Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Following the 5 Oceans

Frustrated at being unable to follow the 5 Oceans? Unable to get the official web site to work? Fear not! Here is your cut out and keep (Blog lawyer: you can't say that!) - ok your print out and keep tool-kit to following the fleet to Fremantle.

Firstly head to Mike Golding's web site to get the rankings and positions, like this:
The top four are in South Atlantic and last three close to the equator. The DTL closing is clearly out, but it looks like Mike is falling behind. Checking the tracks it appears Alex Thomson is heading as if towards the wrong Cape - towards the Horn not Hope.

To understand both these, lets check out the weather down there. On Stormsurfing this is the forecast for tomorrow morning.

The leading boat's progress is blocked by a high. Bernard Stamm is close to getting out the other side. Alex Thomson is thinking of heading around the high to the west - which could be a smart move. If you run the animation you can see the high drifting east, following Stamm, breathing down his neck - which can't be a good thing.

To find out how each of the skippers are doing, check out their respective sites:

- Mike Goldings knows he's got problems - Stamm ahead and Alex out-flaking him.

- Alex Thomson's listening to Snow Patrol and Razorlight and plotting his route west

- Bernard Stamm is writing in French. I can't understand it without really concentrating....

- Kojiro Shiraishi is writing in Japanese. I really can't understand it at all!

- Graham Dalton is not writing on his site - any ideas if he is anywhere else?

- Robin Knox-Johnson hasn't written for a bit - but there's a reason for that....

Robin Knox-Johnson is having problems - there's a series of stories on the Yachting World site, including him:
- having a Chinese gybe
- reporting all the battens in his main broken
- struggling with modern technology

The last is a fascinating insight into how sailing has changed since Robin was in "A world of my own". The old school sailor is having to adjust to the modern technology of grib files downloaded by satellite rather than simply tapping at the barometer and peering at the sky.

But one thing hasn't changed for Knox-Johnston - the wee dram of whisky.

See - all that coverage, and not need to go to the official site.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Butterflies And Hurricanes

There's a great video on Bernard Stamm's web site of Cheminees Poujoula storming along - and the musics not bad too. Turns out Stamm is a Muse fan, and it's that classic track "Butterflies And Hurricanes".

A good choice - one of those to add to the rough weather mix. I took it on the delivery from Lisbon to Gibraltar, but it's not really fine weather chill out music.

The lyrics are pretty appropriate for a round the world sailor:

Change everything you are
And everything you were
Your number has been called

Fights and battles have begun
Revenge will surely come
Your hard times are ahead

Best, you've got to be the best
You've got to change the world
And use this chance to be heard
Your time is now

Change everything you are
And everything you were
Your number has been called
Fights and battles have begun
Revenge will surely come
Your hard times are ahead

Best, you've got to be the best
You've got to change the world
And use this chance to be heard
Your time is now

Don't let yourself down
And don't let yourself go
Your last chance has arrived

Best, you've got to be the best
You've got to change the world
And use this chance to be heard
Your time is now

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Fixing the Five Oceans

Some suggestions to fix the crap 5 Oceans web site:

1) Make all content free - the limited video clips are not worth 20 quid and it appears from posts here that it hasn't been tested on Macs

2) Having made all content free, return the money to those that have paid for the so-called "ultimate coverage"

3) Get rid of the current race viewer and check the terms of the contract with the company that developed it: it doesn't appear to be fit for purpose

4) Replace it with something simple like the Google Maps mash-up used by the Mike Golding web site.

