Monday, December 31, 2012

Winter in London 2012

Some more photos for Tillerman of London in winter 2012:

 This is an installation at Canary Wharf called Voyage:

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ice skating at the Tower of London

In recent years more and more ice rinks have opened up in London around Christmas and previously I've tried the ones at Somerset House and the Natural History Museum.

This year I headed east to the Tower and jolly good it was too. I still think Somerset House is the best but the Tower's rink is larger than the small one outside the NHM and who can fault that setting.

Of course I was overtaken by who knows how many 6 year olds, but I don't mind that - honest!

However I do mind the chap who rammed into me at the precise moment I was wobbling causing my feet to fly up and my bottom to go crashing down.

I think I've earned a small brandy after dinner - for medical purposes, you understand.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Olympics picture puzzle

It's fair to say that ol' blighty is having trouble saying goodbye to 2012.

All of the TV channels seem to be showing their take on the London Olympics, with everyone from Lord Coe to Sporty Spice popping up on the box or in newspaper columns. Today the New Year Honours were announced and as expected Ben Ainslie becomes Sir Ben while Wiggo becomes Sir Bradley.

As a Christmas treat I re-watched the opening ceremony and discovered a connection with the beach volleyball (above).

Can you find out what it is?

Updated: Tillerman is correct! The announcer at both events was the same, namely Layla Anna-Lee:

Friday, December 28, 2012

Xmas presents

I remember one of the excitements as a kid of Christmas was the whole "so what did you get?" discussion at school afterwards.

Now I'm a big kid but still asking the same question, though this time to the blogging community.

Me? Oh, amongst other things (some to be blogged in due course) I got this book which looks very interesting and as well as sailing even has some equations in it.

Now I must make good a promise and send an email about a wetsuit for a nephew.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Christmas 2012

Updated: this pic comes from the ski trip to Flaine earlier this year and was taken about half way down les cascades.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Top Yacht: Buff's says arm all sailors!

INT: Top Yacht studio, three presenters interviewing Buff Staysail who has in one hand a mince pie and the other a large glass of mulled wine.

We're here with Buff Staysail who has caused more chaos to British sports and royal family than even the last month's washout rainfall.
James, me old mate, how've you been? Your agent told me you'd lost your voice, become allergic to electricity and then had to move abroad for legal reasons, yet here you are, fit and well! Good on you sport! We should grab a tinny or two after the show.
MAY (cough) .... that ailment might be coming back.
Jeez, poms, always getting sick.
So Mr Staysail, we've been told you're a sailing journalist - what's your take on the America's Cup? Who's going to win the Vendee Globe?
Well of course the Alinghi campaign is the dark horse for the next America's Cup and my money is on Sam Davies for that French race.
Clarkson and Hammond exchange glances and smiles
So who exactly do you work for?
I'm freelance, not tied down, ready for anything - do you want my CV?
Buff passes Clarkson some ragged pieces of paper.
CLARKSON, holding them gingerly
It's all wet
Might have spilled some of that mulled wine of yours on it. Bit of waste, as its good stuff.
Buff downs the remains of his glass and looks around hopefully.
Any chance of some more? I've only had five glasses.
So the mystery of your unemployment is explained.
I'm currently putting together a proposal for a campaign for the NRA in America - it's a Buff Enterprises at-risk project.
Do you mean the National Rifle Association?
That's right. I've noticed that very few sailors are armed and it's time to lock and load while tacking and gybing!
Just think of the market - I mean, safety potential - of all sailors having a gun. Just handguns for dinghy sailors obviously, but every yacht should have an automatic rifle or two. Just what you'd need when pirates come up the Chesapeake!!
What pirates?
You can't expect there not to be pirates when all yachts have guns, its just common sense. Jeez, keep up. But I have the solution to that - rocket launchers!
Well if the good guys don't have rocket launchers then the bad guys win - stands to reason.
Or be like the UK which has gun control and a firearm related homicide rate just 2.5% of that in the US.
I'm not going to mention that in my proposal - jeez, I'm not stupid you know!
On that bomb-shell, it's good night and keep safe.

Friday, December 21, 2012


INT: After the section on the dangers of sailing in heavy seas with a spinnaker, its back to the studio:

Well after that film that showed the exception that proves the rule that MORE POWER is always a good thing, its time for the Top Yacht Review of the Year!

Audience cheers!

So what did you get up to May?

