The neighbourhood

I had some time to look out the window today and took the opportunity to sketch a part of the street. With several days of rain and thawing temperatures, the snow has made a fast exit.

Wave sends Hatfield over; damages Spirit of Canada boat

Latest news from the Vendée Globe round-the-world race: Derek Hatfield is heading north to Tasmania and Australia to make repairs on the Algimouss Spirit of Canada after a wave knocked the vessel on its side and damaged the mast.

Hatfield is deeply disappointed but safe. He has made some makeshift adjustments and hopes to make the 1,000 mile journey to the nearest harbour as safely as possible.

He writes:

After a week battling storm after storm, I thought that we would get a break today with lighter winds. Last night it was blowing 40-47 knots all night long with gusts to 55 knots on occasion. In the gusts, the autopilot was struggling to keep the boat tracking and would round up into the wind. This morning the seas were huge, maybe 25 feet and confused but nothing we couldn't handle normally. I was exhausted and laying in my bunk and crash, the boat went over and I ended up on the ceiling with all kinds of articles whizzing past me. The boat came upright immediately and the carnage inside was immediate. I rushed on deck and my heart sank to see two of the spreaders dangling limp on the shrouds. The shock hits you quickly that this is not fixable and the end of the race is here already. I started to cry and it was uncontrollable. I called Patianne and told her, she was gutted and shocked. It's now been a long day of stabilizing the rig and cleaning up the interior so I can live a little easier and I am still in shock. I feel so bad for Patianne and all the people that have supported us for five long years both financially and emotionally. I know it will pass and we will turn it all around, but the devastating feeling is still here for now. I've headed for Australia to get the boat safely tied to a dock and figure out what to do next. We will persevere and continue on because that is what we do, but right now it's unbelievably difficult. Thank you so much for following and believing in us, we will try and turn it around somehow.     

In a late night interview Derek had this to say: 'As you can see from the picture of the mast there is still a chance that the mast will break, probably above the first spreader, so I am monitoring this situation.'

"I have been in contact with David Adams who is the Australian safety officer for the Vendee Globe Race Committee and he has been very helpful in this situation.

"I have stabilized the rig as much as I can and have the mainsail up to the fourth reef it still doesn't have battens in it as we were waiting until the wind came down which ironically is today. It is dark here now so I'm slowly heading north to better weather I hope.

So now we set about trying to find some support to get the boat back North in sailing trim.

There is a lot of work to do but we are prepared to do what it takes."

Every competitor has taken a beating during the latest five-day blow. Michel Desjoyeux continues to lead the race in his boat, Foncia.  He's in the southern Pacific Ocean making way towards Cape Horn.

For continual updates, go to
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Time for a rest

Now that the Christmas rush is over, Santas around the world are catching up on much needed rest. At the local shopping mall yesterday, workers were already taking down the displays and removing the big man's chair, where just days before children had lined up to sit on his knee for a minute or two.

This drawing was inspired by a photograph in our local newspaper.

Armchair travel

I was riding on the Toronto subway the other day and saw a poster for adventure travel. This is a quick sketch I made between stops. Living in a snowy country, it's nice to image these exotic locations and traditional ways of travelling.

The scene reminds me of so many comic strips and graphic novels I used to read as a child. Hugo Pratt's Corto Maltese and the Tintin stories by Herge' come to mind.

Hatfield takes it on the chin but fights on

The round-the-world yacht race is proving very difficult for the competitors in the stormy waters between Australia and Antartica.

Here's the latest report from Derek Hatfield. We wish him better days ahead and a spell of dry weather:

Hello from Algimouss Spirit of Canada

What can I say, the days and nights are full of 35-45 knots of wind, big seas, some as large as 25 feet I think, and babysitting the errant auto pilot who for some reason looses the plot and decides to head north. Maybe Joshua is trying to tell me something. Life on board changed drastically about two days ago as far as comfort for the skipper inside the cabin. I was in the cockpit and we came over the crest of this big 20 foot wave and for some reason the pilot turned and went straight down the wave with the bow going into the trough all the way to the mast. I ducked down and grabbed something to hold onto as I knew there would be some heavy water following. After the plunge into the trough the boat stopped so suddenly that the boat slewed sideways and the rolling water came crashing over the side and into the cockpit. I found myself waist high in water for about 15 seconds before it cleared out the transom. The travesty of all this is that the cabin door was open as usual and when inspecting down below, I found that a lot of water had managed to come in the door and soak the cabin. Damage report: nav station soaked, computer making funny beeps and eventually lost the mouse and USP ports for charting software. All the instruments were soaked but I managed to dry them and keep them going for now. The real travesty was my bed; totally soaked. Both sleeping bags onto the floor and into the water, all my dry foul weather gear that I have been so careful about keeping dry, soaked without going outside. It's truly unbelievable where water can get into. I should have known better from the last race around the world but this is an Open 60, it would never be able to swamp the cabin door. Wrong! So now I'm dealing with the relentless wind and waves and cold and wet to boot. Christmas day was not a happy time on board with even the satellites for the phone not co-operating. I hope that you all had a more pleasant day.

The mainsail is now down on deck as the three broken battens were shredding the sail. It was a tough decision to take it down but I need to fix the sail so we can race again. It may be a few days before I can get it fixed. Turns out that the autopilot is much happier anyway which tells me that in over 35 knots the pilot struggles with being overpowered by the sail plan. Right now I have only the staysail up and we still are doing over 20 knots at times. I need the wind to come down so I can cut and fit some new battens and then climb into the mainsail and try and replace them. The top one is under huge pressure from the weight of the sail and normally the battens are loaded with the sail spread on the ground. I'm not sure how that one will go. The pilots are not so happy but managing. I tried switching to the backup pilot but cannot get the wind instrument for that pilot to work. The pilots need the true wind reading to operate well when going down wind. I have four wind instruments on board and only one is working right now so I'm trying to resolve this.

So, all in all a tough couple of days thus far and I'm not sure any respite is in the works. The low pressure systems are back to back and as soon as one moves on, another one develops right behind it. I don't think it's always this way.

I hope you are all enjoying the holidays and be thankful for family, friends and the times around you. Thank you so much for all the great emails, some of them are very touching and I read them over and over again.

