Wednesday, 27 August 2008

You Send Me Flying

A while back we were reading articles about how the Beijing smog was going to damage athletes health. Some poor lambs were even considering not competing, in case they got a spot. Yet now a week after the event I read there were 32 world records broken. This is surprising. You would imagine the athletes to be slower, and less strong, but the opposite is seemingly the case. It is clear to my mind that there was an additive in the air, and I can relate to this. Whenever I go to a place with nice clean fresh air, I fall asleep.

So to me it's clear that nature needs a helping hand. It doesn't always get it right, if it did we wouldn't have 350 different kinds of parrot, and nipples on men. Anyway let's see what the human body can do. I'd love to see the first posthumously awarded gold medal as someone streaked over the finishing line in 6 seconds, and then.. exploded. Hell that's television.

I have now started a small business importing Beijing Air into the UK. A couple of sucks before the off and a swig of "Beijing swimming pool water" (25 of those records were set in the pool) and you'll be all set for next years worlds. And you'll need to be, because, over there the air is so sweet, clean and pure, you'll fall asleep.

And so to 2012 where we will attempt to host "the best games ever". And where China had smog and err...weed, we have the shit weather and frankly the shit country to deal with. And as one TV critic speculated, forget 500 choriographed dancers, the best way to reflect the culture of the country would be to get a pissed up Amy Winehouse to throw her fag into the Olympic torch.. Then we'll all go for a curry...

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Mothing America

Most of the time I want to get the hell out of Dodge, especially after sailing events, but this time no, and when as usual I checked the time of my departing flight, I was suddenly disappointed that I'd booked one that was so immediate. I guess this is the effect that the Gorge has, a place I would go to even if I didn't sail.

I came second, Bora won. He was very fast and has definitely made a step change from his worlds performance. I am in debt to Tom Driscoll for lending me his Prowler, it takes a while to get boats up to speed and one day just wasn't enough, and my lack of prep showed, as did my lack of But together though we pushed the boundaries... Little did Tom know, but visitor and Buddhaesque like Jeff (shape, not anything spiritual) set us off developing in a desperate bid to look busy... and with the direct approval of Jim from Alinghi and the Walmart supply chain behind us we really did make Americans lives better. Brits too..The centre of Moth development is shifting to Dago now folks.

But Moths are a wily temptress and already I'm looking forward to the Worlds, and below is my guide to an event that you really should do.

On travel
American Airlines can get you there for a shade over 700 quid from Europe. You might get it cheaper if you book earlier and I changed at Dallas. You meet people on flights, I sat next to a Texan woman who'd been on a trip to Europe to meditate. You can tell she'd been quiet for a long time because she wouldn't stop yapping. She had a self help book and gave 10% of her salary to the church. She told me not to pre judge people which is fair enough, but she soon loosened up and after a couple of G&T's we were discussing the perfect female figure.

The Dallas Portland leg had me sat next to a girl called Tracy who I suspected was highly opinionated and this turned out to be true. Anyway total flight time 13 hours.

You get from Portland to Cascade Locks in 45 minutes. Ex Hawaii five 0 sailor Ian Andrewes picked me up. Great guy and new friend.

On "Off the water"

At first glance Cascade Locks is small, but I soon learnt that this wasn't bad, and actually this was one Amercian town that was not particularly silicon enhanced. Its safe too, you can leave your wallet on the beach and go sailing, it'll be there when you get back. No one locks their cars, but this is probably because you have to be over 7ft tall to nick 'em.

People running the stores are nice, the food is great. I put on two kilos in one week. There are two petrol stations, two places to eat breakfast. Some nice beer in the bar/pizza place, a general store that sells everything and a couple of motels. Truck drivers just.. well wave to you as they go by in a "hey fella" kind of way, which, if they did that in Europe, would have me running like hell, listening for the sound of the air brakes.

Up the road you have the bigger town of Hood River and over the Columbia river Stevenson, presumably named after someones first name.. The scenery is fantastic and humbling, even the best sailor is only the tallest pygmy, against the magnificent wilderness of the area.

On the Water
The water is warm. The wind generally strong yet sometimes light. Importantly the windward mark will be just off the beach in a so close kind of way that you'll be able to tell which way he (or she?) has dressed that morning. Anyway you get my drift.
Talking of which, there's current. Beats don't take long, sheet in, whistle three bars of "Oregon my Oregon" and your on the lay line.

