and from half submerged boats to used drinks bottles (above). When walking along the river side I did consider picking some bits up but there was just too too much.

The Port of London Authority removes larger items - such as this morning they dragged what looked like a whole tree out of the shipping lanes, but is anyone responsible for litter cleanup?

The tidal nature means the same bit of rubbish can go back and forth many times (anyone know how many times?) though today when its neaps the flow was, to say the least, sluggish.

Luckily my lurgy is going so unlike Father Thames I am feeling back in the flow.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Zong Video

Just uploaded this video of the Zong to YouTube - though doing so started wondering about the name Zong.

Sounds like he was Ming the Merciless's sidekick: all hail Zong the Zuton!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Running and Walking by the River

Its London Marathon day today and the sky is blue and the sun shining and a record 35,500 runners are out there pounding the streets. Best wishes to all, especially Tillerman!

Alas due to the lurgy remaining I'll not even be doing my Sunday morning 45 minute run here in Putney. But you don't have to run to enjoy the Thames path - one of my favourite walks and top tips for visitors is to go from Westminster to London Bridge (or even Tower Bridge) along the South Bank.

This area has been transformed over the past decade, and along the way you can pass:
- Big Ben
- London Aquarium
- Saatchi Gallary
- London Eye
- South Bank Arts Complex
- Second hand book stalls
- Oxo Tower Restaurant
- Tate Modern
- Millennium Bridge across to St Pauls
- Shakespeare's Globe
- Replica of the Goldern Hinde
- Southwark Cathedral
- London Bridge across to the Monument (of the great fire)
- HMS Belfast
- Tower Bridge across to the Tower of London name but a few! Its a lovely walk and the views over the city (and indeed over The City) are amazing, day or night.

Last time I went that way (on route to the Zong) I popped into the Tate Modern and went on the Slides before they were dismantled. Very fast, a bit bumpy, and great fun!

Friday, April 20, 2007

One day before the mast

I've been stuck at home all week with a bug - its not been much fun. But there are many much much worse places to be sick, and the previous week I visited one.

It was a replica of the ship Zong that was moored in the pool of London for two weeks and I went along to have a look round. The story is pretty shocking - not just was it a slaver, but the centre of an insurance scam that resulting in slaves being thown overboard mid Atlantic when they got sick.

While it was pretty interesting there were two things that bothered me a bit.

Firstly it wasn't a true replica of the ship Zong - which was longer and had different layout below deck. It was just the ship used in the recent film "Amazing Grace" about the life of William Wilberforce.

Secondly the attitude of the tour guide and at least one of the others on the tour I found disquieting. Both mentioned skin colour as if that would or should be crucial in determining attitudes to the boat. "Why are you here, as a white person?" was a flavour of the questions.

I found this boggling to be honest. Slavery is a horror of humanities past, irrespective of what race you are. I don't feel I should feel guilty for what was done centuries ago by someone else for the irrelevance that we share a skin colour.

Its not just that some white people opposed slavery, and that some black people were part of slave trading. We are all mongrels and it doesn't feel right to define our identity or be defined from just one historical group.

So to a degree I switched off and started asking about the rigging, going to the rail and asking what each of the ropes were. Recently I've have been reading "Two years before the mast" which at times is quite technical in its description of the rigging of a tall ship, so a hands on Q&A session seemed just what the doctored ordered.

I found a trainee who was initially nervous but then by the end had her confidence boosted as she found she did know all the ropes, their names, and their uses.

On the tube home there was the usual cross section of races, religions, and nationalities. As a little girl staggered her way across the isle I exchanged smiles with the proud grandfather sitting opposite.

No doubt we could have exchanged national histories, found differences and reasons for grievances. Would that really have helped?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Boat Races

Tillerman asked the very good question as to why the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race is called "The Boat Race" when there are so many races involving boats out there.

While trying to find out why (a quick look on Wikipedia) I noticed the date of the first race - back in 1829! So it pre-dates the America's Cup, which started in 1852, by a good 23 years. And the America's Cup is described as "oldest active trophy in international sport".

So thats 23 years in which it could really call itself, "The" Boat Race.

But now there are so many races involving boats - like the one in the photo above. All weekend a steady stream of canoes have been heading downstream like beetles on a pond.

Another quick Google and the answer came here. Its the Devizes to Westminster Race, a daunting 125 miles of river. It calls itself "The longest non-stop canoe marathon in the world".

There are two categories - the first full-on don't stop till you get there is for senior doubles, who paddle all through the night. And the second for juniors and single seniors taking four days and resting / camping on the way.

Thats an impressive distance to canoe: congratulations to all that made it!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Boat Race

It was boat race day yesterday.

It was a lovely sunny spring day and the start, just round the corner from where I live, was absolutely packed. Putney Bridge and both banks heaved with not just thousands but probably hundreds of thousands.

