Archive for » August 4th, 2014«

Sailing's daredevil


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British sailor Alex Thomson is famous for his eye-catching stunts, including this audacious mast walk.

A helicopter overview shot of Thomson as he charges up the mast.

A suited Thomson cuts a dapper figure as he prepares for his stunt.

Thomson comes into Les Sables D’Olonne harbor with an escort of small boats in 2012 after finishing third in the seventh edition of the Vendee Globe race.

Thomson is reunited with his wife Kate and son Oscar after finishing the 2012 Vendee Globe race.

Thomson trials his Hugo Boss yacht as he prepares for the 2016 Vendee Globe.

Thomson is in sole charge of the 10-ton, 60-foot yacht as he prepares for his ultimate goal.

Thomson’s 2008 Vendee bid was wrecked after a collision with a fishing boat, which he here describes to the media.

Thompson sat out 2014 New York-Barcelona race while his wife had their second child. His replacement, American Ryan Breymaier, helped Pepe Ribes to take line honors.

Thomson’s Hugo Boss monohull yacht against the imposing backdrop of London’s historic Tower Bridge.

Thomson has not ruled out another daring exploit which relies on teamwork and precision sailing.

Thomson hurtles up to the top of the mast, aware that the boat can keel at any moment and fling him either onto the deck or the water below

At the finish of his mast walk, Thomson dived into the ocean waters.


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(CNN) — His daredevil stunts have attracted over 3.5 million hits on YouTube and reached uncharted waters for sailing, but for his next trick Alex Thomson just wants to get back to doing what he does best — circumnavigating the globe faster than anyone else.

His “crazy ideas” have ended up with the 40-year-old walking along the keel of his Hugo Boss yacht and then — even more daringly — scaling the height of its huge sail before diving into the water.

Thomson was dressed for both stunts in the stylish menswear associated with his sponsor. Their longstanding relationship dates back to 2003, with Thomson having made headlines in a more conventional sporting manner through his exploits in long-distance ocean racing.


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As far back as 1999 he became the youngest skipper to win a round the world race, and he’s a multiple record-holder for distance covered in 24 hours at sea.

But perhaps the biggest prize, the Vendee Globe — the ultimate single-handed round the world race, sailed nonstop and without assistance — has eluded him.

“It’s a supreme test of human endeavor, truly man against the elements,” the British sailor told CNN.

“I equate it to challenging for an Olympic gold in a four-year cycle, and you must peak at the right time.

“Ben Ainslie (the four-time gold medalist from Britain in sailing) does this perfectly and I want to emulate him.”

Read: A drop in the ocean for sailing’s stuntman

There are still two and a half years to the start of the next Vendee Globe race in Les Sables-d’Olonne in southwest France, but for Thomson it cannot come around fast enough.

His 2008 challenge was ruined by a collision with a fishing boat which wrecked his preparations, and he finished third in the 2012 edition.

Thomson finished just over two days behind winner Francois Gabart of France after 80 days of racing, setting a British record for a solo round the world race in the process.

“The big win has eluded me,” he said.

British ambition

Ainslie, who won his Olympic golds in dinghy classes, has announced he will lead an ambitious $134 million British bid to win the America’s Cup in 2017.


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One of the key members of that syndicate is Keith Mills, a businessman who ran Britain’s successful bid for the London 2012 Olympics and is a co-founder of the Alex Thomson Racing team.

The planning required for the America’s Cup is on a similar scale to the Vendee — but instead of being part of a big crew, Thompson will be on his own as he negotiates his way around dangerous oceans at the helm of a 10-ton, 60-foot yacht.

“The boats are absolute beasts with a sail area of three tennis courts alone,” said the Welshman, who was born in the coastal town of Bangor.

“It very much depends whether you are physically fit enough to do this kind of thing.”

His eponymous team’s current boat successfully competed in long-distance events under previous owners, winning the 2010-11 Barcelona World Race.

It has been extensively refitted and a new keel added to keep pace with the opposition.

“It’s like Formula One, with thousands of things to do and test,” said Thompson in equating the scale of the challenge.

Unlike F1, the chance to test equipment in race conditions is limited — “and we don’t have the budgets of the likes of Ferrari.”

Although 2016 appears a long way off, the team have to make the most of the opportunities.