Take Care


Ranking: 16th
Position: 48 27.63S 113 22.27E
Distance to Finish: 13706nm
Distance to Leader: 3466nm
Distance to Great American III: 132nm (loss of 15nm over 24hrs)

Happy Holidays!

Warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!

May 2009 bring you peace and joy.


Celebrating the Wright brothers' remarkable first flight: December 17th, 1905

It was on this day in 1905 near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, that Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first powered flight. It lasted for 12 seconds, but changed history. Orville was lying down on the lower wing of the craft, at the controls; Wilbur running alongside.

Powered flight is now so commonplace, but what a sight it must have been for those on the beach that day!

My drawing from the famous photo by John T. Daniels

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Hatfield reaches out to those following the round-the-world race

While the race has claimed several favourites this week (Loick Peyron on Gitana Eighty dismasted and is slowly making way to nearest land; other boats in the front group have been damaged), the rest of the field continues to struggle with cold seas, constantly changing conditions and lots of fatigue.

In today's update from the Southern Ocean, Derek Hatfield writes about the personal challenges facing him in this difficult stretch of the race:

Hello from Algimouss Spirit of Canada

The Southern Ocean is a very humbling place for me. My emotions are raw and on edge due to lack of sleep, cold, isolation, loneliness and let's face it, just plain fear of the unknown. It seems that tactically, for a while no matter what sail, daggerboard and keel configuration I tried, the boat didn't want to respond to my setup. It's very frustrating so I just returned to basic sailing skills to get through the tough conditions and before long, bingo, back on track. That's what I have been doing for the past few days, it was driving me crazy as to why I was so slow. In a tired state, you start to second guess decisions you have made, which of course leads to more mistakes. So, back to basics.

As you can imagine, the decision to return to the start line for repairs was an emotional hit for me, as a competitor you want every chance to be on fair ground with the others. The chance of being on equal footing was lost and it was a tough decision to go back out there so far behind already. When you dig deep and decide to do a race like the Vendee Globe it is an "all or nothing" decision, you must be very clear and true to yourself about the motivation to go racing. We entered this project to see how we could do against the best in the world but it became clear that we would not have the money it took to win as most of my time was spent marketing and promoting the event rather than physically and mentally training for it. When it came time to put the boat back on the race course after the start I had to look to other motivations to do the race. One very strong motivation, in fact the motivation that has kept us going from day 1 was to take the experience and share it with others, children for example. There are millions of children following the skippers in the race, they find it motivating to do something better in their own lives, it let's them know that if you really want to do something, set your goal and just get on with it until it is done. No matter what happens keep moving forward.

Make no mistake, this race is no 'dream', nor was the decision to do it, but it is a natural progression from the last race around the world. I wish you could all see the emails that I am getting from not just these children, but adults as well who are following the race and wish us well and are also motivated by the whole experience. I wish I could publish them here, maybe in the book. I've had a number of conference calls from groups and classes that are following and I get very motivated by each call. All this to say, thank you for your good wishes and interest in us, it is how we got here and it keeps us going.

Take Care


Position in fleet: 22nd
Location: lat: 44 08.75'S long: 22 11.99'E
Distance to Finish: 17301.4
Distance to Leader: 2137.1
Speed: 13.8
Heading: 93 True
24 hour distance: 280.9nm
Distance to Great America III: 484.4nm (-17nm over last 2 days)
Distance to Aviva: 1153nm (-59nm over last 2 days)

To the regular readers of Zanepost, my apologies: I have been unusually busy in the last few weeks and have not had time to write very much on this site.  

I will try to update soon.  Thanks for your understanding. 

In the meantime I hope you're well and, wherever you may be, that the spirit of the holiday season finds its way to you.

Best wishes,

A reminder to think positively

Recent weeks have been filled with extra meetings and activities and preciously little time to write. The busy season is upon us and it's harder to manage life's demands and the time available.

Perhaps you're like me, and wish you could hold a stopwatch and just go "click." With that "click," I fantasize about having the power to stop all activity around me and allow myself the breathing room to accomplish whatever I like until I'm ready to step back into the vortex of life and of moving time. What a luxury that would be!

Psychologists say it helps to tackle projects in small pieces and to focus on positive thoughts. A positive attitude can make daily challenges, well, seem better, and also yield better results. This mindset is something that does not come naturally to me.

As I face another week, I'll lean on this quote from singer Willie Nelson:

"Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results."

I know it makes sense...I just have to stir up some willpower to focus on the sunny side of life.

One more for inspiration:

"The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible."

Okay! I'm ready to sing in the rain.
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Around the Cape of Good Hope on Day 27 of the global race

The competitors in the Vendée Globe race are flying along the southern seas as they round the Cape of Good Hope and enter into the Indian Ocean in an easterly direction.

For the last few days, the fleet has been moving briskly in strong winds and everyone has been making good speed, with sustained winds of 20-25 knots and higher.

Sébastien Josse in BT and and Yann Elièsin Generali continue to set the pace. Desite having returned to port for a few days to make repairs at the begininng of the race, Canadian Derek Hatfield in Algimouss Spirit of Canada has caught and passed several competitors and now lies in 22nd position.

Here's his report today:

"I spotted my first albatross for this trip early this morning. They are magnificent birds and seem so at home here in the southern ocean. They soar around, doing a wheeling pattern into the trough of the waves and up high and back down again, only flapping their wings occassionaly. I watched one last trip for over five mintues and it never flapped it's wings once, gliding on it's huge wings and relying on the wind between the waves to keep going. I'm wondering if they can do this wheeling and soaring pattern in their sleep. I've read that they will spend months at sea and never touch land.

"Last night was fast and furious again with a top speed of 25.3 knots, a best for this trip and for this boat. I can feel the effects of the high pressure system now and the barometer is starting to rise. It's going to be very close to make it through before the high develops here. It will be slower today as we slowly make our way down to the gate. Ideally I would like to be farther south but will make do with this spot. We may have to jibe south eventually to get into the furious forties. "

The "gate" he's referring to is a turning point off the southern tip of Africa. High pressure systems generally bring clear skies, but weaking winds, and so the competitors try to avoid these systems as much as they can. On the other hand, these systems give the sailors a chance to rest a little and sometimes high pressure brings welcome relief. It's all about timing.

