Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year?

Hope you all had a great New Year celebration!

Time for two things - firstly resolutions, and one of mine is definitely to join a local Thames sailing club (doh!). And to do it while continuing to kayak.

Secondly to think of those who haven't had a peaceful break over the holiday season. I was particularly horrified to read this story about a ship being prevented from taking much needed medical supplies to Gaza by being deliberately rammed while in international waters.

So lets hope that 2009 brings the people of that troubled part of the world some of the justice and peace they are so sorely lacking.

Two Brain Sam In Seventh

What no New Year message you say? Well at least not yet - after all there are several hours to go here in GMT 'till 2009, and those in the Vendee Globe fleet aren't stopping just for a clicking over of the last digit of the year.

However if you haven't seen it, loved this post from seventh placed Sam about the dangers in slow waking up brains - I certainly need my coffee in the morning, and sure I won't be alone tomorrow!

"Did you know that offshore sailors (maybe everyone) actually have two brains? Well, we do! One is a clever brain, that makes all the right decisions, is sensible, tidy, rational and patient; the other is the "stupid brain" that makes silly mistakes, and generally tries to create havoc!


Normally, we exist with the two brains in "synch" and fortunately the clever brain seems to keep the stupid brain in check most of the time! There are, however, small flaws that can cause "hiccups" if not best avoided. The clever brain is not perfect, and it is certainly not a "morning" brain!

It takes a lot of time to wake up and get functioning. Unfortunately, on wake up, the stupid brain is up and running at 100% in a matter of seconds. This stupid brain then tries to persuade you that it is your clever brain so it can get control.....Obviously, lacking the clever brain, (who has pressed "snooze" on its alarm several times by now) you are unable to analyse which brain is in action, and that is where potential disasters can happen!

Thus, the moral of the story is - when you wake up after a little sleep beware of the stupid brain, and wait a bit before trying to do something complicated or making a tactical decision, to give the clever brain time to get going! Just this morning, I made the error of listening to my stupid brain and I gybed too early!

How annoying is that? It's been a long time since I fell into this trap. And if you ever hear me talking rubbish on the "vacation radio" you now know that it is probably because I've just woken up and its my stupid brain talking, not the clever one, so just ignore me!"

And in addition she has broken her mug (above) :(

Monday, December 29, 2008

Review of the blogging year 2009

Recently have been lucky enough to have access to the very latest Google technology, which is literally ahead of its time. Having indexed every page available now or at any time in the past of the internet’s short history, Google started investigating if it could also index pages in the future.

The recent shut-down of CERN was not actually due to mechanical failure but its secret use by Google to open a time-domain worm-hole using a negative energy charged black hole.

And they succeeded! Unfortunately due to Google’s rather strict terms and conditions, useful pages (race winners, stock market movements etc) are presently unavailable. But as part of the pre-Beta program JP was asked to test the service and have been tracking the sailing and water sport blogs of 2009 – and what a year it was/will be!!

Tillerman managed to get to the Laser World Series and in a hilarious set of posts blogged how he beat the other man to become official World Champion Laser Grandfather, winning his last race despite being dragged across the finish line trailing behind his boat with just one foot in the straps.

Adam bumped into Robin Knox-Johnson in a pub in Cowes and they had a great discussion about what really happened on the Golden Globe. They managed to contact Donald Crowhurst via an ouja board who revealed the truth about the final days of his life and the meaning of the weird pages of his diaries. They then co-wrote a best selling book on the subject.

Bonnie won the lottery and moved to Hawaii where she runs a sea kayak school though occasionally visits the big apple to see what a mess they are making of her beloved water front.

Kat was kidnapped by the Dread Pirate Roberts, but didn’t seem to be as upset about it as you might expect, muttering something about “as you wish”.

O’Docker was indeed made first secretary of the Navy until that unfortunate incident with the Wrens – photos of which entertained many on Neversealand.

Pirate Wench Jolea landed a job on the 150 yacht of an elderly multi-millionaire who took a bit of a shine to her before alas suffering a heart attack. In his recently changed will he left her all his money together with the yacht, for which she is now recruiting staff (please send CVs asap).