5) Put a regular space for the weather forecast and wind charts preferably overlaid with the position of the fleet

6) Give option to download the .kml files that allow race info to be viewed in Google Earth

7) Make sure there's a version of all pictures that can be quickly viewed without a huge (c) on it or having to register

8) Create more content - there are so few stories its hardly worth visiting. Making all the emails and photos sent from the skippers accessible would help - there's no reason not too given the media savvy like Mike Golding have their own sites where its posted for free whatever the 5 Oceans site does

9) If you can't afford more writers then get some bloggers in to create some

10) Create more space on the web site for content and reduce the clutter of adverts

11) Add a forum section for interaction with users - templates for these can be bought are off the shelf for not much money

12) Have a regular link to keep readers informed with status of the revamp

13) Check out the other race web sites - such as the very successful Volvo Ocean Race web site - and borrow shamelessly

14) Do something quickly before the race becomes a write-off

Any others?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Lost and found

This is where my sailing chum Jonathan's Class 40 was lurking. When the rest of the Route du Rhum was blasting its way across the Atlantic his Friends of the Earth was being hoisted at Cowes for repairs.

Hope it is soon back on the water racing - as in this video here.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The giant squid, the sinking boat and the whisky bottle

More drama for both the 5 Oceans and the Route du Rhum:
- Mike Golding's boat Ecover (above, in the Bay of Biscay storms) has been attacked by a giant squid
- French skipper Didier Levillain was whisked by helicopter to safety as his monohull sank beneath him
- Multi-hull Orange had the central of three hulls damaged by collision with a container
- Mast climb for Nick Bubb to retrieve a stuck halyard in rough conditions
- Multi-hull capsized when in third position, crew now rescued
- Concern about leaky whisky bottles on Robin Knox-Johnston's boat Saga Insurance (now that's serious)

Given all this drama its amazing how little of it is reported in either the print or tv news. So many sports gets so much coverage why (oh why) is so little time available for sailing? How can the stories above be less interesting than something like Formula 1, where cars just go round and round and round in circles?

Of course it would help if there were better ways of explaining what is happening during an offshore yacht racing - and more importantly why. Tools such as Virtual Spectator should be universal rather than the exception, where animations show boat positions and weather systems so tactics can be clearly explained.

It isn't helped by crap web sites like the 5 Oceans one, which has recently issued this belated apology (anyone interested in following that race can find a race viewer that actually works on Mike Golding's site here).

But that should be a story in its own right, a bone of contention that few can argue against. Unlike last year's fake controversy created by some sailing magazines (Yachting World you know who we mean) that criticized the new Volvo 70 class - false because those most involved (the sailors) were fully behind it, and it will continue to be the basis for the next race.

In the mean time the RdR fleet continues to power its way to the Caribbean, nice trades aligned with the direct great circle path. Must be fun out there.

Images from, and

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Routing the Route du Rhum

While the Route du Rhum web site is obviously better than that of the 5 Oceans it still falls short of the arm-chair navigators favorite, the Volvo Virtual Spectator software. So routing and tactics must rely on overlaying two sites, the forecast and the RdR's charts, as done below.

Chart as of 19:45 on 1st November:

Wind forecast for 6Z on 2-11-2006:
So it looks like increasing easterlies for the fleet up to 30 - 35 knots. The multi-hulls way ahead of the main pack can be seen to be heading south to get those winds just to the north of that mini-low.

More on this later - till then, anyone know a better approach? I see there is a RdR Google Earth link, but it seems to be less up to date than the web site charting tool.

Also does anyone know of any GRIB files in Google Earth format?


Graphics from and

Route du Rhum's Missing Yacht

After the disappointment of the Velux 5 Oceans it's good to see a proper offshore yacht race and web site. The Route du Rhum race shows how it should be done, with a huge fleet (for offshore races) of 86 registered multis and mono-hulls, and a web site with easy to find and free news, pictures, and videos. The charting tool may be basic but at least it works. If its rum cocktails all round make mine a mojito.

In particular I was really excited to see that my old sailing chum Jonathan Crinion was one of those registered. He was on my watch when doing the Fastnet last year and I found it slightly embarrassing to be watch leader to a single handed sailor. But it was hopefully a two way exchange and I for one certainly found his stories full of interest.

But alas since then Jonathan and his boat, Friends of the Earth (pictured above) have gone missing. I know from his web site that he reached Falmouth on the 20th October after an interesting leg up from South Africa where he experienced rough weather and a knock down. But since then nothing - fingers crossed he will be ready for the next race.

Will let you know when I get news.