1. For a video report on the race, see this video summary.
2. Photos on this page are courtesy of

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An update from the South Atlantic: message from Spirit of Canada

Here's another dispatch from Derek Hatfield. He writes:

"Great sailing for the last 24 hours, a personal best in mileage at around 368 miles. Knock on wood (carbon), the weather forecast is still showing the possibility of cutting the corner on the St. Helena High and making some miles on the leaders. I'm watching this very closely as I don't want to get caught in the high pressure system that is coming, it will be brutally windless in this area for a few days on the weekend.

The temperature is still very warm and daytime it's shorts and t-shirt and night time a fleece. I can feel the coolness in the air as I head south and it won't be long until the full layers of long underwear and fleece are required. Of course, on deck, it's foul weather gear all the time due to the spray and waves breaking over the boat.

Top speed last night was 22 knots with sustained surfs on 18 knots for long periods of time, it was fantastic sailing. Today I've had to back off a gear from the genoa to the solent as the wind is getting up to high 20's. The boat is on the very edge of control and I felt it better to save the genoa to fight another day, given that it's the only one I have on board.

Word from back in Canada is that the government is in a bit of turmoil and the economy is at scary levels. I'm sure more than one of our sponsors are feeling the pinch of the recession. Hang in there and never give up on your goals. I feel a little guilty that I'm out here away from all of these woes but maybe some of you following the race can at least find it a motivating diversion from the financial situation.

Take care, Derek."

Hatfield in his rhythm

Derek Hatfield crossed the equator this week and headed into the southern Atlantic Ocean, making up some ground on the boats ahead of him in the Vendée Globe round-the-world race.

Crossing the Doldrums near the equator was not as difficult as he feared, as he was fortunate to have some wind in the typically becalmed waters. As he moved into the southern hemisphere, he began fighting headwinds, which make life on Algimouss Spirit of Canada harder, as the boat must constantly tack to make progress. This means long hours at the wheel and little opportunity for sleep. (Most of these sailors are just getting snatches of two hours of sleep here and there; managing fatigue is a big part of the challenge.)

At the front of the pack, the lead has changed several times. Gitana Eighty is no longer at the head of the pack, having moved to a more westerly route. BT leads, followed by VM Matériaux and Generali, but the lead is changing very frequently, as the group prepares to make a big left-hand turn as they line up their approach to the waters under South Africa.

Hatfield sent several updates this week. Here's what he wrote as he approached the equator:

59 miles to do to cross the equator! This is my 5th time crossing that magical line and it is always special having the GPS just flip over from North to South, no fanfare or special signs, it doesn't care so much.

For me this kind of marks the end of phase one in the race - start line to the equator. Phase two starts immediately and takes us down to the south.

It's a little slow today it seems, more upwind work as I get into the weather systems south of the equator. The doldrums were non existent this time across which was lucky. Normally it is a slow painful crossing with many black clouds to negotiate. Thunder and lightning storms and big wind holes that can last for hours. Most of the fleet crossed without stopping I would imagine.

I am very tired today, I had a long night on deck watching for ships and monitoring the autopilot. Three ships came directly from the south, head on and very close. It's a little intimidating to have a large ship playing chicken with a small sailboat. About midnight the autopilot decided to tack the boat while I was asleep and I was rudely awakened with the boat totally on its side going sideways on the opposite tack. It took me about an hour to get it all back on track again and luckily no damage.

I guess the pilot needs some attention so I think I will call him Joshua, after Joshua Slocum the famous Canadian who was the first person to sail around the world single handed. The autopilot on Spirit of Canada in the Around Alone was called Joshua as well.

And today, he sent this message:

Hello from Algimouss Spirit of Canada.

Slowly, ever so slowly the wind backs as we beat and thrash our way upwind. Most uncomfortable. I'm not sure if the fleet ahead of me had upwind conditions like this but it would explain why they did not pull away after the doldrums like I thought they should have. Normally we would be close reaching down the coast of Brazil. Ironically when we come this way again in 7 or 8 weeks, we will probably be upwind again past Brazil towards the finish line. The humidity is taking it's toll in skin rashes and blisters. Everytime I go on deck it's either a salt water shower or foul weather gear while sweating to death underneath. After more than two weeks at sea, I begin to wonder if "foul" weather gear refers to the outside or the inside of the gear. Time for a good rain shower I'm hoping, before it gets too cold in another week or so. Time for lunch; chicken with noodles and bread and peanut butter and jam. And a french chocolat pudding for dessert.

1. Photo is courtesy of the race organizers at
2. For more detailed discussion of the race and sailing strategy, see the Daily Sail's reporting on the race.
3. For those of you that are reading the Zanepost race update for the first time...The event began on November 9th and we're providing periodic updates. See previous days for more information or go to the first entry for background: Thirty sailors tackle solo race around the globe.
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Six myths about Thanksgiving

Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930), "The First Thanksgiving" (public domain) 

"Gratitude is a sign of noble souls." - Aesop

On November 27th, Thanksgiving Day in the United States, families are sitting down to a traditional meal in commemoration of the harvest celebrations held by early English settlers who survived their first tenuous years in what is now Massachusetts.

Probably the most famous Thanksgiving was the celebration in 1621, organized by Plymouth governor William Bradford. He had arrived in 1620 with other religious separatists from England on the now famous Mayflower ship.  During their first winter on the American continent, about half of the settlers died.  By the fall of the next year, the settlement had become more established and prospects had brightened. Before winter set in again, Bradford invited local Native Americans to join the colonists in a three-day festival to give thanks for the harvest.  

Why is Thanksgiving celebrated on a Thursday and not on a Saturday or Sunday?  According to,  post-harvest festivals were celebrated by the settlers on the day usually set aside as "Lecture Day," which was a midweek day set aside for a church meeting with topical sermons. 

The image above, painted hundreds of years later, helped to create our mental picture of what that first Thanksgiving might have been like.  However, like so many other works of art created years after an event, it contains many historical inaccuracies; myths, you might say.  
Did the early settlers eat pumpkin pie and turkey?  Where they indeed "Pilgrims"?