Greg (or maybe Kris) bought the boat of his dream at a credit-crunch eye wateringly good price. He was worried that the 2008 near boating incident might have put the kids off sailing but they seemed to be keen to go too so they could “make sure dad doesn’t mess up again”.

Edward got the scoop of the year by rescuing none other than Paul Canyard when his Volvo 70 was dismasted, then went on to the win the offshore race and claim the Volvo 70 as salvage.

Alas due to the quantum exclusion principle of search engines it was not possible to discover what my 2009 will look like. If you could please sign up for this programme and tell me what I can expect I’d be very grateful. You must go to Google in 3 months 3 days time and search for “future web”.

I just know that you will find it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Cracker Joke and a Horrid Fact

You know those jokes within Christmas Crackers are always pretty bad, well here's the one I got this year:

Q: When is a boat like a pile of snow?

A: When its adrift!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Ok, a horrible xmas fact for you: according to the BBC news last week, on Christmas day the people of London pour 500 tonnes of Turkey fat down their sinks!

Finally the picture above is of my brand new pirate socks - which I am very pleased with.

Hope everyone had a great Christmas.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Royal Christmas Message to the Blogging Community

Today we are extremely privileged to have a very special guest contributor to this bog. On the day that the Queen gives Britain and the Commonwealth the traditional Christmas Message, Prince Charles has kindly agreed to give his Christmas message to the blogging community in exchange for the first advert on these pages. Many thanks to his Highness:

One is most gratified to be able to give this message to all those on this interweb-thing, even if one is a bit suspicious of this new fangled technology. Andrew is always dragging William and Harry into a corner to show them something “interesting” he has found but alas they always say it is not my sort of thing.

And they could be right. One does feel strongly that life was better in the days that if one had a message one would just ask the court scribe to write it down on a piece of fine hand made parchment. Those times had more grace and there was more respect to for those like oneself. But one is told one must keep up with this so called “progress” and no doubt one will one day ask one’s man to kick his computer or whatever the word is for what one must do to get it to go.

I am a great believer in the value of tradition. Why of why, I ask myself, would anyone want to sail in a boat made of plastic and foam? And call it after something as unromantic as a “Laser”? Surely it is time that we got back to the old fashioned ways of sailing and making boats. There is nothing as substantial as a solid oak hand built craft made on one’s estate by a faithful old gaffer who doffs his hat to one with the respect that is so lacking in today’s world of rush and talk of “performance”.

I am also passionate about connecting to nature. When you know the oak tree from which the wood came for one’s boat individually, having talked to it for years previously, one values it all the more. Often when in my mother’s estates in Scotland I ask my man to row a short distance out to sea so I have a chance to talk to the kelp. It is very soothing and the kelp is very understanding, never interrupting or asking difficult questions like “is it true your man squeezes your toothpaste for you?”

Alas must go now as Mama is calling us now to go to Church.

So one end’s this special message by wishing all of you, whether ever you are and whatever you sail a very Happy Christmas and very best wishes for the New Year.

Special Offer from His Highness Prince Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall Estate

As a special offer to all readers of Captain JP’s log we are prepared to offer a hand-reared out-door roaming organic free range turkey’s on first name basis with His Highness having had many a long conversation with him when he drops over for his visits. These very special animals, named individually by a member of the estate’s staff can be purchased at a discount bargain price of only £299.99 plus postage and packing, subject to availability. Note: to avoid disappointment, all orders must be submitted by 2nd December 2008.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Simply the Best

As another year heads towards its end there's just time for one more Tillerman inspired group writing project. This time it's the ever so modest opportunity to propose which post was "simply the best" of all those in 2008.

Of course this might be rather premature given there are still many posting opportunities before 23:59:59 on the 31/12/2008, but that's a risk that will have to take (even though there's two planned for the holidays that are already drafted which hopefully are worth a read - watch this space!)

Before the excitement of the big announcement (no heckling from the back please), there is time for one important prize - "Best organiser for sailing and boating related blogging group writing projects".

And the winner is (drum roll please)..... Tillerman!

Yes, big thanks to Tillerman for all he's done over the year as the sailing blogging community's favourite grandfather to think up and organise the group writing projects, and then unearth the contributions and actually read them. Ta!

So which contributions is best? Well of course is it really up to me - or should it be the readers? And what is meant by "best"?

