Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Kiwi black magic

Three races have now been held for the 32nd America's Cup. My heart's been in my mouth for the last two. Alinghi clearly held the advantage in race 1, even though the Kiwis were first across the line at the start. But these last two races have been total seat-of-the-pants. The Kiwis are now two races up! Yep, the score is 2-1.

Today's race had true drama, including a terrible spinnaker drop by the Kiwis, which nearly had a man over board. But just as it all seemed to be over, the Kiwis came from behind on the final leg and beat Alinghi by 25 seconds.

And one very interesting piece of America's Cup lore is that every America's Cup Match in history (bar 1871), that has required three or more races, has seen the winner of race 3 go on to win the Match.

Woo hoo!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Qajaq Aotearoa

A new Web site has recently been launched in NZ, called 'Qajaq Aotearoa', dedicated to traditional kayak techniques and equipment. It's great to see the introduction of the ancient Greenland techniques and equipment to the Kiwi paddling world.

Grant Glazier, who lives on Waiheke Island and paddles all over NZ, originally built the site, which came about when an e-group he belonged to were discussing how to continue the promotion of Greenland paddling in NZ.

The site includes some great photos of paddling around NZ waters, and Grant has written an excellent introductory article on the art of using a Greenland paddle.

Grant also has his own blog, Island Paddler. His latest entry will bring tears to Kiwi ex-pats' eyes, on a recent weeklong paddling trip around the Bay of Islands.

Do check it all out.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Training foods

I spent months working out what foods I'd need for the 2007 Everglades Challenge, reading accounts of other folks' journeys, the nutritional value of this bar over that energy drink. Every kayaker, or adventurer in general goes through the same agonizing dilemma, trying to avoid the crippling bonk, or stomach worries that can ground any challenge to a sudden agonizing halt.

Well, I may have hit on a new menu for 2008's EC. A man in southeast China says 40 years of swallowing live tree frogs and rats has helped him avoid intestinal complaints and made him strong.

Jiang Musheng, a 66-year-old resident of Jiangxi province, suffered from frequent abdominal pains and coughing from the age of 26, until an old man called Yang Dingcai suggested tree frogs as a remedy, the Beijing News said.

"At first, Jiang Musheng did not dare to eat a live, wriggling frog, but after seeing Yang Dingcai swallow one, he ate ... two without a thought," the paper said.

"After a month of eating live frogs, his stomach pains and coughing were completely gone."

Over the years Jiang had added live mice, baby rats and green frogs to his diet, and had once eaten 20 mice in a single day.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Lumpy Paddles

Many of you will know that I’m a keen aficionado of the Greenland paddle. Bill Bremer made my first GP and, in fact, that paddle was the first that Bill made under the name of his then new business, Lumpy Paddles.

I used that GP for the entire 2007 Everglades Challenge and am convinced it was the best paddle style for the entire range of conditions experienced throughout the EC. I wouldn’t consider any other paddle for long distances, consistent headwinds and large following seas.

Bill’s Lumpy Paddles Web site is now finally up and running. Do check it out.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Messing about in boats #4

All my dad’s life has been devoted to messing about in boats – building, rebuilding, but always sailing, not having to drag his family along with him to share his passion. He once commented that he’d have been a wealthy man if it hadn’t been for boats.

Last Christmas, when we were back in NZ visiting him, dad and I leafed through his old army pay book together. Those were the days in NZ when the currency was British pounds and pence. I asked what the hand written entries in red were – there were two or three of them, made during his basic training in NZ before being shipped out to the Pacific. He gave a wry smile.

Back in Auckland he’d owned an old Mullety he’d rebuilt. He’d asked his commanding officer for a few days leave to hitch back down to Auckland to haul it out, scrub the bottom, antifoul it and pop it back in the water on its swing mooring. His CO turned him down. The red markings were where his pay had been docked as he’d gone AWOL to go and care for his boat.

In the early 40s during WWII, dad was finally shipped to the Pacific, to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, and Green Island. He found a burned out life boat washed up on one of his islands, and naturally set to rebuilding it, also making sails and a rig for it. In the photo above, that’s dad standing in the rebuilt boat.

Not only did he and a few mates use the boat for exploring the islands and their lagoons, but also for running spirits to the American GIs also based on the island from the still dad and his mates built and ran. That’s how these intrepid Kiwis augmented their meager army pay.