These are some of the questions that are answered in an interesting bit of trivia that identifies six myths about Thanksgiving. Originally printed in the quirky The Best of the Best of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, they were recently posted with permission on this eclectic site.  It's quite interesting.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American friends!

1. Ferris's painting is in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons and the Library of Congress. Copyright has expired (life of author + 70 years).
2.If you'd like to read about Bradford and the early days of the Plymouth colony, see the entry in Wikipedia, with links to Bradford's own journal.

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An immigrant asks about Thanksgiving

On Thursday, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day. For some immigrants in North America, the holiday can be intriguing.

My friend and colleague Ben Viccari, publisher of the online Canscene service (Canada's Multicultural Scene), recently posted an interesting commentary he wrote about one man's curiosity about Thanksgiving Day and Remembrance Day. I found it fitting to reproduce it on this occasion. 

Ibrahim Wants To Know

 It says something about the heritage shared by Americans and Canadians and the gap that sometimes exists in the understanding of that heritage with some newcomers. In a taxi driving me home last month, I found Ibrahim, the driver, conducive to conversation and asked him how he’d fared during the recent Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.

Not badly, he said, but then asked me the true significance of Thanksgiving Day. I used as a comparison, Eid, the feast that ends the month long Islamic month of fasting. But I had to tell him that unlike Ramadan and Eid, our Thanksgiving had strayed from its religious past into a far more material world.

Just before our trip ended, he asked me the meaning of Remembrance Day and I could do little better than refer him to sources of information at his local public library. I would have needed a ride to North Bay to have explained all the ramifications of two world wars which failed to bring peace to humankind.

We do our best to help newcomers adjust to life in Canada, finding shelter, jobs and understanding what’s legal and whats not. However, in the intensity of zeroing-in on the target, could we be overlooking other opportunities to help them know and understand Canada? Warts and all?

-By permission of Ben Viccari

Coming up on Zanepost:  Six Myths About Thanksgiving 

Ben Viccari is past president of the Canadian Ethnic Media Association.  To learn more about Ben, see this article. The link to Canscene is above.
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Racing into the South Atlantic, solo sailors scan weather charts for best wind conditions; Hatfield fixing generator

The round-the-world competitors are now strung out in the middle of the Atlantic with more than one-thousand nautical miles separating the front of the pack from the rear.  

Most of the leaders made a relatively quick transit through the Doldrums and the Equator and are now bearing South, off the coast of Brazil and parallel to the island of St. Helena, which is a long way to the East.

The tenacious Loick Peyron aboard Gitanta Eighty continues to lead, followed by Sebastien Josse on BT.

St. Helena is important to the sailors because it gives it's name to a high-pressure system that determines the winds in the Southern Atlantic, and all of the skippers are taking a close look at their charts to try to anticipate wind speeds and direction.

The island has few inhabitants and is very isolated. It became famous as a remote prison. Lying thousands of nautical miles from the nearest land mass, it was the perfect place for the British to banish Napoleon. He remained in exile there under guard until his death in 1821. St. Helena was also the place where, at the end of the 19th Century, thousands of Boer prisoners were held during the war of the same name.

While the leaders of the Vendée Globe are sailing faster as they head South, near the back of the pack Canadian Derek Hatfield, aboard Algimouss Spirit of Canada, has been wrestling with a malfunctioning electrical charging system and has lost a little distance as he attempts to make repairs. He's now entering the Doldrums area in the sticky heat close to the Equator. He says in a recent message that he's hoping for a calm day so he can go out on the back of the boat and try to fix the wind generator.

Here's his dispatch from earlier Monday:

"Yesterday was practice day for the doldrums. A weak low pressure system seems to be crossing in front of me and the result is that for 24 hours now I have had very light winds. A very frustrating day indeed as I never sleep during the slow times as I don't want to miss any opportunities to take advantage of the wind. I must say I'm feeling a bit unlucky with the weather systems that I have encountered so far in the race. I must get my head into the weather files a bit more than I have been but this is a double edge sword; more computer time, more energy consumed. Oh well, I think I'm whining a a bit too much here, I just need to get on with it. My turn with the good luck with the weather will come."

As with all the competitors, we wish Derek good luck and safe sailing.

1 Photograph of Foncia is courtesy Jacques Vapillon/DPPI/Vendée Globe.  Used by permission, courtesy www.Vendé
2. To learn about St. Helena, see St. Helena, South Atlantic Ocean
3. If you're interested in the winds and the effect of the island on the racers, read St. Helena and Her Demons at the race website.

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Intriguing possibilities in the convergence between science and spirituality

A growing number of scholars, from physicists to psychologists, are studying the universe from a new perspective: they are exploring whether our lives are defined by an unseen energy field that runs through us, surrounds us and that forms every living and non-living thing.

Research in physics is pointing to evidence that every subatomic particle in the universe contains energy that is pure potential, energy that changes form based on how it is measured. This is one of the principles of Quantum Theory and it could affect how we interact with each other and with the world.

What does this mean for me?

If this is true, it means I'm an inseparable part of the energy field of the universe.  It means I'm connected to every other person.  This also means that when I do something, negative or positive, whether it's polluting the environment, or helping someone, I affect the vast energy field we are all in.

I know this may sound far-fetched, but we are seeing the convergence of science and spirituality in ways our species has never experienced before. Quantum studies and spirituality may be indicating a new evolutionary stage for human beings.

The wise men of antiquity alluded to these things before, indicating that the universe is not only "out there;" it's also within ourselves.  We just need to see it.

Deepak Chopra calls it "universal consciousness."  And if we can become aware of it, we can use it.  Some refer to it as the law of attraction; others, as the power of intention.  The theory is that when we aim for something, we start to see possibilities and forces align themselves with our intention; details and opportunities emerge and converge in ways in which we were previously unaware.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) said it this way, "The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred...unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way."

Think about the last time you set a goal for yourself, and how you achieved it.  Almost always, when you look back on the chain of events, you see how some things just fell into place; or how you happened to "bump into" people or find information that helped you along the way.  It's quite possible that in setting your goal you set an awareness level that brought opportunities to your attention. 

