Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Yo ho ho - lets go racing!

On the Devizes to Westminster web site was interested to read a history of that race (which you can find here) and in particular how it was that anyone would come up with the idea of racing in a canoe or kayak across 200 km of England non-stop between those two particular places.

It was, you may not be that surprised to learn, the result of a couple of blokes yarning away over a pint or two (or more) in their local pub. And this is not some mamby bamby watered down stuff, this was strong West Country ale or cider, and after downing a few of them no doubt many things seem not just feasible but a jolly good idea.

I can't help wonder how many other races originated in the bar. The birth of the Volvo naturally springs to mind as it was born from the parents of the Navy (yo ho ho and a bottle of rum) and Whitbread (brewers of many a fine bottle of beer). And of course the answer to that question "what's your poison" after a day of hard sailing across those Southern Oceans was clear "make mine a pint of best".

Alas today its all got a bit too serious and the Volvo is all freeze dried food and nutritionist approved diets and the glass of red with the Sunday roast has gone. Maybe that's part of the team's incentive program: whatever Tillerman might say my experience of sailors is that the first, second, and third thing on their mind after reaching shore involves alcohol. Other priorities might come after that (though the TV programs show an alarming number of images of good dad's heading back to their wives and children - not the way of the traditional sailor) but the bar is the first port of call.

And I can't help wondering how much of sailing's history started in some drinking establishment. Was, I wonder, the great voyage of Columbus (1) inspired by one too many bottles of Chianti in some taverna beside the Mediterranean?

As conclusive proof of this theory I give you Sir Robin Knox Johnston who's ground breaking journey around the world was only threatened by shortage of Whisky! (2)

(1) I refuse to use the Spanish version of his name and call him Colon - that is either something from a medical dictionary or the secret password of the society of Punctuation.

(2) Don't worry Adam, this is not the official 22nd April post, that is yet to come


Tillerman said...

OK. Alcohol may be the first priority when ocean racing sailors make a new port. But I had an email today from a very reliable but confidential source, that confirmed that, at least in the old days of the Whitbread Race, after slaking their thirsts many of the sailors were definitely prone to exploring the land down under while ashore.

JP said...

Tell us more!!

But so many things were different in the Whitbread days. Now its more professional and when the boats come in there's more often than not just a girl friend/wife but beaming kid to welcome daddy home.

Carol Anne said...

Well, I don't know about the start of the journey, but I know the reason that the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock was that they had run out of beer and had to go ashore to brew more, rather than continuing to look for a better spot to establish their colony.

JP said...


Glad to see the pilgrims kept up England's longest maritime tradition