What can say is what are my favourites, though will have to end up with short list not just the "one". Its a bit like kids - they are all special.

But the specially special ones for me were the fiction posts. For me they were the best as they were always a lot of fun to write and haven't seen other sailing fictional posts out there so feel am actually bringing something new to the community.

There was the post about when Harry Potter goes sailing and who could forget the sensational news that Tillerman switches to Sunfish shock!

But the top three must be US election related. They say the heart of a good story are the combination of great characters and plot, and boy did the election have both. You really really couldn't have made it up.

So my "Simply the Best" are the three fictional sailing and election posts which were US Candidates Speak out on Sailing, US Election Update, and US Candidates Top Five.

As to which is the best, that's hard!

Kidman's Homeless Yacht

Its the time of year when we should think of those less fortunate than ourselves, and for that reason spare a thought for Nicole Kidman's yacht.

The star of the film "Australia" (above) has left the yacht Hokulani behind all on its own when she sold her apartment in Sydney's Walsh Bay. Alas the mooring there is conditional on the owner having residency in that block.

So the A$ 4.5 million yacht is now homeless!

More on this seasonal sad story at the Independent here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mash-up Olympic Sailing

The lack of support of the BBC for sailing is to a degree understandable given the low viewing figures it gets. But that got me wondering (again on the train over the weekend) if there could be a better way of covering it.

To be honest even though I’m into sailing all too often it’s very boring to watch. All you ever see is a short clip of sailor in boat, which almost always looks like the pic above. You have no real idea where the rest of the fleet are and why he or she is doing well or badly unless the sailor is sitting on the upside down hull of the boat swearing a lot.

It would be like covering football on TV by only showing a short clip which is always a player running with a ball – how dull would that be? Football coverage works because the viewer can quickly see a) what is happening and b) what one side did that meant they won.

To enjoy a sail race it’s really necessary to understand a lot about what is going on – the position of all the boats, the wind direction, the markers, course etc and that can’t be done just with a close up shot of one boat.

One way that works pretty effectively is the Virtual Spectator approach used in the America’s Cup (below).

This shows a lot of information and is a great way of feeling part of the race, and there is no reason it couldn’t be used on even Laser races with small GPS based trackers. In addition there could be boat-cams to not just see technically what the sailors are doing but also to get emotional feedback from their expressions. As well as video could also have audio – one of the best bits of the last but one America’s Cup was listening to the crew of New Zealand give their pretty ripe opinions on the failings of their boat after its mast came crashing down.

One way to cover the 2012 sailing could be for the organisers to use something like Virtual Spectator to produce a more interesting feed that can be transmitted by broadcasters around the world.

But that could be a bit too centralised and 20th Century. Why not open up all the data over the internet to make it available to mash-ups? Allow anyone, BBC, broadcaster or blogger to select their video, audio, and animation to produce their own view. Make the data available in some generic XML based format so that there can be a choice of third party tools, from Virtual Spectator to Google Earth, to follow the action and see the boats and wind in a computer generated easy to follow form.

Having that data available digitised means it could also be used after 2012 as the raw data for sailing games. Imagine Wii Sail where you can try to beat Ben Ainslie (good luck).

And why stop at just sailing? Why not make 2012 the first web based virtual Olympics so that all the actions of all competitors are available digitally, online, forever?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Random musings on the Vendee Globe

With the rescue of Elies the fleet, as it was put here, let out a deep breath and the focus returns where it should be, with the race not the latest in a list of emergencies. But the sheer number of problems raises the issue about whether technology is too bleeding edge to be safe.

There is always a trade-off between pushing to the limits to get the last 0.1% of performance, and keeping further within the envelope of known technologies. The problem is that if one of the boats considered to be at the edge of what is possible is driven pedal to the metal then the other competitors are not just tempted but feel they must follow suit.

And if all the fleet are taking a risk, then it becomes a game of not who sails the best but who gets to escapes serious damage. If to finish first you first have to finish and it’s a lottery as to who that is then the race is less about sailing than luck.

But then its not always clear cut who has the leading most speediest of boats, as Sam’s Roxy is an older generation than Pindar and yet is ahead (hurrah for Sam and Roxy, above).

