Tuesday, 27 November 2012

What next for Sir Ben??

So his glittering Olympic career has come to an end and what an epic monumental success the past 16 years have been with precious few failures or setbacks apart from those minor injury concerns that come with getting on a bit.

Four golds, a silver and universal recognition, which is perhaps his greatest achievement since he has triumphed in a minority sport where headlines are almost impossible to command.

Footballers just have to sneeze or behave badly to merit blanket media coverage but a sailor has to do a heck of a lot more, like devote 16 years of your life (and the rest) to the exclusion of all else to training and competing as Ainslie has done or beat yourself up on the high seas, at the expense of soul and sanity, as Dame Ellen MacArthur did during her extraordinary world record in B & Q back in 2005.

Ainslie was caught out once for behaving badly when in December last year, he had a run in with a cameraman who had been following his racing much too closely. It prompted an incandescent rage and the sort of colourful invective that Ainslie is renowned for when the red mist descends in combat.

We saw it again in Weymouth in August when he needed something extra to fend off the mighty challenge from the Great Dane Jonas Hoegh-Christensen.

For seasoned Ainslie watchers, the temper tantrum in Perth was pretty normal but what was unusual was that his actions were recorded on film. Not only was he disqualified but in an instant, his public cover as a courteous mild-mannered sort was blown and the aggressive, gladiatorial, passionate athlete that his medals always demonstrated, was exposed.

Inevitably the public was immediately engaged - sport is all about personality - and his big hoorah in Weymouth became compelling especially after he was beaten in Weymouth six weeks before the Olympic Games by his younger British rival Giles Scott. Would that blazing fury cost him the fourth gold and a slice of history or could he hold it all together?

We all know what happened next so it was predictable that Ainslie would call time on that career after the Olympics but what is intriguing is the timing of his announcement, some two months later.

Nothing has changed since August 5th when he won his fifth medal to become the greatest Olympic sailor in history. His claim on the British Finn spot at Rio 2016 always looked tenuous due to the rise of the  formidable Scott.

The Star class, the preserve of his gold medal winning chums Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson that Ainslie was hoping to muscle in on for Rio 2016, is still on the scrapheap. His AC45 campaign which he is hoping to turn into an America's Cup campaign has a sponsor but until next year, no competition since the next regatta is not until April 2013.

Maybe the letter from Buckingham Palace has finally arrived which means he can ease up in his 'public' duties and concentrate on the America's Cup, which if successful will bring more glory to Britain and make him very rich.

Already honoured, Ainslie was hankering after the knighthood and my guess is that he has heard it is on its way, as he so richly deserves.  

This is what I wrote during the Olympics - before Super Sunday - about Ainslie calling it quits.

"OK so I have no confirmation of this and he always trots out the ‘never say never’ line when asked about it but my instinct is that Ben Ainslie will quit Olympic sailing after Sunday's sensational showdown at London 2012 with Jonas Hoegh-Christensen from Denmark.

Let me explain why. He has made no secret of the fact he has found the physical demands of Finn training and racing incredibly hard in this Olympic cycle. The introduction of free downwind pumping in the class has made a massive difference to the fitness levels these guys need to consistently win races at this level.

Ainslie has an aggressive style of pumping – just watching him wears me out frankly. And when you hear Rebecca Adlington say at the age of 23, she can no longer compete seriously with the 15 and 16 year olds coming through, you realise how tricky it must be for the 35 year-old Ainslie to match the strapping young talent in the Finn class.

 To say he has worked bloody hard is an understatement. He has been grinding away on the treadmill day after day after day since late 2010 when Keith Mills revealed he was disbanding his America’s Cup syndicate Team Origin.

That decision while gut wrenching, freed him up for the gym and from that point, Ainslie who was seriously underweight and underfit for the Finns, devoted his waking hours to beefing up every physiology element that could be measured.  

He is now around 15 kgs heavier than he was then – but still quite slight for a Finn sailor – which has been vital to his campaign for gold, especially in the stronger Weymouth breezes.