On the shore

The launch area isn't big but it is either grass, sand or shale, so its kinder to boats than say Weymouth, which was like launching on a belt sander. Its suited to moths and when a bit of weed sometimes gets hooked on the boat, it's easy to clear and is the type of stuff you see in a fish tank, not the Sargasso sea. At the Worlds the car park will be the boat park so there will be room.

For refreshments there is a Cascade Locks visitors centre 100 meters away where basic stuff is sold by a lovely old lady with an ever present cup of coffee. She ain't that fast though and with up to 100 sailors at the worlds there might be a bottle neck here...I'd solve this by simply and unknowingly moving her over to decaff and, with a day to go to the worlds, switch her to double expresso. You can get more out of old people that way.

There is camping in the park but a train track is close by, I didn't camp but if you do you can cure the jetlagg by counting the wagons as they go buy. My record was 120.

When we came a shore there was free beer and always free water throughout the day. We had high temperatures. 100 degrees in a wetsuit is hot, and despite drinking like a camel, when you do pee, all you get is a drip and a puff of steam. Normally its in the 80's though.

Mothing America

You could not hope to meet a better set of guys, and if you know your stuff, you will have heard of most of them from great success in other areas of the sailing arena. Anyway the class is growing fast and the US is surely the biggest market. The west coast guys are taking on the responsibility of organising the Worlds seriously, people have roles, everyone is helping out. I'm sure the will deliver a great event and I for one will be there.

Thanks again to everyone who made my short stay so nice. It feels natural to sail Moths on the Gorge and forget those war stories you may have been told. The windsurfing with the really strong breeze is in another place. and when the Oregon state insect is a butterfly, there can't be a better fit can there?

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Mora Bora!

Its Bora's show here, super fast and consumate sailing means this popular guy will win.
Yesterday was champagne sailing, six races (yes six) in perfect conditons that could never be described as windy and the racing was great. We raced Z and windward leeward courses.
In the evening friends, kids, sisters and brothers took the boats out for a spin in the dying wind. It's a nice atmosphere and I'm really warming to this place.
I'm lying in second, just ahead of the chasing pack.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Pony Express

Bora Gulari won all three races yesterday. With ease actually. Excellent boat speed plus great sailing meant he was unchallenged. He deserved to win.

I'm tied on second with George Peat and Morgan Larsen. I think Charlie McKee is just behind us.

Today is apparently a "switch" day where the wind should come from the other direction, now the current should be taking us up wind. It's going to be 103 degrees, the water is warm, the scenery spectacular and the sailing great. Last night we chilled out at Mark Mendelblatts house, another top US sailors talking about getting a moth.

Six races today, all short sprints which should be fun. Right now there is no wind but I'm sure there will be later!

Friday, 15 August 2008

Who's gun is this?

This vehicle was sitting outside the pizza place last night. What you can't see is the sub machine gun mounted on the roof and written on the magazine case was "Big Mac, For Iraq" Now I ask you to balance the paradox of this vehicle, licenced and taxed, and me being pulled up in Dallas airport because, when asked about the long slim package I was carrying, the way my English accent pronounced "Boom" to the southern ear apparently sounded like "bomb"... Okay a small misunderstanding but soon sorted out, indeed the woman with the rubber gloves was surprisingly gentle.

Yet running around in the mid west is this perky little bren gun.

This is one of the reasons I like the USA. Another is a hidden but definately real sense of self depreciation which no one talks about but I know is there. I know this because the grandly named "Bridge of the Gods", which spans the Gorge, is about the same size as a foot bridge in Ross on Wye.

Yesterday we sailed and it blew! In the middle of the day we had to tie the boats to trees. It must have hit 30knots, but the water was warm and little beats burning around in fast boats with your mates. In the afternoon we did slalom courses set by Rohan Veal, now part time race officer. At the end of the day it was lighter and the breeze turned off around six, which is about the same time everyone goes to bed.

Today I dont know if it's windy or not but it's forecast to be over 100 degrees and I would imagine that might have some effect on this katabatic place.

