Monday, July 30, 2007

Back from sailing holiday

It's good to be back home! The sun is out and the full river a rich dark brown from the rains over the last week.

The sailing in Phocaea (or Foca as it is now known - snigger ye not) was good. Watch this space for an update which I'll try to avoid the "got up, brilliant breakfast, went sailing, super lunch, went sailing again, drool-worthy dinner" sort of post.

It might be fun to share:
- my worst ever regatta / race position
- a non-laser sailor goes laser sailing
- the death-eater bruise (had to get a Harry Potter reference in somewhere)
- ... and anything else can think up

In the meantime this is something we saw a lot of last night - the full moon. From the airport in Turkey (Izmir) all the way to somewhere over southern England where we circled over a closed Gatwick till our fuel started to run low and we were diverted to Luton to pick up fuel before heading back.

At least the roads were clear for the 4am taxi home and the moon (below from Izmir) did look beautiful!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sailing Preparation

They say that it is very important to prepare for sailing and to keep up the training to ensure peak physical fitness.

I am going sailing next week and I have done, to date, nothing.

No, thats not true, I've ordered this:

Yes HP7 is coming and JP is very excited - its ideal holiday reading when the temperature gets over 40.

The difficult bit will be avoiding prematurely learning the plot, given its been reviewed, scanned photos of each page are on the internet, copies are for sale on eBay, and no doubt it will be in the hands of over half the passengers on the plane.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Evolving London

Just seen a very interesting program on the Beeb about London. It was presented by Peter Ackroyd who described how London going through unprecedented changes, driven by an influx of immigrants eastwards along the estuary and by the success of the City upwards in a series of epic towers.

Some background and clips can be found here.

No Man's for sale

If you've sailed around the Solent no doubt you'd have seen No Man's Land fort - or even, if you're unlucky and the wind drops and tide picks up, drifted on to it.

But today we hear that is for sale - for a cool £4m. Mooring seems a bit primitive from the photo above (from this site) - but I guess its aimed at the two helicopter family.

It makes you wonder all sorts of questions - like how long would it take to pick up the Sunday papers? where does the waste go? how do you get fresh water back in? what sort of council tax band is it in? how does the council collect the rubbish, if at all? how noisy or quiet is it?

What could it be used? Top sea food restaurant might be a good idea.

Any other suggestions?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Heading up the Thames

Very boring weekend trying to do two weeks worth of Financial Strategy study in two days, distracted by two groups traveling up the Thames.

Firstly out of the window saw this lot:

Yes, it's an a dragon boat, but more than that, as their web site puts it, an "elite group of female athletes talented in many ways, toned to perfection, with killer looks and on a mission to keep boldly going where no other girls have gone before. The next mission we've chosen to accept is to Dragon Boat across the English Channel in August 2007". Slightly scary in more ways than one!

Then in the evening a trip to the Putney Odeon to see the latest Harry Potter film which included a short scene of him flying up the Thames past the Houses of Parliament, like this:

Slightly scary too - but in a good way!

How to Win a Sailing Gold

Congratulations to Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson aka "the new three blondes in a boat" for winning Gold medal in Cascais.

Especially given the unorthodox tactic of having a crew member fall overboard in the final race at the top mark:

For some reason these three photogenic sailors are very popular with the media!

Friday, July 13, 2007

I'm Sinking!

According to a study reported here, most of London is sinking and at the same time sea levels are rising due to global warming. So in the worst effected areas the net result is water levels rising by up to 2.5 mm / year which over the next 40 years would work out as a noticeable 10 cm. Not all is so bad - towards Northolt the ground is slightly rising due to the underlying geology.

Fortunately where I am is steady or slightly decreasing (light blue in the figure above). Phew! No need yet for life jackets or rafts!

What is more the same study identified that due to tidal effects London moves vertically 10 mm twice a day due to the weight of water coming in and out. That must be near the estuary rather than upriver here where surely there can't be enough water to make that amount of height variation.