Another random thought I had (on one of the long train journeys over the weekend) was to wonder what the sponsor ship contract terms are. I was thinking about how tough it is down there and how some that could be considering of retiring yet might be reluctant to do that because of their sponsorship deal.

You’d have through there would be some clause about “making best efforts” to complete the race – and not allow them to just take the money as say thanks for the cash but actually I’d rather just potter about in the Caribbean instead. Of course in addition to the contract there’s also the very human desire not to let down the people from the sponsor who’ve gone out on a limb for you and taken a risk believing you are worth their organisation’s money.

The cost of this sort of racing makes it outside the reach of those who are not both extremely rich and want to sail single handed around the world – which probably means no one – and so some form of sponsorship is inevitable.

But no one wants a replay of the original Golden Globe where one of the conditions of the sponsor of the Teignmouth Electron was that Donald Crowhurst would complete the voyage or pay back all the money. When that was impossible Crowhurst had the choice of going bankrupt or lying and the pressure of keeping up the lie led to him go mad.

What ever the answers are to these various questions there’s no doubt that the Vendee Globe is an amazing tough and dangerous race and good luck and safe sailing to every single one of them out there.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ooch

Yesterday blogged about the dangers of rapid deceleration possibly causing something to break and the benefits of having a doctor on board, and the day before about the curse of offshore sailing.

Today it was all too real for poor Yann Elies on Generali who, as the operations manager of the Vendee Globe put it in the press conference:

"A sudden jolt when he was on the foredeck stopped the boat very suddenly, he was thrown to the deck, and he has broken his left leg. He crawled back inside the boat to be safe and there he called us, his team, to request immediate assistance. He consulted the doctor. The doctor diagnosed a fracture of the femur and said he should not move".

Its horrid to think about - to have to crawl along the deck of a heavy boat with broken left leg, drag oneself into the cabin in order to reach safety and the Iridium phone, his link to the rest of the world. To be seriously injured in one of the most dangerous places on the planet and have nearest help almost 1,000 miles away.

I remember the less serious rope burn injury we had on the ARC mid Atlantic when again we called for medical help and they said we should go to emergency wing of a hospital immediately. Alas that could be done - but at least the patient could be looked after by the skipper who was trained for these moments, and by fellow crew members.

But to be alone must be horrid. And according to his logistics manager at the time of the press conference he had yet been able to get to the pain killers! Apparently "to even pick up the phone is an effort, and the boat’s movement is painful".

I've been trying to avoid excessive use of exclamation marks but if anything deserved one that last but one sentence did.

Having made that call, at who knows what effort, at least he knows that help is on the way. Two nearby skippers including our own Sam Davies, are on their way to give moral support, and if need be, physical assistance.

And yet Sam is herself suffering a serious injury, having been knocked unconscious after going flying when a sail-tie broke.

Thoughts and prayers are with all those battling the elements and their bodies in the wild seas down under.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

TV doc on Virgin Money's Cross-Atlantic Challenge

My TV has about 50 channels on it of which about half are complete rubbish (shopping etc). There is this very useful feature that allows you to select the favourites so you're not always clicking next channel all evening.

However there are some channels were you go.... hmmm..... is it worth including in the list or not? And Virgin One is just such a channel: usually there is nothing worth watching on it.

But its just as well it sneaked in because last night there was this program about Richard Branson's attempt on the trans-Atlantic sailing record back in October 2008. And jolly interesting it was too.

The pic above shows the boat, Virgin Money, which was 99 ft maxi designed by Juan Kuoyoumidjian to beat Mari Cha IV's record of 6 days 17 hours, 39 minutes and 52 seconds. And the skipper was the same as the current record holder, namely Mike Sanderson.

On board was not just the bearded one, but also his grown up kids, who were neither big on sailing but one a doctor (always useful for crew) and the other into arctic adventures or something. Luckily there was also a host of pros including Stan Honey who was one of the brains behind ABN AMRO ONE's victory in the last Volvo.

In addition there was Ben Ainslie: now I'm sure he's a total genius at both the Laser and Finn classes and regatta racing, but its a different ball game to offshore speed racing, so he seemed a bit less at home than usual and got his safety harness wrapped round one of the furling headsails.

It started out rough and got rougher, with wonderfully frank clips of most of the Branson family hurling at one time or other. Richard at least managed to get his head out of the conpanion way to do it on the deck.