One day, dad got into a wee bit of trouble with his CO again. He and a mate took the life boat out for a sail. Late that afternoon, no land in site, they ran out of wind, drifting for a good few miles. Back at camp, their absence was noted at roll call. Dad’s company put out an APB to see if anyone had seen them out on the high seas.

Dad still remembers a large US cruiser steaming slowly alongside them, not daring to stop in case of Japanese submarines, peering over to make sure they were okay, but also blasting out, “Don’t you guys know there’s a bloody war on!”

Safely back on shore by the next morning, having been adrift all night, dad’s CO admonished him, and warned him that before setting out again, he’d better make a pair of oars.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Kiwi ingenuity

While on the subject of beer, I found this marvelous NZ Web site, devoted to a young man’s dream to build the world’s first jet powered beer cooler.

Reading the site, you’ll discover a few things typical about Kiwis, and the male species in particular:

  • Only as a last resort does one read the instructions before attempting (something I get growled at over)
  • Every good Kiwi bloke needs a shed
  • Every good Kiwi bloke likes his beer
  • Every good Kiwi bloke has played at some time (school) or is still playing (club), or is being paid to play (provincial or All Blacks), or at least watching on TV, rugby
  • Every good Kiwi bloke loves his mum
  • It’s a matter of personal pride to serve cold beer
  • Long hours have been spent (invariably in the shed) dreaming up ways to keep beer cold.

Friday, June 8, 2007


Here's my kind of story:

A study in which teetotal Spanish nuns drank a regular half-litre of beer showed that beer may help reduce cholesterol levels, a group financed by the Spanish Beer Makers' Association said today.

The study also showed that the beer did not need to contain alcohol or to be drunk in large quantities to be good for you.

The "magic" ingredient is hops.

"Hops, one of the basic components of beer, may provide benefits ... in reducing levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides," the Centre for Information on Beer and Health said in a statement.

The experiment did not appear to have won many new beer fans among the teetotal Cistercian nuns who took part, chosen on the basis of their steady lifestyle and balanced diet.

"To be honest, if I needed it to reduce cholesterol or whatever I'd continue to drink it, but I wouldn't just drink beer (for itself) because I don't like it," Sister Maria Jose told Spanish state television RTVE.

Fifty nuns drank half a litre of beer a day for 45 days, then stopped for six months. Then they took 400 milligrams of hops daily for 40 days.

The result was a six per cent reduction in total cholesterol among those with high levels, the Centre said.

"We did it for the good of humanity," Sister Almerinda Alvarez told the newspaper El Pais.

- Reuters

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Woo hoo!

Well, the Kiwis have taken the Louis Vuitton Cup, battling against the Italians on Luna Rossa, to win the best of nine final, 5-0.

That's a rare bit of jubilation on the face of Kiwi helmsman Dean Barker (Deano) and his fellow crew in the top photo. The Kiwi team is famous for its very low key celebrations when winning any of its races. In fact one reporter mentioned yesterday, after the NZ boat won race 4 of the final, that the Kiwis had finally given each other a "high-five" - that is, a subtle raise of the eyebrow.

Roll on June 23, when the challenge for the America's Cup begins!

Woo hoo!

BTW, that's a Buzzy Bee on the banner in the second photo - a true bit of Kiwiana - which is also painted on the bulb of the Kiwi boat's keel.

Friday, June 1, 2007


Sad news from the Kiwi boat, Earthrace, as they're having to pull out of their attempt to set a world record for circumnavigating the globe.

Currently in Malaga, Spain, skipper Pete Bethune has figured that they're not going to be able to make it back to San Diego where they left on April 7. They needed to complete the circumnavigation by June 21 to break the record of 75 days set by the British boat Cable & Wireless in 1998.

Earthrace is biodiesel-fuelled, and the crew's been trying to raise awareness of the myriad uses of biodiesel as an alternative energy source.

I've been the following their progress pretty closely, and it's been just of those things - one bit of bad luck after another. They hit some bad storms in the Med, which slowed Earthrace's speed from 40km/h to 18.5km/h as it battled 5m head seas and 92km/h wind gusts. They found a 2m crack in the floor of the hull. Like all showstring sponsorship budgets, they've hit money problems. And worst of all they were detained in Guatemala after striking a fishing boat and drowning one of the crew. (A judge later released them saying it was an accident.)

But like all good Kiwis, they're talking about trying again next year...

* Photo courtesy Jim Burkett