The chances of him wanting to do all that again, when the incredibly talented Giles Scott is waiting in the wings, are nil. And besides, getting his fourth gold medal in front of a British crowd would have meant EVERYTHING to this fiercely patriotic bloke.

As a script, it could not have been written better and his final Olympic chapter will make a belter of a climax. A postscript in Rio 2016 might prove woefully limp as a wrap!

He has also laid the foundations for the next phase of his career and will be off as soon as the Olympics are over to get started. No professional sailing career is complete without a win in the America’s Cup and although the event is not so coveted as it once was, Ainslie is intent on having the Auld Mug in his massive trophy cabinet.

It will take a lot of effort and support and money and although his Ben Ainslie Racing campaign has been launched, he needs some big sponsorship bucks to make it successful . That will become his priority and will fill every waking hour. He will also need to get up to speed on the AC45s – his multihull experience has been limited – but that won’t take long for someone of his remarkable talents.

With a fourth gold medal to add to the silver from Atlanta, he will become the greatest Olympic sailor in history, which reflects those remarkable talents and 20 years of sacrifice, effort and endeavour.

It is difficult to think of one reason why he would continue in Olympic sailing and in some ways, it is surprising he has not announced his retirement already but then, you can see why he would want to keep his options open. 

He is the most marketable commodity in British sailing, perhaps in world sailing, and it would be daft to pass up any opportunity to add to his growing fortune. He may want another Aston Martin in the near future and do away with his trusty Volvo, you never know. 

His interests outside of sailing are growing too. He has taken up flying and wants to get his pilot’s licence and is mad for motor racing. With his intensive gym programme tapered, he can devote more time to these leisurely activities though it difficult to see them taking over.

And of course he wants a family and they don’t happen by magic so that too will take up time. His type of Olympic obsession excludes normal activities but the years are passing and so perhaps are the opportunities for a match made in heaven. Many men have had two wives by the time they are 35 for heaven’s sake.

But I’m probably wrong about all of this. It has been known."

Friday, 9 November 2012

Sir Keith plans his coup d'etat

There were only a couple of French journalists at Sir Keith Mills’ new launch in Les Sables d'Olonne this morning which was surprising bearing in mind that our favourite squillionaire is planning a coup d’etat that could turn French sailing on its head.

Keith’s plans are ambitious, requiring the sort of resources (ie cash!) that very few in the sailing business have access to but if they come off, they will give IMOCA sailing a massive boost which could make a big difference to the sport the world, except maybe in France.

Just in case you didn’t hear, Keith has persuaded all 90 members of IMOCA to sign away the commercial rights to the class in return for a heavy investment of several millions of euros to get the class organised, properly funded and all buffed and booootiful so that sponsors come knocking.

Before he set up his new company Open Sports Management, he said he needed unanimous backing from the IMOCA members and he got it even though it means these short-handed affairs, which have been a strictly French preserve since the year dot, might no longer be dominated by the French. Oh la la!

So now he is putting together a hotshot events and commercial team to promote the class around the world, possibly expand the IMOCA event schedule and try and put a stamp of certainty on the whole circuit.

In an interview I did with him on Wednesday, he spoke loosely of how he aimed to do this: Here goes......

“We are going to try and package this sport up in a way that will make it more appealing to a broader audience,” Mills said.

“If we can engage a large number of people, we can get more sponsors interested and if we have more sponsors, we can get more teams funded.

“If there are more teams, more ports want to have you so it is a virtuous circle but it starts with making the product much more accessible. At the moment, sailing is not so accessible so we have to use more technology on the boats and package it up in a way that has never been done before.”

He is convinced he is onto something.

“I wouldn’t be investing millions of euros into a project if I didn’t think it was commercially viable and if I didn’t think it could succeed.”

Not all Keith’s businesses turn to gold but most of them do and the ones that look flawed from pretty early on, such as Team Origin, get shelved pronto.

Incidentally, he told me the story over how the decision to pull the plug on TO unravelled. If you remember, he was in Paris having a meeting with Sir Russell Coutts on the Monday night and reports suggested that when he left, he was all gung-ho about the next America’s Cup and definitely up for it.

