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Archive for March, 2009

So there we were watching the Brawn Supremacy, otherwise known as qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday. Jenson Button grabs pole, team-mate Rubens Barrichello completes the front row. Stunning.

The combatants climb from their pristine white steeds, greet each other like long lost aunts in Parc Ferme and make their way to the unilateral press conference.

 

While we wait to hear from Jens and Rubinho, via a live cross, the BBC’s lofty anchor Jake Humphrey gathers the thoughts of David Coulthard and an exceedingly annoying Eddie Jordan. More of him later.

 

They gibber on about nothing in particular. Mostly about how clever they were to predict the unpredictable. What we really want, us license fee payers, is the main event not the undercard.

 

And so the switch is made. From babble to Button. We hear the answer to the first question and we are engaged. The joy etched on Button’s features and peppering his response is something only sport can bring.

 

Then, without warning, the irritating apparition. A biblical vision fills our Samsungs. The Virgin Mary? Well, the hair’s about the right length.

 

I’m sure there’s more to Richard Branson than mere glory grabbing. But at that precise time I don’t want one utterance from him.

 

I want Jens. I want confirmation that what has just transpired on that race track was not the latest instalment in a deluge of British reality TV.

 

I don’t want Rich to tell me how proud he is. How lucky he is. How he might yet invest proper greenbacks in the fledgling team.

 

I want to know whether what we witnessed was brain or Brawn – the age-old debate over car versus driver.

 

I want to know whether there was anything left in Button’s mental tank after the months of uncertainty.

 

I want to know just how big a pay cut he has taken.

 

I want to know whether the car was that good or whether the rest had a collective off day.

 

I want to know how it feels for Rubens to be back and beaming that signature smile again.

 

I want to know about slicks, KERS and adjustable wings.

 

I want Sebastian Vettel to tell us how it feels to give your all, grab provisional pole by driving the wheels off your Red Bull only to be pipped not once, but twice, by a team that was staring at the scrapheap one month previously. I am not alone.

 

We never got to know because Jordan was too busy fawning over Branson for the remainder of the qualifying show.

 

And it wasn’t Branson who got that team to the starting grid in Melbourne. It was the vision of Ross Brawn and the unstinting efforts of a dedicated staff at the team’s HQ in Brackley. And it was two peddlers who never lost faith.

 

Remember, this was our first impression of the Beeb’s reclamation of F1 coverage. The first serious test of the 2009 regulations, the opening chapter of what turned out to be a Cinderella story.

 

And on this occasion, you got it badly wrong BBC.

 

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Welcome one and all.
 
I’ve been toying with bursting into cyberprint on the idiosyncratic behaviour of the English in the work place and on the field of play for some time.
 
It was always going to be a subject fraught with trepidation and risk. But after twenty-plus years living on planet Pom, I feel sufficiently well versed in the whys and wherefores of the English – a number of whom I count among my closest friends. At least for now.
 
This site, as it says on the tin, will recount and catalogue the personal experiences of my favourite spectator sport – watching the English.
 
And just before you reach for the email of Sue, Lynch and Stringemup, I am familiar with defamation, though I to expect to sail close to the breeze at times.
Speaking of which, this site will also carry musings from two  further pursuits which occupy a lot of my time at present – the Volvo Ocean Race and Formula One.
 
And of course, there will be cricket. Lots of it. What else? It’s Ashes year.
 

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So Kevin Pietersen is mentally fatigued and needed a break from strutting around the Caribbean polishing his ego and spreading unrest in the dressing-room.

 

Well, he need not apply for a job where sportsmen endure levels of stress known only to soldiers on the front line. Kevin, welcome to the Volvo Ocean Race.

 

Sleep deprivation, biting cold, gasping heat, freeze-dried food. Mountainous seas, 60 knot gales, the constant pounding of the waves turning stomachs to spin cycle, every ounce of physical and emotional energy sapped. This is not the get-rich-quick IPL Kevin.

 

That is Life At The Extreme – a 37,000 nautical-mile, nine-month endurance test on the most technically-advanced ocean racing yachts known to man.

It’s an examination of sailing prowess and human endeavour in equal measure. It has been built on the spirit of great seafarers. Fearless men who sailed the world’s oceans aboard square rigged clippers more than a century ago.
 
The spirit, which drove those commercial sailors along the web of trade routes, deep into the bleak latitudes of the Southern Ocean, is evident as we speak in the shape of the 2008-09 event.
  
It began in 1973 as the Whitbread round the World Race, the longest, most demanding and perilous sailing contest ever.
 
 PUMA Ocean Racing bowman Jerry Kirby in his office during the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09
 
In that first race three competitors were lost after being washed overboard during storms. It prompted calls for the naugural contest to be the last. However, the desire for unbridled adventure led to the race being staged every four years.
 
During the nine months of the 2008-09 Volvo, which started in Alicante, Spain in October 2008 and concludes in St Petersburg, Russia, in late June this year, the teams will encounter the world’s most treacherous seas via Cape Town, Cochin, Singapore, Qingdao, around Cape Horn to Rio de Janeiro, Boston, Galway, Goteborg and Stockholm.
 
Kevin, the only similarity with your world is that each of the seven 70-foot carbon fibre boats has a professional crew of 11. However, unlike your XI, they do pull in the same direction.
 
They will experience temperature fluctuations from -5 to +40 degrees Celsius with just one change of clothes. They share living quarters the size of a phone box.  The race plays on their minds 24-7 for more than 30 days on the longest legs.
 
And Kevin thought he had issues.

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