This force can be put to good use for the benefit of others, too.  In his book "How To Expand Love, " the Dalai Lama writes, "Each one of us is responsible for all of humankind. We need to think of each other as true brothers and sisters, and need to be concerned with each other's welfare."  

 "Without the appreciation of kindness, society breaks down. Human society exists because it is impossible to live in complete isolation. We are interdependent by nature...As small children we very much depend on the kindness of our parents. Again in old age we depend on the kindness of others.  Between childhood and old age we falsely believe we are independent, but this is not so."

Whether science is on the right track or not, thinking about universal consciousness can be very beneficial, especially to those who feel they are victims of a particular situation, casualties of a cruel world or of bad set of circumstances.  Thinking about a universal consciousness can provide a sort of motivational therapy. Focusing our thoughts positively can not only improve our outlook, but maybe also "move" things in our favour.  If this is true, it's an amazing thing.

As the Chopra Centre for Wellbeing put it in a recent newsletter: "Each of us exists as a ripple in the conscious intelligence field that gives rise to everything in the universe -- our bodies, the stars, the galaxies, and all else. Since we are an inseparable part of this underlying field of intelligence, we are also the source of all reality. In every moment, we are co-creating our world with God, the universe, or spirit."

Are we indeed a "ripple" in an energy field?  What do you think about this?  Leave a comment and express your opinion. I'd love to read more viewpoints.

1. For a quick overview of Quantum Theory, see "Quantum Physics Overview"at
2. Deepak Chopra is a best-selling author. See more in this Wikipedia introduction
3.  Quote by Goethe is from Dr. Wayne W. Dyer's book "The Power of Intention." Introduction to Chapter 12.
4. Quote by the Dalai Lama is from the book "How To Expand Love, " the conclusion of Chapter 6: "The Second Step: Appreciating Kindness."
5. The Chopra Center newsletter is called Namaste'.  The universal consciousness reference can be found here.
6. Photo is courtesy of Steve Woods.

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High-resolution images of cities provide another way to see the world


If you enjoy visiting different cities, the Internet provides an infinite variety of ways to collect information and see your destination before you depart.  

If you haven't seen it already, Google Earth has partnered with to provide an entertaining and unique way to experience the world's great cities on your computer screen. It's an application that combines a map function with 360-degree, high resolution photographs of many locations around the world.

To give you an idea, I've gone to Torino, the city of my birth, for an example. Take a look at the Vittorio Emanuele bridge on the Po River by clicking here. Dots on the image provide information about important landmarks (the site calls them "hotspots"), and you can click on the bottom of the photos for other interesting locations nearby. You can also superimpose the image on a map, which also allows you to zoom in and out as you wish.

Who needs to fly when the world is at your fingertips?

1. The home page for 360cities is at
3. The photograph above is Toronto by night, courtesy of Duilio Zane. 
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Waiting at the pool

I was at the nearby community centre the other night, and stopped by the swimming pool to watch.  Lessons for toddlers had just finished in the shallow pool.  Just minutes before, the water was full of parents and children splashing. 

In the rectangular pool, people were swimming laps.

This man was waiting for someone with towels under his arm and I thought I'd try a little sketch.

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Race leaders In the Doldrums...while Hatfield worries about battery power

The leaders in the round-the-world race are wallowing in the Doldrums around the equator tonight, but they're optimistic that the breeze is returning. They hope they'll emerge relatively soon, within a day or two.

This is a photo of Loick Peyron, the race leader.  Notice the flat water behind him.Very slight breezes for the leading competitors today.

(Photo is courtesy of and the Gitana team.)

Meanwhile, here's the latest from Derek Hatfield. He sent this dispatch today:

Hello from Algimouss Spirit of Canada

Position: 30 31.142 N X 19 26.222 W

I have been attempting to deal with a battery/charging problem for the past day so I may have suffered a little bit in the standings on the fleet. This problem was caused by the storm just after the start in the Bay of Biscay and it was not detected when we returned to the start line. I am more or less back up to speed now but watching the batteries very closely as I have not been able to solve the problem. I will continue to work on a solution.

Otherwise everything is good on board. The sailing is fantastic and the weather nice. More soon

Take Care


Round-the-world leaders reach the Doldrums; Hatfield near Madeira

The leaders in the single-handed Vendée Globe yacht race have arrived in the Doldrums, the area of ocean near the Equator where the air is notoriously still and sailing becames difficult.

Loick Peyron in Gitana Eighty leads a group of about six boats fighting for position and searching for the best path to enter the Doldrums. The skipper who reads the faint breezes best could be the first in and the first out of the "black pot, " as the French call this region.

The Doldrums is also known as the "Inter-tropical Convergence Zone." It's an area that usually lies about 5 degrees on either side of the Equator. The sun heats the water in this area and moisture rises in convection currents straight up, but does not move horizontally due to the lack of wind. The Doldrums is an area of high humidity and fierce convectional squalls can bring sudden downpours.

In previous centuries, mariners sometimes would get trapped for weeks at a time in the stifling air here and many sailors died of disease or malnourishment. The Vendée Globe web site points out the Doldrums is "synonymous with extreme tiredness, because such effort was required to get out of this area with the crews having to row longboats in order to tow the vessels, the notorious zone of persistent calms gave rise to the expression 'to be down in the doldrums.' "

Michel Desjoyeux in Foncia, the winner of the last edition of the race four years ago, is behind the leading pack, but is the racer who has covered the most distance in the last 24 hours, almost 257 nautical miles.

Like Derek Hatfield in Algimouss Spirit of Canada, Desjoyeux was one of the racers who had to return to port to make repairs after the first stormy day.

Hatfield, meanwhile, is sailing smoothly in the vicinity of Madeira and will be charting a course for the Cape Verde Islands next. Like the competitors before him, he will need to plot his course carefully. In this area, some chose to steer well to the West of the Islands, while others decided to take the shorter, but riskier, route of navigating on the East side. Sailing too close to the islands can be a gamble because of the strong possibility of wind shadow created by the land mass. This can reduce the wind available to the sailor and really impede progress.

Whatever route Hatfield chooses, he has a reasonable chance of catching up to other competitors as they slow down near the Doldrums.