Well in April I went along with my chum Oz Clarke to see the University Boat Race and very pleasant it was too apart from the two swimmers....

Two? I thought there was just the one.

Actually there was another. There was this Australian sailing journalist (or so he said) called Buff Staysail that kept hanging around with us and so I asked whether it was possible to swim out to the boats as they went by - on a purely hypothetical basis you understand - and off he went.

That's strange, because one of my highlights was the Diamond Jubilee and I was in charge of keeping the Duke's hip flask full with Scotland's finest when we were distracted by what can only be described as someone mooning Her Majesty the Queen, and royal protection told me it was an Australian alleged sailing journalist called Buff Staysail.

You know this is weird, because I was down in Weymouth for the sailing and some chums of mine let me try out the police jet skiis. Everyone was having a great afternoon protecting the racing areas when we were joined by a frankly worse for wear over-weight Australian called Buff Staysail on a pedalo with a worrying interest in female sailors


There seems to a common theme here.... does anyone know this Buff Staysail?

I'm Buff Staysail!!

Well, would you like to come and join us, Mr Staysail!

Sensation! Buff Staysail on Top Yacht! What on Earth is going on??

It can only be THE END OF THE WORLD!!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Top Yacht yacht dive

Top Yacht logo & post advert theme

INT: Top Yacht studio, usual three presenters, studio audience, various boats hanging behind etc

We're back! Yes it's time for the Christmas special Top Yacht!

Audience cheers!

And first up we have a morality tale about what happens where certain people, mentioning no names, Jeremy, put speed above safety

That's right. We were doing a race with what looks like a bunch of frog eaters when, well see for yourself:

EXT: on a racing yacht at sea, wild conditions, heading downwind in breaking waves (see video below)

HAMMOND (on the tiller):
Woo hoo!! Look at that! 15 knots!!

MAY (popping head out of companion way):
Easy boy racer, trying to brew myself a cup of tea down here

We're not going fast enough. Let's put up the spinnaker!!


More power!!



We heard you. What we meant was "what?" - or rather "why?"

Or rather "are you crazy?"

CLARKSON (preparing lines etc)
You can never have too much power, it's a well known fact. 

I have a very bad feeling about this

CLARKSON (heading for foredeck):
Trust me: what can possibly go wrong?

Oh seacock!

Video via: the horse's mouth

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Picture puzzle: where, when?

Hint: image from Google Earth.

Updated: Tillerman is correct, as can be seen if you zoom out a little bit on Google Earth:
The date on the image is 20th June 2012, a few weeks before the Olympic's opening ceremony that took place on the backdrop of London, identified by the shape of the River Thames.

The graphic was particularly visible during the scene where James Bond and the Queen jumped from the helicopter.

Monday, December 17, 2012

£9.3m + £24.5m to help boost sailing

One of the goals of this summer's Olympics was to "inspire a generation" and encourage GB's yoof to put down their iThings and go get some exercise. And after yesterday's sport feel good back-slapping jamboree today gives us some hard numbers in terms of cash to be spent in England on sport.

Sailing's done ok: a slight cut, from £9.6m over the period 2009 - 2013 down to £9.3m (about $15m), a similar trimming exercise to that done on rowing, though canoeing is slightly up.

Of the £9.3m the majority, £5.8m, is to go towards "participation" i.e. getting the new generation out on the water via schemes such as the RYA's OnBoard programmes. The remainder is to go towards "finding the next Ben Ainslie" including:

  • Developing the existing network of Volvo RYA Champion Clubs which identify and nurture young talented sailors in their early years in the sport
  • Enhancing partnerships with Junior Class Associations to provide junior racing and training programmes and optimal race training environments 
  • The creation of six to ten regional high performance clubs 
  • Training squads and support at regional and England national junior level 
  • Exposing young talented sailors to appropriate international regatta experiences 
  • Support to develop the coaches working with young talented sailors

More detail here which was also the source of the pic above.

Hopefully all this will help boost participation in sailing and also success at Rio.

Updated: the £9.3m above was the funding in England to get the next generation out on the water sailing. Today in this announcement the UK's budget for the next Olympics was revealed and sailing's getting a £24.5m ($39.2m) war-chest for the Rio campaign. That's up 6.8% and makes sailing the 4th best funded sport, after rowing, cycling and the whole of athletics.

Go Team GB etc

Sunday, December 16, 2012

SPOTY: Good luck Ben

It's time to get all nostalgic about the best year of sport Britain has ever seen with the BBC's Sport Personality of the Year (hashtag #SPOTY), which could be Ben Ainslie (above).