Its amazing that a university level two contestant race for a minority sport that takes less than 20 minutes can bring so many out to watch. Ok, some will be students or ex-students. I was standing by what looked like recent graduates shouting support for my old uni, Cambridge, which made me feel at home.

I think its the combination of tradition with the competitiveness and closeness of the race. It really is open as to who will win. And as both crews were packed with internationals it was a fiercely fought all the way to Chiswick.

And Cambridge won!

Living by the river is wonderful....

Monday, April 02, 2007

Celebrity Yacht Race - The End

It's time to wave farewell to our bold and brave celebrities. Across five thousand miles of wild ocean they have ventured, against tide, wind and wave, battling against the elements to compete in the first Monaco to Miami yacht race.

There is an old saying in offshore yacht races that to finish first you first have to finish and in this case the first to finish was also the only one to make it. But they were worthy to lift the silver urn and spray the celebratory champagne for Anthony and Flea from "Red Hot" have raced long and hard.

The chart above from the exclusive race viewer shows their tactics were spot on. Heading south after the Canary Islands but taking the north side of the course towards the end were not one but two great tactical choices.

Its also time to say goodbye to our guest correspondent, Buff Staysail. Its been a truly unique experience to share column space with one of the legends of the industry. I've had great insight into the workings required to create classic "BS".

For some final words on the race, lets hear for one last time from ol' Buff, posted from last nights race trophy presentation party:

Howdy folks! It's Buff Staysail here, Buff by name and Buff by nature!

I'm here in Miami beach where the Red Hot Chili Peppers are rocking a crowd of an estimated half a million. The winners have been back on dry land for under 24 hours and its been a non-stop whirl of press interviews, presentations, and parties, culminating in this, the celebratory gig.

The message they have is clear - this was not just a competition but a journey and one that has changed them for ever. They feel connected to our planet in a deep way, a meaningful way. They have seen the way we have despoiled our planets, with rubbish floating even in the midst of the widest oceans. They have seen the stars gleam bright in a sky unpolluted by the red glare of city lights.

They are not the only ones with Chris Martin and Sting off watching dolphins off Grand Canaria and with Marilyn Manson zen-like rejection of the competition element of the race in favour of experiencing sailing for sailing sake.

(And incidentally did you hear the story thats making the rounds of the bars here that James Blunt has been spotted alive having been rescued by a dolphin called Kat? Of course there are those that noticed the report was posted early Sunday morning so could be suspect but lets watch this space)

And as for yous truly I've learnt some hard truths. The incident in Ibiza with Sophie comes to mind and the one in Gibraltar with 50 Cents. My ol' ma in Brisbane had more than the odd word to say on both!

The 2007 Celebrity Monaco to Miami Yacht Race is over and its time to head off to what ever comes next. Its usually not hard to feel the anti-climax, to be let down now the race has become history.

But here in the warmth of the sunset, beer in hand, admiring the girls in their bikinis on their spring break its hard to feel bad about anything.

Thanks to all that followed this race and until the next time this is Buff Staysail, signing off

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Celebrity Yacht Race - The Winner!

It was in the early hours of this morning that the Open 60 "Red Hot" crossed the finish line of the first Celebrity Monaco to Miami Yacht Race.

The two victorious sailors, Anthony and Flea, celebrated with the usual display of hand-held flares, as they were surrounded by their support team and adoring fans, who were still going strong at 3am.

It had been quite a crossing, a total of 33 days 11 hours 58 minutes packed with excitement and drama right from the start.

Behind the other competitors have not had so much luck. Second place "Old Farts" of Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart crashed into a reef while sailing at 9 knots. Apparently they had a couple of spiffs and then decided to have a "little nap" - so age is finally catching up with those old rockers.

Behind them the "No Knickers" entry of Paris and Britney, disqualified for outside assistance, have headed off into the Carribean to find an exclusive resort to chill out in and hopefully go shopping.

Meanwhile the news that both "Re-invention" with Kylie, Jay Kay and Robbie and "Definitely Will Be" with the Gallagher brothers and Madonna were disqualified for their crew exchange have resulted in those two also heading off for a mystery destination closely followed by the "Sinners and Sailors" with the Appleton sisters off making sure Nicole's hubby behaves himself.

Finally Marilyn Manson on "Ditta Von Teese" is heading further and further south-east and his Zen like mission to become one with the sea and the girls of Ipanema.

The positions as "Red Hot" crossed the line is shown in the exclusive race viewer, below.

We'll have an update from ol' Buff tomorrow, but in the mean time here's the final standings:
1. After 33 days 11 hours 58 minutes
2. Outside assistance
3. Outside assistance
4. Outside assistance
5. Suspected illegal activites
6. Dismasted in storm then sank
7. Dolphin watching in the Canaries
8. Raving in Ibiza
9. Hit reef while asleep
10. Keep an eye on hubby
11. Didn't want to stop
12. Only one crew member
13. Only 1.36 crew members
14. Sank by entourage
15. Broken finger nail