There was also a top tip on the right way round to sleep when hurtling through a force 8/9 with 30 feet waves at 40 knots, namely head towards the stern. The thing is when the boat dives into a wave it can decelerate like crazy, at which point you keep going and hit the bulk head and if sleeping head forward, er, well, break your neck.

Worth remembering that.

Of course as we know they failed when their main sail got ripped to pieces and a monster wave washed one of the life rafts away and so there was not enough places for everyone ("Skipper will have to go down with the ship" was the conclusion). Eventually they had to divert to Bermuda.

The reviews of the program in today's papers weren't entirely flattering - see this one. But I think that's a shame: he didn't just try, he put together the right sort of team that included a great boat with some of the world's best offshore sailors, and was prepared to join them out in a force 9 which must have been very cold wet and uncomfortable. And in a boat with a great big Union Jack on its sail.

I hope he gives it another go, and this time has better luck.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Curse of the Offshore Sailor

I've previously posted about the Sailor's Prayer, but today it's all about the Sailor's Curse.

Today Mike Golding took the lead in the Vendee Globe and promptly got dismasted (I was going to say broke his mast but he certainly didn't do it).

There seems to be too series of bad lucks going on. Firstly there's the Mike Golding jinx, which has hit so many of his races. Then there seems to be another on whoever is leading in the Vendee Globe (just think of the track record).

So when Mike Golding took the lead it was a double whammy and down came his rig.

Of course it could just be that whoever is at the front of the Vendee is by definition the one pushing the hardest and hence most likely to suffer gear failure.

But it is tempting to think of a bit of magic voodoo; just as Lord Voldemort aka he who can not be named cursed the job of Defence against the dark arts at Hogwarts (which of course you know all about having read all seven books).

Sailors are, after all, also known for their superstition.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Vendee Globe Update - Update!

Phewy!

Vendee Globe leader Loick Peyron dismasted! Then new leader Jean-Pierre Dick gets serious rudder problems after UFO collision!

With average speeds of the chasing fleet an impressive 20 knots a change of leadership is expected but no guarantee it will be current number 2, Mike Golding!!

Meanwhile Bernard Stamm’s stricken CheminĂ©es Poujoulat (above) runs aground on the distant Kergulen Islands!

Back in old blighty, JP's laptop exclamation mark key complains of over-use!!

Attack of the Killer Jelly Fish!!!

Beware the oceans! Out there are swarms of KILLER jelly fish!!

Jelly fish the size of fridges, jelly fish that kill in minutes, jelly fish that create dead zones around our planet!!!

And what is really scary is that its all true.

See summary from The Register here and the original National Science Foundation flash based special report here.

I think its all to do with us humans killing off the animals that eat jelly fish (things like turtles, sharks, and sunfish) - bit of a mistake really.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Switch off the BBC and watch the Vendee online instead

Well Ben Ainslie didn't get BBC Sports Personality of the year. It was a shame but given the low profile of sailing here despite our great achievements maybe not that surprising.

It wasn't helped by the less than supportive introduction that described him as "out there" and then berated him for rapidly getting out of the water after a stunt dip in the English Channel - in November. I'd like to see the BBC presenter "enjoy" a dunking in the winter waters around our islands. Makes you think the Beeb is anti-sailing, that they didn't want Ben to win.

Our greatest Olympic sailor deserved better.

So lets instead go online and watch the Vendee Globe and here are two clips on YouTube worth looking at.

Here is Sam sailing far too close to icebergs with the great quote "and that's not funny":



And here is Mike, still in second place, bouncing between waves in the southern ocean:


The British, Sport and Sailing

Putting my feet up with the weekend paper (the FT), latte close to hand, was amused by a review of "Can we have our balls back, please" by Julian Norridge.

The basic premise of the book is that the British are better at inventing sports than winning at them, as our history at football, rugby, cricket etc will clearly show.

The invention comes from the combination of a historical love of sports in general and the strict order-the-universe mentality of the Victorians. As the reviewer put it:

"Britain had an unusually strong folk sporting tradition. The Scandinavians, by contrast, had skied for millennia while rarely bothering to race each other. But medieval English monarchs were forever having to ban sports - even bowls - because the participants drank, broke windows and got distracted from archery practice."