We've just had a helicopter flyby of London by night, Emeli Sande, Olympics highlight clips and even Clare Balding.

Now meeting the contenders - so good luck Ben! When lines open, call 09015 2282-02 (landline) or 62282-02 (mobile) to vote for the greatest Olympic sailor ever.

To be honest not expecting much, but it will bring back lots of good memories from "the best summer ever".

Updated: the lines are closed and the votes have been counted. As expected Ben was in the second half of the SPOTY shortlist but still picked up 35,373 votes to come in 9th out 12, and was jolly close to being 8th.

Friday, December 14, 2012

This year's best non-sail: ICAP Leopard

It's getting close to the time of year when newspapers and bloggers are preparing for their review of the 2012.

There's extra spice this time round with the threatened end of the world, so just to be on the safe side this blog is getting in early with this year's best non-sail.

What is a non-sail? you might well ask. Well it's the best sailing plan that never happened for one reason or other, and for me it was to have been a day-sail on ICAP Leopard (above).

This Farr designed canting keel 30m maxi has won line honours all around the world including a Fastnet race record, and no doubt would be a blast to sail.

Obviously it is usually more than a little out of my price bracket - or so I thought until I saw an email from OnDeck Sailing offering individual places at reasonable prices. A deposit cheque was shortly in the post and I sat back to wait for the big day.

The week before I wondered if I'd missed the email on joining instructions & paying the remainder so pinged off a query only to get a disappointing reply - it had been cancelled due to lack of interest.

Lack of interest? Seriously?

But alas it wasn't to be and I now have my refund to re-invest in next year's sailing ventures.

I wonder what 2013 will bring?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How old is your nautical almanac?

In the last post I blogged about seeing the 2011 Nautical Almanac for sale at the local bookshop - at the end of 2012.

Then the Bursledon Blogger said he still uses his 2005 almanac and I admitted mine goes back to 2004.

But can you do better than that? So two questions:

  • How old is the oldest nautical almanac you own?
  • How old is the oldest nautical almanac you use?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Last year's Almanac

Recently I spotted this on the shelves of the Putney Waterstones and didn't know if I should be more sorry for it or the bookshop.

Tide and time wait for no one, as they say.

In just a few weeks it will be 2013 - where did the year go?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Geneva Christmas

A Heathrow Christmas

 As well as a couple of silvery modernistic trees there was also a brass band playing carols:
.... and an art gallery with what looked like a steely, silvery Aslan:

Monday, December 10, 2012

US sailing's Paige Railey's memory tree message

I recently spent far too long at London Heathrow terminal 5 and one of things that caught my eye while wandering it cavernous space was the Olympic memory tree, and on it there was this message from US sailing's Paige Railey (above):

Paige Railey image from: here

Sunday, December 09, 2012

What lies beneath?

I started my journey back from the Cutty Sark by crossing the Thames at a depth of 50 feet, taking the atmospheric Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

It's not as old as the nearby Brunel's Thames Tunnel, the world's first under a navigable river, but that one is currently being used by the East London Line.

However it is eerie and spooky enough: the echoing footfalls, the smell of damp and feeling the weight of water above your head.

It was just the thing to experience while re-reading the "Rivers of London" series 3rd book, "Whispers Under Ground" and by concentrating carefully I could almost sense the vestigia those books speak of.

There were more tunnels on the way home, taking the Docklands Light Railway and then the District line at Tower Hill:
 More tunnel pics to be found at the Londonist web site here.

Sir Ben?

Interesting interview with Ben Ainslie on the Telegraph here, touching on whether it could be "Sir" Ben in the future and what it felt like to carry the Team GB flag at the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Update: see also this article on the Guardian web site making the case for Ben Ainslie to be BBC sports personality of the year, though to be honest, lacking somewhat in faith in his success.

Update 2: Uh oh, not looking good for Ben as BBC SPOTY, as he isn't in the top 10 Google Zeitgeist 2012 Olympic searches.

Image from: Telegraph

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Vendee Globe Weekly Updates

The Vendee Globe is generating an impressive number of tweets and updates - so many in fact that's its hard to keep up, particularly as most are in French.

So I've been enjoying the weekly update videos on YouTube that sums up the action in a couple of minutes.