“We have two or three big events and about 20,000 individual components that can go wrong,” Thomson admitted.

Family commitment

He had to sit out one of those events – the IMOCA Ocean Masters race from New York to Barcelona — because his wife was due to give birth to their second child.

Georgia, weighing in at seven pounds seven ounces, was indeed born at a time when a less attentive father might have been mid-Atlantic.


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But the race provided a welcome boost for Thomson’s long-term aspirations as Spaniard Pepe Ribes and his replacement — American Ryan Breymaier — took line honors after just over 14 days at sea.

They took advantage when an accident on board rival Safran meant the race leader had to stop in Cadiz so one of its skippers could get medical treatment.

While not a serious injury, it was a painful reminder of the inherent dangers in ocean racing.

“The Atlantic is as dangerous as any place, particularly in the spring and winter,” Thomson said.

He will pair with Ribes for the 2014-15 edition of the Barcelona World Race, which starts on New Year’s Eve from the Catalan city and will finish in its port by the end of March 2015.

Then it will be back to fine-tuning for the Vendee Globe, where victory and the likely chance of being crowned winner of the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship is firmly in his sights.

And, as for any more eye-catching stunts, Thomson is keeping his cards close to his chest.

“We usually do them around September and it takes a fair bit of planning,” he revealed.

“Perhaps the most important thing is that it showcases our sport to people who don’t sail and maybe we can tempt people to take it up.”

Read: Kate Middleton adds glamor to America’s Cup bid

Read: Ainslie signs off with fourth straight gold

Read: Capsized sailor rescued in 2008 Vendee

Read: Drama on the high seas at 2012 Vendee



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Mixed feelings sailing in Rio pollution

Josh Adams has expressed slightly mixed feelings about sailing in polluted Guanabara Bay, the venue for sailing in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and the site of the city’s first test event, which started Sunday.

Adams, managing director of the American Olympic sailing team, likes that Guanabara is located in the heart of Rio and is a familiar venue to world sailors.

It means sailors will be in the host city and not lodged on a coast hours away from the action.

On the other hand, American sailing officials have hired medical experts to test the water in Guanabara, which has suffered from decades of untreated human waste being poured into the bay.

Adams said Sunday tests showed the water to be “contaminated,” prompting what he termed “preventive measures.”

Despite problems, Adams was upbeat about the venue and said his sailors were too.

“We feel our sailors are safe, and we’re aware of the issues with the water quality in Guanabara Bay,” Adams said.

“We know and have proven with our own water testing project that the water is contaminated, but we didn’t discover anything that people didn’t already know.

It’s contaminated largely because of unregulated sewage.”

Teams in the test event have been invited by Olympics organisers to test the water.

Adams said American tests showed “nothing really alarming,” though he declined to reveal the results or the “preventive measures” that scientists had suggested.

“We’d rather not share any more information than that,” he said.

Health experts haves suggested that sailors be vaccinated for hepatitis A, and at a small regatta last year sailors rubbed alcohol on their hands after leaving the water.

Rio and adjacent cities pour almost 70 per cent of their sewage untreated into surrounding waters. Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes and other government officials have acknowledged targets will be missed for cleaning the water for the Olympics.

British sailor Alain Sign, rigging his 49er boat Sunday, described the problem of floating debris in the bay.

“You want to get to the left or right and you see a tide line that seems to carry a lot of rubbish,” he said.

“It’s a lot of luck if you hit something, or don’t hit something and get through it.”

Sign described the water in Guanabara as “a bit darker than usual.”

Sailors have regularly likened the smell around the bay to a “toilet” or “open sewer.”

“Around the edges is the worst where it all collects,” Sign said.

“I wouldn’t want to go paddle boarding and capsize.”

Alastair Fox, head of competitions for the governing body ISAF, described conditions the last few days as “good.”

He said recent water testing around the course areas met Brazilian and international standards.

He said rain was forecast for later in the week, which will wash more sewage and debris into the bay.

Rio state officials are using 10 rubbish boats during the regatta to pick up floating debris.

“It wouldn’t be a good test if it didn’t rain,” Fox said.

“We need to see it when it’s bad, and when it’s good.”

He said the biggest concern, besides faecal levels in the water, was floating objects hindering racing. At least one sailor over the last few days took a photo of a dead dog floating in the bay.