Sounds about right.

Sailing is one of those sports that Britain has a claim to and is included as a chapter of the book, covering the first yacht clubs, the starting of Cowes week, and of course the America's Cup.

One of the earliest if not the earliest recorded yacht race was on the 1st October 1661, when the Duke of York wagering one hundred pounds he could beat King Charles from Greenwich to Gravesend and back (the King lost).

And those races could be as rowdy as the land based sports - as the reviewer put it "even in a sailing race a competitor might pull out a cutlass". The incident in question (having stood in a local bookshop skim reading a copy) involved a race in 1786 when one skipper attacked the rigging of the other and "fairly well dismantled her" - and then lost to a third boat.

Unlike the other sports, however, sailing is at least one case where Britain continues to hold her own, as shown by the success of the Olympians.

And tonight in the UK that success might be recognised, as we have the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, and one of the finalists is Ben Ainslie.

Good luck Ben!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Big Moon, Low Tide

I was hoping to see the moon up close last night. Well, a bit closer - it would still be 350,000 km away but that was 30,000 km less than normal as it approaches its perigee (closest point on its orbit).

But at 14% bigger and 30% larger the full moon would have been pretty spectacular. However, unsurprising, the weather here got in the way with a cloudy night followed by a wet and miserable morning.

However still went "wow" went looked out of the windows, as have never seen such low a tide. In the picture below of the entrance of the Wandle River there was temporarily a new island in the Thames, a gravel bank (red arrow) that usually is just an invisible navigational hazard which showed its head for a short while.

This isn't just a closer moon bringing both higher and lower tides, as the live tide gauges was reporting levels over a metre below prediction, so the grizzly weather was depressing water levels even further.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mike or Michelle - the result

So the results are in and its fair to say the poll didn't quite reached the same level of fever as the US election (funny that).

And the winner by a massive three to one majority (or a wafer thin 2 votes - take your pick) was yes, Michelle Golding would get more coverage than Mike.

The low turn out was not because the blog had just four hits in the last week (honest), and could be because some considered that as the answer was obvious it wasn't worth replying.

Maybe some didn't post because there seems to be a strong reluctance to discuss issues where its the men that are disadvantaged. For example today there was a report about how boys from poor backgrounds do the least well in UK schools - significantly worse than girls from the same backgrounds. And yet the education minister was quoted as only worrying about poor children.

That would be a shame: we should be honest about what is going on - not just for fairness sake but also as can be seen in the education example there can be real issues to address.

Then there's the question of why, which is probably too big a topic for this post. While it used to be rare for women to complete in major sailing events, it should be noted that a third of the British entries in the Vende Globe are women - we are not in the days of eighties when Tracy Edwards had significant obstacles in her path: things have changed.

Where things go in the future is hard to say. If the fleet becomes more 50:50 then it would be fairer if the coverage was ditto. But it is possible that that point might not be reached because whatever some say men and women are different (vive la etc) and do not statistically make the same life choices.

As to the photo of Sam, well I've posted it again so clearly I don't have a problem with it. It's not just that's she looks good, but it says more than that to me.

For me its a joie de vivre moment, in which she is flinging her arms out as if to say look at me, I'm alive, I'm here on this boat doing the Vende Globe, its real, the sails are set and pulling, and the sun is warm on my skin.

So I've decided for this race to follow not one but two British entries. My Vende Globe heroes this time round will be both Sam Davies and Mike Golding.

With Mike now placed a notional second, hopefully that achievement will get the attention it deserves.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

iPhone Chart App Envy

I really, really want one of these but it would be useless.

Thing is I've got an iPhone (which is just brilliant) and there is this just fantastic application called iNavX that does navigation showing charts, linking to GPS, doing the waypoints etc and its great value for money.

But, and its a big but, the only charts available are the NOAA ones that cover the US, and you can't use those that cover the UK or Europe.

Damn!

If you have an iPhone and sail in the US get one here!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Are mud guards uncool?

This was the Thames path this weekend. What you can't see very clearly is how incredibly muddy it was and how I would have been covered from head to foot without the bike's mud guards.

However I noticed that in the rack downstairs here only one other bike has mud guards. When I bought my bike the shop said they wasn't any demand for them as they were "uncool".