Reading the dispatches from the competitors, one gets the distinct impression that those who have found a way to get some quality sleep are now doing better than those who are severely sleep-deprived. Finding ways to sleep and choosing the best time to get some quality rest must surely be one of the most difficult tasks in an event like this.

Hatfield seems to have settled into a comfortable routine. Here's what he said in a recent dispatch from Algimouss Spirit of Canada:

Life on board is starting to take on the singlehanded sailors
routine. I’ve been eating fresh food from the start but it won’t
last much longer. I haven’t started into the freeze dried yet.
It’s getting warmer as I head south, it’s 26 C inside the cabin
today so almost time to take off a mid layer but it’s much cooler
on deck, especially in the shade. It won’t be long before I’ll be
into shorts; I’m sure they are at the front already for a while

I had a visit from a large pod of dolphins just before sunset
yesterday. There must have been 50 or more, all playing around
the boat. They always cheer me up as they look like the are
having so much fun.


1. Photo of Michel Desjoyeux in Foncia is by François Van Malleghem / DPPI / Vendée Globes, courtesy of
2. For more information on the Doldrums, see Trade Winds, Horse Latitudes, and the Doldrums
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For those who just can't take fashion seriously


Like most people, I enjoy watching well-dressed people. People who dress with elegance and style are always pleasing to the eye.  

However, I much prefer discovering these people on the street than going to a fashion show.  Perhaps I'm typically male in this respect, because when it comes to the "artistic" creations of the catwalk, I quickly lose interest.  I'm much more of an admirer of the practical.

In this sense, I may have something in common with Robert Basler, who writes the Reuters Oddly Enough blog ("News, but not the serious kind").  Basler enjoys writing about strange designs on the catwalks. He has a lot of fun with these odd creations, and I can't say I blame him.

Here are some samples:  

When I need new clothes, I think I'll stick with the local shopping mall.

For a related story, see "Everyone has a sense of style."
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Why Buffalo residents are leading efforts to renew and preserve the city's architectural heritage

For many of us living in Southern Ontario, the city of Buffalo has been a destination for bargain shopping or a place to watch an NHL game at reasonable prices.  But besides that, and with the possible exception of it being the birthplace of the popular Buffalo chicken wings, the city has often been maligned for not having sufficient points of interest and for being poor and rundown.  

Buffalo did have its heyday, however. Back at the turn of the century, it was an important American city that attracted architects from around the world. It hosted the 1901 Pan American Exposition, during which electric lighting for buildings was demonstrated for the first time on a large scale. People came to Buffalo because it was an important industrial centre and a key gateway to other, more westerly American cities like Chicago.

Later in the century, the city's economy slowly declined, especially after the opening of the St. Lawrence Canal system in 1959, which diverted much activity from the Erie Canal system that up to that point had been the main industrial artery.

Now the city is in renewal mode again.  As developers present innovative new projects, they are coming face-to-face with local residents and preservationists intent on saving Buffalo's most revered architectural landmarks. These include famous buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright and Daniel Burnham. This grassroots activity serves as a reminder that these buildings are interesting landmarks and worth seeing. It shows what a great city Buffalo was once and could become again.  I'm convinced that out of this tension and public debate, good things will develop for the city.

The New York Times recently published an article exploring the situation in Western New York's most important city.  Entitled  "Saving Buffalo's Untold Beauty," it's an interesting perspective for those of us who tend to simply pass through the city on our way to other destinations.  The Times has a photo essay that summarizes the article with photographs from some of Buffalo's landmarks. Click on this link for a virtual visit.


1. Photograph shows Hayes Hall of the University of Buffalo, courtesy of Kyle Mastalinski.
2. For more on Frank Lloyd Wright's home designs, see "Frank Lloyd Wright Tour in Oak Park, Illinois."
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The world's oldest joke book is still current

Have you seen the story in the news about the ancient Greek book of jokes?

A collection of jokes from 1,600 years ago was recently translated, and it turns out that the old saying is probably correct: the best jokes are indeed the oldest ones.

William Berg, an American professor, carefully translated a collection of jokes as told by Hierocles and Philagrius, a comedy duo from the 4th Century AD. It could be the world's oldest collection of funny dialogue.

Now people are talking about how one of the stories may have been the forerunner to the famous Monty Python comedy sketch about a man returning a dead parrot to the shopkeeer who sold it to him. In the scene, the shopkeeper looks at the stiff, lifeless parrot and asks matter-of-factly what's wrong with it. The unhappy customer says,"I'll tell you what's wrong with it. It's dead, that's what's wrong with it."

The sketch goes on, of course.

The ancient Greek joke book ("Philogelos: The Laugh Addict"), has the same joke, except it's about a man returning a dead slave. "By the gods," answers the slave's seller, "when he was with me, he never did any such thing!"

The book presents a fascinating insight into the classical world. The people we've read about in history books come alive in speech and mannerisms.

If you're interested, comic Jim Bowen is presenting these jokes to a modern audience and is making them available on line. See his collection at the e-publishing site Yudu

This story has many sides to it. If you'd like to read more of the humour, see Ancient Greeks pre-empted Dead Parrot sketch, or Dead Parrot Ancestor Found.

Here's the Monty Python sketch on YouTube. Many viewers voted it as one of the most popular of the television series.

Photo courtesy of Lynne Lancaster.

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Hatfield sends a message

Courtesy François Van Malleghem/DPPI/Vendée Globe, as posted on vendé .
With permission

Here's the photograph from the Vendée Globe that shows Derek Hatfield on his way again.

On the race website, he says, “Things are very good, I am just rounding Cape Finisterre and so we are making good progress across the Bay of Biscay, not like the first time coming out. Leaving Les Sables d’Olonne it was a little bit emotional, things there are kind of winding down but I was very happy to get away. Team Pindar helped me get up and running again, team members from Ecover and Hugo Boss also helped me, and so it was a great collaboration.”

I am brining in the wind from astern and so I am a little closer to Bernard (Stamm), but of course he is a great competitor, so hopefully we will have a battle pushing each other towards the front of the fleet. I am going to race hard, but you know I need to get my head into this, and my motivation is to get around the world and see how we can do against the rest of the fleet, we are a little handicapped now, but I feel very comfortable and very confident now, I am taking care of the boat now.”