This week's episode includes a dive under the boat to remove a net and a close encounter between two competitors deep in the southern ocean.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Olympics boosts sailing

Sport England has just published a study showing that the Olympics did indeed increase participation in sport - by as much as 750,000, as reported here and here.

And you'll be glad to hear that sailing too has received a boost, with weekly participation rates (at least 4 days over last 28 days) up a good 23% on the previous year!! Woo hoo!

The study also published the rates for the last six years which shows a much bigger rise in 2007-8, also a Olympic year, but then a gradual easing off.

The total rise over the 6 years is a rather less impressive 0.6%, i.e. about 0.1% per year.

I suppose we should be grateful it has at least gone up, but the Olympic boost is less than in 2008 when it involvement increased 40% and the new peak is lower.

So the underlying numbers aren't as good as the headline figures are suggesting.

More work still to be done here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Restored Cutty Sark

Yesterday's picture was from the Cutty Sark which it is fair to say has proved a controversial restoration, with one critic calling it a grade A turkey.

Having a spare Sunday I took the tube from Putney to Greenwich to make up my own mind, and found myself conflicted between delight and a hollow emptiness.

On the plus side there is much to enjoy, from the rigging gracing the sky, the blocks and spars wired up with ropes as they should be. The space under the hull is a amazing, full of light, the old tea clipper glowing in gold. The much debated main deck (composites not real wood) doesn't distract from the overall look.

But... it felt wrong.

The old, real Cutty Sark didn't have a lift forcing its way between decks. It didn't have a visitors trail leading you between exhibits, it didn't have fake tea chests, it didn't have sailing computer games, it didn't have a whopping great hole cut into its side:
It felt like the Cutty Sark "experience": it was no longer a ship that could set sail, and when that happens something for me dies.

But was that an option? Things were in a bad way before the fire, as can be seen by this unrestored beam:
The metal was similarly corroded, so it would have been less of a restoration and more of a rebuilding.

There is that philosophical question if you replace something bit by bit at what point it is no longer the original, and that could have been a choice for the Cutty Sark. However that option still remains as someone out there could build their own tea clipper, using her as the design template.

While saddened by what she has become I feel that her current form has a chance to survive for future generations, who can then decide what they want to do with her. There is the question about whether raising the hull is the right solution structurally but I am not qualified to judge, though I understood there was a steel shell holding everything together taking the load.

The Cutty Sark does look good, and it is a great day out for families, which means more people will see her, learn about her and be impressed, being less conscious of the lack of sailability. She is part of Britain's maritime history, part of the National Maritime Museum.

The Cutty Sark is dead. Long live the Cutty Sark.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Book Review: Rivers of London

Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London is not a book about the rivers of London, though in a very unreal sense it is about the rivers of London.

The tag line is "Harry Potter grows up and joins the fuzz" - aka the bill, the boys in blue, the met, bobbies, plod or to give them their full title, the Metropolitan Police force.

But that isn't right either, as the hero, Peter Grant is no Hogwarts educated orphan, but a true Londoner, born and bred in its council estates and comprehensive schools. Joining the force hoping for a career solving crime he's about to be moved sideways into paper pushing when he meets the only witness of a bizarre murder case, a ghost.

Soon he's sworn instead into the Met's specialist force to handle all the weird and wonderful of London, hidden in the bureaucracy as Economic and Specialist Crime Unit 9 or ESC9, and then out on the streets battling a malicious spirit while learning magic.

The rivers of the title are gods and goddesses ("real" ones, not the fantasy of Peter Ackroyd) namely mother and father Thames and all of their tributaries from hoity Tyburn to the sensual Beverly Brook (and it really adds zest to that line "I found a gun on Beverly Brook").

Its a great read, rattling across London like one of its underground trains, zippy language and plot.

And the real star is London itself, sprawling, magnificent, historic, modern, rich, poor, art, music, life, death, architecture, character, legends, its people and places.

Appropriately the cover of the UK edition is taken from Stephen Walter's The Island, its intricate minute drawings capturing the density of stories within this city. Alas in the US there is a different cover and title "Midnight Riot" which I don't think is as good.

But the book inside is as good in either, and there are two sequels to enjoy, "Moon over Soho" and "Whispers Under Ground".

Best read on the tube heading home late at night, but if that's not an option don't worry as it will transport you there.

One to put on the Christmas present list - for others and yourself.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Moon over Putney

The Bursledon Blogger was not the only one out early in the morning to capture the lovely full moon glinting in the water, though here on the Thames as it flows through Putney.