Next morning however, we were shocked to hear that Team Origin was no more and had been disbanded. 

But whatever happened to cause such a sudden volte face?

Well apparently Keith recorded the whole meeting and when he got home to London, he sat down with a large whisky and listened to the recording and realised what he’d heard that night was nothing more than a load of bull. 

OK, those are my words not his but the tape made him realise how little substance there was to the AC presentation so in the morning, he rang his chum Charles Dunstone, who had also committed to load up the Team Origin coffers and told him what he’d found. That’s fine by me, said Charles so two hours later, everyone was called in and given the bad news.

That’s what I like about Sir Keith. He’s a no bullshit sort of bloke who puts his money where his bouche  is....and grabs it back when other bouches will not ferme! Bit like Sir Larry really.....which makes us wonder when he’ll be pulling his plug!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Does it really matter who wins the Vendee Globe?

There are not many press conferences in sport where you sit and look at the athletes and seriously wonder if you will ever see them again.

But the Vendee Globe skippers press conference in Les Sables d’Olonne every four years is one such gig. 
Gathered together yesterday, all  scruffy and wrinkly (not our Sam of course), knackered from all their boat preparations and media obligations (yawn!) they laughed and joked and did their best to come up with the perfect soundbyte ahead of their three month self-imposed carbon confinement.

Scruffy, craggy and BRAVE Vendee skippers!!
But inevitably there was an unmistakeable nervy feel to the humour and there is no getting away from the fact that on Saturday, these 20 courageous or deranged skippers (depending on how you see it)  will venture out on the most difficult and dangerous race track in modern sport.  It’s a crazy crazy business but thank god they want to do it because their derring-do makes for compulsive viewing.

Fifteen of them have done it before. Mike Golding, 52, and Dominique Wavre, 57, have both done it three times but for the new kids on the block, including the much touted (and some say complete lunatic) Francois Gabard, the next three months will be a life-changing experience, however it ends up.

Let’s not think about what might go wrong – it’s been 15 years since anyone died in this race – but it is always salutary to remind ourselves of the high attrition rate to make sure we fully understand the risk these guys take when they head off.

Since the first race in 1989, 116 skippers have taken part. Only 60 of them have managed to cross the finish line with 54 either retiring or being disqualified and two losing their lives. In 2004-05, the attrition rate was a massive 65%.

The best performing Brit, from the 14 who have competed was Ellen MacArthur who took part in 2000-01 and finished second, behind Michel Desjoyeaux. She was only the fourth British sailor to enter. She was also the first British woman and at 24, the youngest ever skipper. Who can ever forget her triumph and her agony.

Before her was Pete Goss, who rescued Raphael Dinelli and had to undertake some stomach churning do it yourself surgery, to his arm I think.   

And of course there was Tony Bullimore who capsized in the Southern Ocean and survived for five days in his upturned boat before being rescued by the Australian Navy.

Before Pete Goss was Nigel Burgess, who in 1992-93 became the first sailor to die in the race.

Nigel Burgess who died in 1992
 Three Vendee Globes, four compelling stories and lorry loads of pluck and luck, death and despair, fame and misfortune, the very reasons why hundreds of thousands of people (no kidding) turn up in Les Sables d’Olonne each race to see the boats and catch a glimpse of the sailors.

It is impossible for any Brit to comprehend the levels of interest in this event. The French sailors are action hero celebrities attracting massive crowds and big time sponsors. Even our very own Sam Davies gets mobbed. I was walking back with her yesterday and could not believe the attention she was getting – she had to stay out of the main thoroughfares in the interests of all our safety. It was remarkable.

More than 600,000 people have turned up so far and organisers are expecting thousands more at the start on Saturday, either watching from the shore or taking to their boats to be in the thick of things. 

To have 20 boats on the start line when the recession in Europe continues to bit hard and deep, is also remarkable. We worked out that between 70 and 100 million euros are tied up in this event though Gamesa, Golding’s sponsor has had to rein in their activities here on account of their laying off workers back home in Spain.  