Can't see its that cool to get splattered in mud, but maybe have missed something.

Vende Globe Update

I hope you're following the Vende Globe so I won't have to add anything else about it - a bit busy at the moment.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Defending the Thames

There was an interesting article in yesterday's Times about steps taken to protect the water ways approaching central London.

There was concerns that the Thames could be used as a soft underbelly to the capital, and questions about whether it is sufficiently patrolled.

Well it already seems pretty well patrolled: you can't sit and watch the river for long before seeing one of the Port of London or Police boats. But apparently that's not enough and the Special Boat Service (SBS) is on stand-by.

It sounds dramatic, but lets get a sense of proportion. See the picture above? Its a pill-box, one of 28,000 odd built to defend Britain against possible invasion in World War 2.

This one is just by Putney Bridge tube station, just on the north side of the Thames.

So think for a moment what it was designed for. If Britain had been invaded by the Nazis, and they had successfully landed, broken out of their breach head, and had reached London, then the Thames would be a defensive line.

And this pill-box would be the front line, trying to save what was left of Britain, as the battle raged through the streets of London and the bridges are blown to stop further advances.

Remember we didn't know we would win - we could have lost. The army might have been trapped at Dunkirk and the little boats unable to rescue them.

London survived the Blitz, and it survived the IRA bombs: its a resilient city.

Scullers in Putney

Its always a bit of a risk scheduling river events this time of year but the scullers got lucky and it was a lovely day yesterday for the nearly five hundred plus competitors in the Scullers Head 2008.

Always thought that sculling looks like more fun than rowing - they looks so elegant, skimming across the water like those insects that are light enough to float on water held up by its surface tension.

And unlike rowers where you have to follow the rate set by stroke you are in control. Maybe that's saying something about me, a budding solo sailing in waiting.

Alas no, like my sleep too much!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Mike or Michelle Golding - You Decide

I was thinking about the debate on the comments pages here regarding the amazingly brave women who are rowing their way across oceans and a question it raised about the media.

Does the press and internet give men and women the same attention and coverage for doing the same thing?

To give a specific example, in the Vendee Globe, do the British male competitors like Brian Thompson, Steve White, and Jonny Malbon get more, less, or the same coverage as the British women competitors Dee Caffari and Sam Davies?

Not whether this is right or wrong, or what the reasons are, just what are people's perceptions of the coverage in the various media following the event.

So have created a poll to the right to ask the question of whether Ecover would get more coverage if Mike Golding was Michelle Golding - or would it be just the same.

Interested to hear what your views are. 

(And hope this isn't considered too controvercial)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

More from Earls Court

Apart from the ocean rowers, my attention wasn't caught by much else at the Earls Court show last weekend.

However I was intrigued by the triangular sail for the kayak (above). It reminded me a bit of Arab dhows or the small boats used to cross the Pacific.

There were also a couple of authors there to sign copies of their works, but tend not to buy books this close to Christmas - just in case someone gets it for me!

I was more tempted by the beautiful photos on display at the Kos stand. Imagine the picture below blown up huge with a lovely frame......

Alas it was as expensive as it was attention grabbing!

More examples from their web site here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

More Hardy Girls

Sometimes its amazing what people make themselves do.

One of the few highlights at the Earls Court Boats-and-some-other-stuff Show was meeting some of the hardy girls who row oceans.

Above is Fiona who as well as being really nice aims to be one of the crew of the first female-crewed boat to row the Indian Ocean. As you can read on their Ocean Angels web site the plan is to row all the way from Western Australia to Mauritius, a distance of 3,100 nautical miles.

The other objective, apart from the record books, is to raise money for Breast Cancer Care. And you can support them via their web site and in return get your picture on the side of their little (under 10m) boat and feel that in a way you too joined them on their crossing.

And as according to that trusted source, The Sun, they will be making at least part of the journey naked, that might be something worth thinking about - and donating to this worthy cause.

The boat they plan to use has a history of female crews, as she was rowed across the Atlantic by Sally of "Sally's Odd at Sea" fame who I met at the last Excel show.

Sally was at the show too, plugging her book and it was great to catch up and hear the latest news (recently married, so all go aaahhh! apart from pirates who can go arrrrr!)