Though it really needs that fancy HDR technique to show the moon in all its glory.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ben Ainslie and Catsgore

Couple of mid week quick questions:

1. In the Vendee Globe, has the current leader Armel gone too far east & is about to fall into a wind hole watching the others go zooming by?

2. Now that Ben Ainslie has announced he is focussing on AC rather than Olympics, what does that actually mean? I understood he's not actually skippering an AC72 next summer

3. We've been having floods here in the UK, and the village of Muchelney in Somerset has been cut off. In Google Earth I spotted a number of really good place names nearby, but which of the following was made up:
  • Curry North
  • High Ham
  • Queen Camel
  • Tintinhull
  • Catsgore?

Monday, November 26, 2012

London's Christmas Lights

This weekend, while out on the town at the Royal Opera House and last night at the Wigmore Hall I also had a chance to catch up on some of the Christmas decorations, and here's just a sample:

Some of you should recognise these locations!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Opera review: L'elisir d'amore

I've never been a big fan of Donizetti's music but it's hard to remember an evening as much fun as Friday's trip to his opera L'elisir d'amore, or The Elixir of Love.

I've blogged before about The Royal Opera House's sometimes bizarrely bad choice in stage design, such as the Don Giovanni set made of those glass bricks used by interior designers for fancy bathrooms.

This time however they've created a gem, set in what felt like a remote 1950s Italian country community, all hay stacks, Vespa electric bikes (working), isolated roadside tavernas and fields stretching to the far horizon. Apparently it was inspired by Fellini - see this video.

The cast was superb too, with Aleksandra Kurzak (above) a peachy Adina, sensuous in her summer dresses, and Roberto Alagna as the smitten Nemorino, plus Fabio Capitanucci as Beclore and Ambrogio Maestri as the quack Dr Dulcamara.

Well acted through-out it was very funny, its wit and good humour making it impossible not to smile pretty much from beginning to end.

There was even a dog! Think Eddie from Frasier, racing across the stage to steal the scene and leave the audience gagging for the next act.

A total joy.

Image from: here

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Good things

Last weekend I traveled to north London, bringing gifts to my new niece including this ginger cake with lemon icing (*) and was rewarded not just by the sight of the little one but also a compliment.

"When I grow up I want to be like uncle JP" said one of the nephews.

I'd like to think it was because of my adventures on the high seas, slick gybes on Aeolus, cleaning up at the Fowey Regatta, or being alone on watch at midnight somewhere in the Arctic Circle.

But no, it was because:
a) I could make this cake any time I liked and eat, if I wanted, all of it (alas the bathroom scales say I can't)
b) Because of my gadgets (iPhone and Nexus 7 tablet) that have cool games on them

To quote Tillerman, life is good

(*) you might have noticed that the lemon icing does not cover the entire cake. This is because one of the nieces likes the cake but not the icing and I try to be a good uncle.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nature's Radar in the Journal of Navigation

Now the evenings have well and truly drawn in, what better than a good article to read on the topics of sailing, navigation and the natural world.

The Natural Navigator Tristan Gooley's paper based upon observations during our sail to the Arctic Circle has been published in the Journal of Navigation and in it you can learn all about how to navigate simply by counting the birds.

Download the PDF from the Natural Navigator's web site here.

Monday, November 19, 2012


More archive film today, this time of sailing back in the 1970s along the south east coast of England from the East Anglia Film Archive.

Regatta is a 10 minute short based around the 1973 dinghy and punt races at the the old town of Manningtree, with a dollup of history added for colour (actually in black 'n' white).

I wonder how many bloggers or blog readers remember sailing here - or even better, can spot themselves?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

From the sea to the land beyond

I've just watched the BBC4 film "From the sea to the land beyond" which explores Britain's coastline through archive video, and it was an absolute gem.

Unlike most TV documentaries that over-focus on the presenter's character this had none. Nearly wordless it connected well chosen historic clips full of truth and life, together with a soundtrack from one of my favourite bands, the appropriately named "British Sea Power".

Sailors and fishermen, soldiers and dockers, nature and developers, babies and dancing girls, lighthouses and lifeboats, over a hundred years of life at the shore of our seas flowed by in a poetic, lyrical way. Apart from one glance at twitter to make sure others were watching this too, it captured my attention from beginning to end.

If you've got access to iPlayer you can watch it here - and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Like a song to the sea it was magical, wonderful and moving.