“Ultimately we need to have a clear field of play,” Fox said.

“We can’t have objects in that water that can affect racing.”

Asked if he would swim in the bay, Fox replied: “I’d sail in it.”


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Sailing, arts, theater provide variety this week

Although some rain might be in the weather forecast for this coming weekend, there is optimism that the monthly ARTcrawl in New Bern and two sailing events in Pamlico County will be held.

A weather-safe bet is RiverTowne Players’ showings of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” inside the dry confines of the Masonic Theatre on Hancock Street in New Bern Friday through Sunday.

Sailing will return to Oriental and eastern Pamlico County in a big way this weekend, with two events, one for youngsters and another for the young at heart.

On Friday and Saturday, the fifth annual Oriental Dragon Boat Festival will be at River Dunes.

Practice will be Friday afternoon, with completion on Saturday beginning at 10:30 a.m.

The public is invited to come and view the racing at River Dunes’ Grace harbor.

Teams consist of 20 paddlers, a drummer and a helmsperson. Those interested can register as a team or an individual.

Contact festival organizer Flora Moorman at 675-9424 or email info@orientaldragonboat.com.

The Morehead City Boat Club’s Hoop Pole Regatta will come to Oriental for the first time on Saturday for young sailors, ages 16 and under.

It is for one-design boats 20 feet and under, with three or more boats of a kind constitute a class.

The Bow-to-Stern Boating Center on Smith Creek is the base camp.

The first race is at 10 a.m. It is sponsored by the Friends of the N.C. Maritime Museum and the museum’s Junior Sailing Program and Bow to Stern Boating.

It is open to Optimist Prams, Sunfish and Flying Juniors. A post-regatta cookout and awards ceremony is planned.

For more information, call Jim Edwards at 474-6000.

Also call Brent Creelman at 728-2762 or email brent@maritimefriends.org.

Here is a sampling of other events this week:

Tryon Palace invites the public to attend a free Jonkonnu performance on Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the Waystation Auditorium on Pollock Street, across from the main gate.

Students participating in the Jonkonnu workshops will perform a traditional Jonkonnu celebration, complete with music, dancing and costumes.

This performance is the final event in the Jonkonnu workshop series. It will showcase the skills students learned in the workshops.

Jonkonnu is the African-American holiday celebration that combines singing, dancing and drumming into one lively performance. It was historically celebrated by enslaved African-Americans living in Eastern North Carolina during the 1800s. Although lost at the turn of the century, Jonkonnu has been brought back to life at Tryon Palace for children and adults alike to celebrate.

For more information about Jonkonnu workshops and performances, call 269-3500 or visit tryonpalace.org on the web.

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This year’s National Night Out celebration in New Bern will be Tuesday.

Now in its 29th year, this nationwide event brings awareness to crime, drug and violence prevention.

It has been held annually in communities around the United States since 1984 and is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch.

New Bern’s National Night Out Committee, in partnership with New Bern Police, organizes this local event with the help of countless volunteer hours.

According to the city’s website, “We celebrate ‘community’ and bring thousands together to have fun. Dozens of community service organizations participate with us each year in support of health and safety.’”

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The Old Theater in Oriental will hold auditions this week for the November production of Eugene Ionesco’s “Exit the King.”

Auditions in Oriental will be Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 p.m. Auditions are also on Saturday at 2 p.m. in New Bern at the Athens Cafe on Pollock Street.

“Exit the King” is an exploration of ego and mortality set in the crumbling throne-room of the palace in an unnamed country, according to the producers.

It dates to 1963, starring Alec Guinness, and was on Broadway in 2009. The Old Theater’s production will be directed by Bill Hand.

The play has six roles — three men and three women — 20 years old and older. There are also several dancing parts.

Those auditioning need a one-minute monologue and will be asked to read from the script. For more information, call 249-0477.

***

The New Bern-Craven County Public Library will have a free iPad class at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Learn the basic functions of the iPad as well as apps and downloading free eBooks. An iPad or iPad mini is required, along with advance registration.

Call 638-7800.

On Thursday, there will be a 2:30 p.m. World of eBooks class. Learn how to download free OneClick Digital eBooks to an iPad, Kindle Fire, NOOK Tablet, Samsung Galaxy Note and Windows 8 Tablet. Students can bring tablets for questions and answers. Advance registration is required.