Even so its hard to think of a whole city rising and falling - makes me think of this series of books I've just finished (recommend if you like that sort of thing).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A few more Sydney photos

Choppy waters in Sydney Harbour:

Sunset behind the Sydney Harbour Bridge:

Another view of the bridge climbers:

Sydney Run

You don't need a yacht - let alone an America's Cup class one - to enjoy the sights of Sydney Harbour. Bring your running shoes and try this run shown in the Google Earth picture above, which was a good way of saying goodbye before the 20 hours flight back home.

Start at the Sydney Marriott, turn right and run down past Captain Cook's statue, across the bridge by the Art Gallery of NSW, into the botanic gardens, out to Mrs Macquaries point, admire the view, round to the Opera House, admire the view again, then back past the art gallery and back via Archibald Fountain and the Anzac War Memorial.

If you do it in under 30 minutes you are way too fit and have no soul for the views are wonderful and well worth stopping for five minutes or even more...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sydney Sailing - The Photos

Now back in the UK a few pictures and a very short video as promised of sailing the America's Cup boat Spirit in Sydney.

Actually the first picture isn't of Spirit but two Volvo 60s - what was EDF Language and Education:
Here we are heading under the Harbour Bridge just prior to raising the jib - it was too windy for the main:
But still we managed a good 7 - 8 knots of boat speed:

You can get a feel from this short video - taken as we passed the harbour entrance. I had just finished my go at the wheel and handed over to another guest (who turned out to be a Professor of Philosophy):

Finally had to leave the boat and see her sail off into the sunset....

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

America's Cup Truimph

So Alinghi have done it! Not just winning their 5th race and hence the cup, and not just keeping the America's cup in Europe, but together with Team NZ showing how AC racing can be exciting.

I must admit to lacking much enthusiasm about the Lois Vuitton Cup races which all too often were processions around the track, the result coming from either boat speed or starting tactics.

But the AC itself had a couple of thrilling races, topped by the last cracker, where as is has been reported elsewhere there was a controversial penalty awarded after a port/starboard incident, a dramatic wind shift, spinnaker pole / kite overboard snafu that saw an Alinghi lead of 130 odd metres drop to zero and then a deficit.

Finally there was an excellent lesson in the difficulty in quickly doing a 360 while keeping boat speed up in which left NZ stalled just metres from the finish as Alinghi sneaked by.

Alas such dramatic race and result for sailing's oldest trophy has been hard to spot in the media - though luckily my hotel does have f** tv which was showing briefly edited highlights of the final race (fab).

Having said that some coverage makes you wonder - such as in the Qantas inflight magazine which stated that AC "crew will still cut their toothbrushes in half to save weight". Maybe they are all dental fetishes but these are day races - surely they can scrub their fangs when they get back to port? On the other hand who knows what goes under the deck. Maybe the problem with BMW Oracle was the extra weight from that nail paint and care kit.

Maybe the writer was getting confused with the Volvo, where such weight saving measures are used. However he also states that in that race "dismasting meant that two boats were in imminent danger of sinking". From memory wasn't there just the one dismasting - Brazil? All the other problems were keel related.

Anyhow, congratulations to all in Team Alinghi but also for Team New Zealand for you were both at the top of your game and gave us some great sailing.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Buff on the America's Cup

So where is that old Ozzy, this column's favourite professional writer, the one and only Buff Staysail aka "BS"? While down under I caught up with Buff, currently working for Queensland Community TV as their sailing correspondent covering the America's Cup. Take it away Buff!

Howdy folks! Buff Staysail here Buff by name and Buff by nature!

There are those that say that the America's Cup is boring! Can you believe that! Take this story from someone called Tillerman! Bet he hasn't used a tiller in years!

He clearly doesn't appreciate the zen like level of sailing that the AC (as we buffs - get it! - call it) has achieved. He doesn't understand the skill of presenters of covering a sporting event where not only does nothing seem to happen for 20 minutes (especially as one bit of water looks much like another.) but even the sailors don't seem to move a muscle!