Tony Bullimore rescued in 1996

But who will win? Some reckon it doesn’t really matter because the thing about the Vendee Globe is that it is a bloody good story first and a sporting competition second. Seeing  Alessandro Di Benetto’s tiny little 6.5m parked up in the Basin, complete with the jury rig he built to round Cape Horn during his circumnavigation tells us everything we need to know about the sailors that compete in the Vendee Globe.


God speed......

Friday, 14 September 2012

British Olympic sailors no longer rule the waves

And so the Games are over.... and we leave our stations with some very special memories, which for me revolve around the new young British talent that emerged so spectacularly in Weymouth Bay.
Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell had loads of fun....and won silver at first Olympics by IAN ROMAN

Luke, Stu, Hannah, Saskia and Alison to name but five. They gave everything in their pursuit of excellence and kept us gripped from start to finish, the gold medal a certainty for all of them in the future.

But whichever way you try and ham up the British sailors success in winning one gold medal and four silvers, the fact is that London 2012 will be Team GB's worst Olympics since 1996.

Since Sydney 2000 where Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy first won their gold medals, GB has been the leading nation on sailing's medal table but at London 2012, almost beyond belief, the Brits no longer rules the waves, having surrendered their position to the mighty Australians who won three golds and Spain with two though Britain did end up with more medals overall.

Inevitably questions will be asked as to why this performance is so disappointing especially against the backdrop of Britain's best ever Olympic games.

In two classes, one could argue the outcome was dictated by luck. Percy and Simpson played a blinder all week in the Stars but lost out on a fluky Nothe course at the final hurdle to see gold snatched from under their noses by the Swedes.

Mills and Clark were desperately unlucky when a congested start forced them to stay put in the middle of the fleet while the Kiwi team Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie, needing clean air had no choice but to find another route...which happily after a timely windshift proved a fastrack to gold while our girls floundered at the back of the fleet. These pesky shifts on the Nothe dragged Britain down the table.

Saskia Clark and Hannah Mills - fantastic new talent. Next stop Rio

Stuart Bithell and Luke Patience admitted all week they are exciteable and showed this in their medal race when they were penalised for excessive pumping downwind. No disgrace there lads.....the gold in Rio is an odds on certainty unless Mat Belcher finds an outstanding, exceptional, heroic, lovely, talented, experienced crew as good as Malcom Page. He announced his retirement but we'll really miss him.

Personally, the idea of watching Patience and Bithell and Mills and Clark over the next four years is really exciting. All of them love the sport and want to win. What more can Britain expect from their sailing champions?

Goody's hug for Saskia
So lets look at the stats.

Sydney 2000, GB won three golds and two silvers. FIVE medals.

Athens 2004, GB won two golds, one silver and two bronze. FIVE.

Beijing 2008, GB won four golds, a silver and a bronze. SIX.

London 2012, GB won one gold and four silvers. FIVE

OK so no great difference in the numbers and one more than the RYA target but ONE solitary gold must be a massive disappintment to the Team GB management, especially Stephen Park who has been in charge since Athens.

There may be any number of reasons for the decline but the main one Park has already mentioned in despatches is other country's success in catching up with Britain, mostly as a result of copying the GB model which involved creating a sound infrastructure with clearly identified pathways and pulling in plenty of funding, which Britain was able to do courtesy of the National Lottery.

So Australia has pulled in loads of money - around £4 million a year of public money plus masses more in private donations which may explain why they are topping the medals table for the first time, pushing Britain off its perch as leading sailing nation for the first time since 2000. They did it first in June at Skandia Sail for Gold and have done it again.

Brazil has also stumped up loads ahead of Rio 2016 though USA, Spain, Italy and France seem to be troubled by the amounts that Britain spend and claim to invest a tenth of the estimated £10 million a year that RYA spends on its Olympic sailing medals. There is little question that there is a direct correlation between budget and medals and Britain has been splashing the cash to fantastic effect for the past 12 years. Maybe they should now splash more to gain ground.

Park will also point to the pressure of performing at home which he has been worried about for years. There is only so much you can do to prepare your athletes for this but it is interesting that at Stratford, Eton and Greenwich the home advantage spurred athletes on to amazing things whereas in Weymouth, it had the opposite effect.