In the last 24 hours a number of teams have experienced intermittent problems with their autopilots. Normally, the autopilot takes over the steering of the vessel when the skippers try to catch a quick nap or when they work on other tasks. On at least two boats, Temenos and Bahrain Team Pindar, the computer seems to have suddenly malfunctioned, with almost disastrous results.

Here's how Dominque Wavre on Temenos describes it:

"Fine night, choppy to begin with, but steady trade wind with a moon lighting the way. Broad reaching with automatic pilot and big gennaker. I start to snooze, keeping one eye on the dials, as frequently surfing at 20-22 knots, and heeling over occasionally. All of a sudden the pilot alarm went off. I rushed outside and saw we were broaching. I leapt to the helm without my foul weather gear on, with tons of water crashing down. We were under gennaker (300 m2), staysail and mainsail and heeled over at 50°. I turned the alarm off and bore away and to my surprise, Temenos righted herself. We were still sailing quickly and the leeward rudder stayed in the water. Got the boat back on track and put the pilot back on and it seemed to work...."

Brian Thompson on Bahrain Team Pindar has experienced four occurrences of the autopilot switching itself of. The problems could be related to the batteries or the computers on the boats. The sailors would be happy to do without the sudden rushes of adrenaline.

Gitana Eighty continues to lead the race.
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Spirit of Canada back in the race

Good news today for Canadian fans of the Vendée Globe race.

Derek Hatfield is back at sea and chasing the rest of the field after completing repairs at Les Sables D'Olonne, France.

The Spirit of Canada team, with a smaller budget than many other groups, received vital assistance from the technical staff of Bahrain Team Pindar.

Most of the field is now near the Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa, but the race has a long way to go and nothing can be taken for granted. Four boats have officially retired from the race.

Here was the news Canadians had been waiting for, as communicated in the Spirit of Canada's web site by Patianne Verburgh:

"It’s official, Derek crossed the start line once again after making repairs to Algimouss Spirit of Canada at 02.00hr local time in France. Derek is unbelievable lucky to be able to repair the boat once again and commence racing. The repairs were made possible because of the involvement of Bahrain Team Pindar’s Technical Team and help from Andrew Pindar in particular. We did not have the resources to do this ourselves.

"Derek is currently doing 10 kts of boat speed with 23598 nm to finish. What a Herculean effort this has been for him; he continues to make us very proud."

Photo courtesy of http://www.vendé

A historic athletic achievement

This monument on Boston Common caught my eye when we were visiting a few weeks ago.

Erected in honour of the Oneida Football Club, it recognizes "one of the first organized teams to play any kind of football in the United States" (Wikipedia).

Followers of soccer and American football both claim the Oneida landmark as their own, but it's likely that the game mentioned on the plaque was a unique brand of competition, with a formalized set of rules that no longer exist. A regular roster of Boston high school students played matches in the 1860s against all-comers.

The plaque shows a soccer ball, but historians still argue whether the game was more akin to today's American football. The most interesting thing about the monument is the inscription, which I tried to capture in my photograph. It reads:

"On this field the Oneida Football Club of Boston, the first organized club in the United States, played against all comers from 1862 to 1865. The Oneida goal was never crossed.

This monument was placed on Boston Common, November 1925, by the seven surviving members of the Team."

Oneida, by the way, is the name of an American Indian Nation. The Oneida people are known as the "first allies of the United States" because they fought alongside George Washington in the War of Independence. They are honoured in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.


1. Read more about Boston Common, at the City of Boston's web site.
2. For more on the Oneida, see the Oneida Indian Nation site.
3. See also the fascinating story of Washington's ally, the great Chief Shenendoah

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Sketches from a commute (and an update on the round-the-world race)

Scenes from the commute to and from work...

I found it a little difficult to sketch on the subway and streetcar, but it was a good experience.

While public transit is a good thing, every system can be improved. Sometimes it seems like it takes forever to get from point A to point B when you're travelling off rush hour.

I passed the time thinking about those solo sailors in the Atlantic and imagined the salty wind on my face...

Vendée Globe Update

The Spirit of Canada team is working on the repairs to the boat. During a thorough review, they also discovered problems with the mast.

Here's what the crew communicated from Les Sables D'Olonne, while working hard to get Derek Hatfield back in the race:

"Derek had returned with a list of things that either had been damaged or lost in the storm on Sunday and Monday. But once we boarded the boat outside the harbor last night [Tuesday]; the list got bigger; the mainsail would not come down. After a bit of persuasion the mainsail started to come down the mast track….then the sound of ball-bearings hitting the deck, the head-car had left the mast track. Once in port, a team member went up to discover that the track had been pulled out of the mast creating damage to the carbon. The weather system that struck the fleet has caused a lot of damage to the other boats so we are taking all precautions to make sure that we have a good going over the boat while Derek is in port. The mast has been taken from the boat and an ultrasound will be done tonight [Wednesday] to determine the extent of the damage. The mast technicians are working through the night tonight preparing to laminate carbon. Best estimates now are that Derek will be ready to leave port on the afternoon tide on Friday."

At the time of this writing Gitana Eighty is in the lead, approaching Madeira.

The round-the-world race is being followed closely in England and France, while in North America it hasn't caught on yet. The New York Times published an interesting article on Tuesday. Check it out: "In France, the Vendée Globe Race Gains Popularity"

Thanks to Jonny Malbon's team for mentioning Zanepost in their blog on Tuesday (11th). Malbon's got a great site. You can read his comments from the race and watch a variety of videos:

Pushing through adversity

Food for thought:

"We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities."  -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"You cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind" -- Author unknown.

"Fortune favours the brave."  -- Publius Terence

"The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible."  -- Arthur C. Clarke

This sampling today is courtesy of

A lot of these musings could be applied to the competitors of the Vendée Globe race.

Today's update

Derek Hatfield has made it back to Les Sables d'Olonne and his team is now evaluating the extent of the electrical problems and other issues with the Algimouss Spirit of Canada.