Day one, and the first North American Foiler Moth titles begins!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Letter from Amercia

Cascade Locks is beautiful and errr... small. Think Garda beauty sans the cappucinos and the scale. It really is petite though and Chichester Harbour at full tide would dwarf it. This is in contrast to everything else in Amercia which is huge. Tom's Harley Davidson Ford truck is so tall that my ears popped when I eventually climbed into it.

The American Moth sailors are good guys and the fleet here deserves turbo charging and so this place will do for a worlds. It just aint that big. But beauty can come in small packages as I found out in up town Dallas the night before, a sharp contrast to my airport co users the next day, some so large they seemed a mutant spawn between a human being and a bouncy castle..

I sailed yesterday and it was great, warm fresh water and a lovely new Prowler. Earlier it was proper windy, several foils bust and one hull spilt..

Today we have a temperature warning, Plus 100 degrees are forecast for the next three days and the risk of bushfires is high. Importantly these high interior temps can kill the wind.. who knows what will happen. It's never like this around here.

More tomorrow, Gotta go, Its breakfast time and i dont know the answer to "how do you like your eggs?" My initial answer "fried please" didnt work. the answer will be on Google.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Pin ups

This is Tom Driscoll's new Prowler that I'll be sailing next week at the American titles at The Gorge. Its gorgeous and looks like a Pokémon. Anyway I have my passport and I'm all set, and so to practice for the 3 knot (upwind?) tide and the 20+ knots wind I was out today in my own boat trying the third (and best) iteration of my Amac style broke back wand. I've stiffened it a lot and it was very very good, but possibly now a little over engineered as, unconnected to the boat it is made of 4 components. Anyway it all part of my new resolve to find big boat speed improvements through development. I'm done with half a kilo here etc..

Today I rigged up and screamed around the harbour for a short time. I had trouble turning round (except gybing) but I was out and it was windy! Before the worlds I wouldn't have dreamt of going out in that wind (and still wont in February) but I will get faster in a breeze, even though I'm light.

So here's the front cover of Yachts and Yachting, One for the grandchildren and OMG I'm getting a double chin (and less importantly, seem not to have pulled the kicker on)

The best picture though was of "Skiff Man" himself Tom Whicher, "He ticks a lot of the super hero boxes, a macho yet slightly camp posture..."

These last two days I've been glued to the computer silently cheering on Team GBR in Qingdao. They are doing great, and I wished we'd had those conditions in Weymouth!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Riding liquid mountains

The text read "am at the club its blowing 25 we should be out" It was Mike Lennon and it was friday pm, Our worlds experience has hardened our resolve to go out in anything, so one hour later I too was rigging up, and we did go out. Briefly.

Mike broke his wand off and I snapped the becket of a high load bullet block clean in two.

On saturday the harbour was an awful place to sail. A 3 knot outgoing tide, and so much weed it looked like the nautical version of Glastonbury. So we decided to go outside..My idea which I'm prepared to say in hindsight, wasn't great..

Have you ever had that feeling that you are doing something that you shouldn't, but cant really stop? Well that's the feeling I had as we fired over Hayling bar with the wind against us and the tide under us. It was massive, but Moths are great upwind in waves, yet even so I was going through every third one...

When we were out there it was fantastic champagne sailing and I felt pretty good about the changes I'd made since the worlds, specifically more power on the kicker, back 2.5 holes on the rake and (biggest improvement) new wand and gearing.

But always in my mind was the "how the hell do we get home" feeling.

Anyway we tried. Downwind at first was great, and as it got rougher Mike sensibly made some changes to kill a little ride height. I didnt but only because I couldn't and as we got nearer, the waves got bigger. At one point I thought "were gonna make this" and it was truly awesome sailing, firing the boat down liquid himalayas, and I was pleased with how well the boat was coping, but then one of them was so large and so steep that the crash I had was comparible to throwing my boat off the roof of the sailing club with me in it. That new PBO cover is as aggressive as razor wire when you go past it at twenty knots, and just when you think that off wasn't soo bad, the boat lands on your head. And then as you struggle to right the boat the tide takes you back to where you started.

At one point I saw a helicopter and thought it might be for us..I made a mental note to paint my next boat rescue orange.

Eventually Mike, found a way around the bar, which meant going somewhere near Bognor Regis where the waves were more sailable. A bit beaten up, I followed...

When we got ashore I said to Mike "That was fun!"

"Fun!" he said, "I was bloody terrified"

So was I.