Now on our program - Queensland Community TV's Sailing Show - we don't have the computer graphics and live feeds of the mainstream channels, we make do with wooden models and my talent! (Ed - for some reason the viewing figures were not available). And of course the AC hasn't implemented the suggestions my ol' drinking mate JP suggested - for that would simply be pandering to the masses - all that talk of sinkings and shorter laps I ask you.

That is evidence they clearly are unfamiliar with the key insights that yours truly has brought to the sport : for example the BS head-angle theory, which suggests that the helmsmen are aligning their head with the tilt of the mast to reduce the wind-flow by that crucial 0.00134%. Or the impact of the angle that the crew lie on the deck makes on internal stress framework of the boat?

And above all have they not noticed that this is the closest AC for years? And that in terms of money spent this must be sailing's premier sport?

I don't know, winging poms and yanks!

For those with more taste, you know where to get your sailing fix - thats right, Queensland Community TV's Sailing Show - see you there!

Sydney Bridge Climb

This is the view from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. And yes, they make you wear those blue-gray coordinated suits and yes make you do those all-put-your-hands-in-air-for-the-photo group actions, but no, it isn't always that sunny.

It was in fact freezing when we went up yesterday. Though clear first thing in the morning and last thing at night during the day cloud spread over the sky and the temperature dropped with biting winds from the west. When it was all over I needed not just a hot cup of tea but a long soak in a hot bath to warm up again.

But it was fab - superb views and a great feeling to be at the top of this landmark structure. They send you up in groups of 12 with a guide and are attached at all times via a safety harness and have to remove everything that could in theory drop off, from watches to hankies. In particular they don't let you take a camera, and then charge $$$ for the pictures they take.

Our guide, Cathryn, helped us get kitted out with all the gear they provide, from attachable hankies to radio headsets. Then we were off on the trek:

In all it took about three hours - an hour for preparation including suiting up and practice, and hour up and an hour down. And in the cold you felt every minute.

But the views from the top made it all worthwhile - from the Opera House to Manly on one side and from Darlington Harbour to almost the Blue Mountains in the other.

For those of a certain age (like me) it was the sort of thing that John Noakes did in days of old when we watched Blue Peter. Now about 1.9 million have done the climb.

So if you're in Sydney its definitely worth it - even at AU$ 200 - and you could make that 2m. Just make sure on a cold day you wear lots of layers!

All pictures from

Sailing in Sydney

G'day all from down under!

It was a busy weekend in Sydney: within an hour of checking into the hotel I managed to be on a boat - and not just any boat but an America's Cup boat, namely Spirit from the '92 campaign.

Sometimes you just get lucky - I found their site using Google just after unpacking my bags, but with under an hour to go before departure without a booking, without knowing if they sailed during winter - and when they weren't answering their phone it all seemed a bit of a long shot. It wasn't helped by a taxi driver who knew minimal English and kept going the wrong way - he seemed to think I wanted the Casino. Anyhow by giving him directions eventually found the quay and walked into their offices, and yes they had a place spare. Result!

So spent the afternoon sailing the magnificent Sydney Harbour in a 72 footer. It was pretty breazy with steady 20-25 knots wind gusting 30 so unfortunately we couldn't get up the main and sailed on foresail alone. America's Cup racing is cancelled if the wind is that strong and its not possible to reef the main - not at all like the all weather Volvo 60 went on last year.

But she went pretty well on just the foresail (will post pictures when back in UK and have a chance to read the SD card). There was a professional crew to run the ship but we all had chances to sweat over the coffee grinders and enjoy a run at the wheel doing a tack or two.

All in all it was a fab afternoon and a great way to get back on the water. And we didn't end up like this, which is always a good thing. Funnily enough that was one story the crew didn't go on about - though there was a series of good stories about how to bend the rules in AC racing involving moving sails and managing water flow below decks.

As we sailed back up river there was a nervous moment as the mast seemed to scrape under the Sydney Harbour bridge. And high up on its iron frame we could see small figures climbing up to the top, which gave me an idea about what would be a great thing to do on Sunday!