Three competitors have now officially retired because of the breakage of the main mast on their boats. is the latest to limp back.  Skipper Yannick Bestaven tells Vendé the story:

"The seas were still very rough and I was letting out a reef at the foot of the mast after ploughing through two huge waves, which had swept over the deck. The boat suddenly crashed down onto the third one and the impact was violent, leading to the mast to come out of its step and fall down in 3 pieces. Fortunately, I was wearing my harness , which saved me and the mast came down beside of me without touching me. In the dark of night, the mast was pushed along by the waves and kept banging into the boat. I had to cut off the shrouds and stays. I couldn't recover anything, and threw a year's work overboard. This is the worst thing that could have happened. I feel exhausted, disheartened to see our round the world voyage finish in this way"

On the brighter side, the weather changed for the better today, and the remaining competitors were able to breath a little easier.

Dee Caffari aboard Aviva explains:" The difference today is unbelievable. The sky is clear apart from cumulus cloud, the sun is shining and you have great visibility. The wind has now moved and is coming from the north and I am sailing in much better conditions, smoother water and with a full main and code 3 up. I can now try catching up with sleeping, eating and generally living." 

Caffari was able to speak by radio to the other woman in the race, Samantha Davies on Roxy, and they decided to each drink a cup of tea in celebration. At the time of this writing the women are sailing in the 12th and 13th positions.

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Almost a third of the Vendée Globe's competitors forced back to shore

Pounding seas and mechanical problems are taking their toll on the sailors competing in the Vendée Globe solo round-the-world race. 

After one full day of racing, at least eight boats have been forced to make for land for repairs.  Canada's Derek Hatfield is among them, unfortunately.  He turned Algimouss Spirit of Canada around today after 231 miles due to an electrical problem.

The rules of the race allow competitors to return only to Les Sables d'Olonne in the first 10 days of the competition.

Jonny Malbon remains in the race aboard Artemis. His support team's web site has a concise summary of the day's mishaps and the boats returning to shore:

Race favourite Michel Desjoyeux's Foncia sprung a leak;
Alex Thomson's Hugo Boss has a damaged hull;
Groupe Bel and have both been dismasted;
Temenos returned yesterday with an electrical problem;
Groupe Maisonneuve has a broken deck panel that will require several days to repair;
Cheminées Poujoulat is still in dock for repairs to a broken bowsprit.

In a race that lasts more than two months, losing a few days for repairs may not be all that bad. With favourable conditions, the boats could make up some of the lost time.

Loick Peyron's Gitana Eighty now leads the race.  The two women, Dee Caffari and Samantha Davies, remain in contention in Aviva and Roxy.

A cold front is expected in the next few hours and the winds will grow stronger still, with gusts between 45 and 55 knots. Better weather is predicted in the days after the front passes.


Photo of Groupe Bel is courtesy of Vendé, Benoit Stichelbaut
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A different perspective on life

The other day I was returning from Ottawa on an evening flight.  I had a window seat and had a good view of the ground as we descended for the landing. It was about 6:30 PM.  While I had seen traffic from the air before, I was mesmerized by the flow of traffic on this particular evening. 

When cars have their headlights on, you see very clearly the ebb and flow and speed of movement.  I thought the movement looked a lot like many trails of ants moving frenetically on the jungle floor. I was astounded by a number of things.  First, at the sheer number of vehicles on the road on this typical Toronto rush hour.  Secondly, from 1o,ooo feet up, how insignificant all these cars appear when they look all the same and when one cannot identify people in them. That was a disconcerting thought.   Are we all just worker ants going to and from the same places in our metal machines, day in and day out?  What is the purpose of life? What would a visitor from an earlier time think if this is all they saw?

It seems to me that we have all become used to a faster lifestyle and to the relative ease of movement in vehicles.  But has life become too frenetic?

The reality is that in each of these cars sits a different, unique human being.  No matter what the job or the reason for being on the road, each of these people is a person with talents and abilities,  goals and dreams.  

Each one of us has the power to examine our life and it's a good thing to do so periodically.

If you'd like to explore this further,  you can read more in The Illuminated Mind,  a web site about clarity, which recently posted some interesting articles about finding your life purpose.  

Update on the Vendée Globe:

It's been a rough night for the competitors. Three have had to turn back to port for repairs. Michel Desjoyeux on Foncia, Dominique Wafra on Temenos both experienced electrical problems, while Bernard Stamm on Cheminées Poujoulat collided with a fishing vessel and broke the bowsprit on the boat.  Temenos returned to sea after only a short stop.

Safran is in the lead, while Spirit of Canada this morning was in the back half of the field. Most boats are heading directly west into the Atlantic before turning south and southwest.
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Thirty sailors tackle solo race around the globe

They're off !   The competitors in the Vendée Globe, the round-the-world solo yacht race, left the coast of France at 13:02 today and headed from the Bay of Biscay out into the Atlantic.

This gruelling race - that will last more than 80 days - presents a challenge for each of the 30 seasoned sailors in the competition.  The sea is rough today, with a swell of 2-3 meters.  It will be a difficult first night for the field.

Of the 30 competitors, 17 are French and 7 are British.  Two are women, who received loud cheers from the large crowds that gathered dockside this morning.  We will be following Canada's Derek Hatfield, who is sailing the Algimouss Spirit of Canada entry.

The boats in the race are all Open 60s, which are said to be the fastest boats in sailing.  They are built of carbon fibre and are designed to be as light as possible while also being strong enough to withstand heavy forces on the mast and the hull in rough seas.

The Open 60s also are designed from the beginning for a single-handed sailing.  They are packed with electronic and communications equipment.  Under special safety rules, they are designed to right themselves if they are knocked down or capsized.  

During such a long solo trip at sea, muscular and mental fatigue, lack of sleep and stress will affect the performance of the skippers.  Because the Atlantic is rough today, the sailors probably will not get much sleep this first night.

We wish all the competitors a safe journey.

1. The Vendée Globe site has all the latest race information, profiles of all the competitors, videos and other features.   www.vendé
2. The Spirit of Canada web site offers Flash videos of Derek Hatfield sailing the boat and updated information.
3. For some more background, see the Zanepost item from October 28th: "Getting ready for a round-the-world race.
4. Photo credit: Vendée Globe/Benoit Stichelbaut/Chemineés Poujoulat. 
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