***

The critically acclaimed documentary “Here Comes the Sun” will have a free screening by the Carolina Nature Coalition on Thursday.

The showing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Trent River Coffee Company, 208 Craven St., New Bern.

It is a 50-minute story about the future of energy.

According to a release from the coalition, “The documentary ‘Here Comes the Sun’ shows that the solar industry is soaring, the desert is our new land of glory, algae in the garden will fuel your car, and your roof is a new marketplace for solar real estate managers.”

Following the film, local experts and a presenter from N.C. GreenPower will be on hand to discuss solar power in Eastern North Carolina and the rising solar industry across the state.

This is the fifth of a series of films dedicated to environmental issues of concern to local citizens of Eastern North Carolina.

To sign up for information about the Carolina Nature Coalition’s film series or other notifications, email carolinanaturecoalition@gmail.com.

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The monthly ARTcrawl in downtown New Bern will be Friday, beginning at 5 p.m.

Locations includes galleries, studios, art shops, performance venues and other businesses.

It is sponsored by Community Artist Will, located at 228 Craven St.

Call Lisa Bisbee-Lentz at 649-1712 or email communityartitwill@gmail.com.

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The “Dog Days of Summer” concert series will continue Thursday at the Isaac Taylor Garden on Craven Street in New Bern.

This week’s featured group is Beach Street Band, formerly Biodigital Jazz.

Coming up in the weeks to come are Rick Huff on Aug. 14; RFS on Aug. 21; and Wannabees on Aug. 28.

It includes food, widescreen sports and beverages under the stars.

Admission is $2. The gates open at 6 p.m.

***

The “Fore the Troops Charity Golf Tour” will come to Carolina Colours Friday.

Play begins at 8:30 a.m. It is a USO of North Carolina tournament.

Entry fee is $100 for individuals and $400 for teams.

For details, visit usoncforethetroops.com on the web. Call Jackie Geerlings or Kathy Bull at 919-840-3000.

The USO of North Carolina was founded in 1941 and is a nonprofit organization.

***

RiverTowne Players’ production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” continues this week at the Masonic Theatre on Hancock Street in New Bern.

Shows this week will be at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a 3 p.m. Sunday matinee.

Tickets are $16 in advance, $19 at the door and $10 for students with school ID.

Call 633-3318 or visit rivertowneplayers.com on the web.

Charlie Hall can be reached at 252-635-5667 or 252-259-7585.


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Rio dismisses sailing venue worries

Despite the stunning Sugar Loaf background, athletes say they are concerned about sea pollution

The organisers of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro have dismissed concerns about water pollution in the bay where sailing events will be held.

Brazilian officials said recent tests show that the waters in Guanabara Bay meet international standards.

The first official test event – for the sailing competitions – went ahead on Sunday below the Sugar Loaf mountain.

Athletes who have competed there recently say they bumped into floating debris, including sofas and a dead dog.

“The sailors and boats do not want to be in a field of play where there is any type of objects,” said Alastair Fox, head of competitions at the International Sailing Federation (Isaf).

“And here there are some – sofa, door, dog – and we know any of those objects could affect performance of a sailor.

“We need to make sure the race course is fair for everyone and if it is free of debris, he told the BBC’s Julia Carneiro in Rio.

The world-famous Christ the Redeemer statue can be seen from the five sailing courses

The government has built artificial beaches with clean water for Rio’s poorer communities

Hundreds of millions of untreated sewage flows daily into the bay

A dead cat flows on the dark waters of Guanabara Bay

Brazilian media reported that the event could be move to another sailing venue.

But the Rio Olympics Organising Committee said there was no plan B.

“The tests were positive and we can confirm that water is safe for the athletes,” said Rio-2016 Sustainability Manager Julie Duffus.

In its Olympic bid, Rio promised to clean Guanabara Bay by 80%.

But in June Mayor Eduardo Silva admitted the target would not be met.

“I am sorry that we did not use the games to get Guanabara Bay completely clean,” Mr Paes said during media conference.

Greater Rio has a population of some 10 million people and millions of litres of untreated sewage are dumped in the bay every day.

“We understand the athletes’ concerns. We will focus on the areas of the five sailing courses to prevent any disruption to the races,” has now said Rio Olympics Sports Director Rodrigo Garcia.


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