Admittedly there wasn't the same sort of buzz in Weymouth except on the Nothe where 5,000 paying public gathered each day to watch and support. Sailors are not generally used to being cheered so maybe that support hindered rather helped...but that's quite difficult to imagine. It will almost certainly have cranked up the pressure....and in a half hour race on a tight course in a shifty breeze, small mistakes proved catastrophic. Even Ainslie almost came a cropper.

Some of the selections, in particular the 49ers and even the Lasers,are bound to come under scrutiny. In both cases, selectors went for the safe bet...or so they thought... rather than make brave choices. Many thought Nick Thompson in the Lasers was ready for Olympic competition and that Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes, while superb sailors, struggled with the pressure of top level competition.

They showed this in Beijing and have never really done anything since to shake off the tag yet irrespective of that, they got the nod. Selectors had plenty of options in the 49ers - how many times did GB have at least five teams in the ISF World Cup medal races?? But the lack of medals from those medal races suggest timid and tentative management. There's a word for that sort of management but I can't think of it right now!!

Anyway, its easy to pick holes after an event where performances have dipped. One of the endless questions in sport is what makes an athlete or a team good (great?) and how can standards be maintained. Britain's sailors have come up with fantastic answers to that question for more than a decade and now with Ainslie and Percy backing out, we will see a changing of the guard which will almost certainly kick start our campaign.

More cash might not be necessary, Which reminds me.....I've been buying lottery tickets every week since the announcement that London had won the Games was made. I wanted to feel that I'd contributed to the medal that Ainslie or Percy would be wearing round their neck so religiously invested £5 each and every week for the past seven years.....thats about £1800 worth. Time now to stop...but it was worth it, by golly. Next sto Rio.....!

Agony and ecstasy on the Nothe

We felt dead privileged on Super Sunday at the Olympics to witness something we’ll never EVER see again but watching history unfold, while sitting among a partisan British crowd on a grassy bank in Weymouth with sun shining, was even better than watching Kevin Pietersen make a double hundred before lunch. No seriously......

There had been no atmosphere at all at the sailing venue because the grockles and masses are kept well away by friendly men with guns . There have been more than 500 journalists passing through the media centre but we all sit quietly (ahem!)  tuned into our computers, the televisions, trackers and twitter.  

Going out on press boats in search of a vibe, offers insight into start line action but the rules are so strict, we have to stay miles away so see or hear  very little unless Ben Ainslie is going off on one.

Amazing crowds on the Nothe
No wifi on board and footage on television that lags about ten seconds behind makes this an inefficient way of following the action though lounging around with binoculars on those fabulous Beneteau Swift Trawlers isn’t the worse way to earn a living.

Our Olympic accreditation doesn't allow us entry to the Nothe, where people have paid up to £55 a ticket to watch the action, which is bizarre really since it is an experiment by the International Olympic Committee to see whether sailing as a ticketed sport works. 

Feedback from friends and other random connections suggest it has been a huge success, even though there is limited seating and the security regulations are more draconian than an American airport. No deckchairs, no drinks and no umbrellas longer than a beer bottle!! 

It was bizarre that the media were not being allowed in. And when we are not allowed in to places, we get angry, really angry and kick up a fuss.  Especially when  global gargoyles Luca Bontempelli (ITA), George Streuli (Seppo! ) Olivier LeClerc (FRA) and me (UK) all muster together. Yikes. Scary. So finally they relented which allowed moi  and a young upstart from the Sun called Alex West to snatch the tickets. Wey hey!! 

We had to queue for about half an hour – yawn yawn – and they confiscated almost everything in our rucksacks but as soon as we got in, we started to live the Olympic dream. Or at least feel it.

It was like walking into a party in Hamble....loads of mates intent of watching some damn good sport and having a blast. All of Hamble, Lymington and Cowes had applied for tickets and got them.....which made for a knowledgeable and appreciative crowd.

Won’t bother to go into detail here because what happened next has been pretty widely reported but while I soaked up the atmosphere for a ‘colour’ piece, my head was somewhere else so  I never quite got over the first shock of the day to enjoy the flares from the second.  

He looks OK but don't be fooled!!
I was gutted for Iain and Bart. Totally, totally overwhelmed with sadness because all week they had been on the sort of form that garners awards for commentators, let alone athletes.  Their Olympic cycle taught us more about professional sport than any other example I can think of because some way out, they knew they had work to do on their fitness and equipment but over the months, ticked all the boxes one by one to get themselves not just back into contention but into pole position. 

There was nothing flashy about it, just hard work and loads of guts. I watched all this and knew they would get gold. What I didn't know was how much would be left up to chance on that flukey Nothe course. Too much, some reckon and the rub of the green went against them. Unlucky....and heart-breaking.

Unlike many of the other sailors they also made us laugh in the mixed zone with their intelligent, healthy and grown up take on sport. 

They are happy to commit their bodies and minds but not their souls and that shows. All-round athletes, all-round blokes that we as journos feel privileged to know. And bleedin nora, they won a silver medal which makes Percy a legend and Simpson a super god.

It was only by the grace of god that our hero Big Ben didn’t suffer the same desperate silvery fate in the next race. The rub of the green without any doubt went with him and he will be forever grateful to Dutch man Pieter-Jan Postma that a rush of blood worked so perfectly in Britain’s favour! Lucky and fabulous.

Dynamic and happy couple
So we cheered and sang and whooped and hollered when Ben’s big moment arrived. Five medals.  Wow, what an achievement. You have to admire him and we will celebrate again when he earns his knighthood. His girlfriend Marit Bouwmeister, a silver medallist in the Laser Radials from the Nederlands was beside herself with pride when she met up with him in the boat park shortly after her racing ended. 

Incidentally, I am shamelessly giving the Stars more space here than the Finn because our sports editors (including mine!) have, in my view, failed to give Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson the credit they are due. So I salute our Stars.

At the press conferences afterwards, they were all more relaxed than we have seen them in two years or so. Poor old Percy had to deal with a question, clumsily but not nastily put, about how he felt about his career being on a slide compared Ainslie’s going stratospheric.  It was unfortunate but Percy didn’t punch the bloke which is how it looked when he first fixed the journalist with a wild eyed stare and roared ‘WOW’. Very Richard Burton I thought.

And then, if he had any sense he would have gone and got drunk as Burton would certainly have done. That was what I was intending to do but for all Ainslie’s wonderful exploits, I left the media centre feeling rather flat.  Sport is real life drama with real life characters so it is not surprising that we suffer when the best loved characters get a little bit burned. 

When people ask about London 2012 and what it meant, this will probably be the answer.  Ainslie’s legacy and Percy’s pain though Dorian’s Crazy Penis will come a close second. But that’s for tomorrow.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Michael Vaughan announces retirement from sailing

Blimey. Turn up to Act 5 of the Extreme Sailing Series gig in Cardiff where I expect to see the world’s best sailing commentator Leigh McMillan and the world’s 81st richest bloke Ernesto Bertorelli among others and who do we see?

Michael Vaughan (right) talks to GAC Pindar's Mark Bulkley
Michael Vaughan – the England cricket captain before Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff (did I miss anyone?) – standing at the top of the pontoon shaking his head and announcing he had retired from sailing.

It took me a while to get oriented. What on earth was a cricketer like Vaughan doing at a sailing event? And why was he announcing his retirement when to my knowledge, he’d never sheeted off in anger in his life.

The last time I was that disoriented by the sailing-cricket intersection was in January when I was walking down the pontoon in Abu Dhabi when suddenly I see Graeme Swann running towards me shouting ‘Hello beautiful’!! 

I kid you not and no, he wasn’t drunk though he might have forgotten my name. He was with Alastair Cook, the current England cricket captain, and the pair had driven up from Dubai where they were just about to play (and lose) their first Test against Pakistan to go sailing on one of the Volvo 70 boats as guests of the Volvo Ocean Race. 

When I am covering sailing, I expect to see sailing folk. When I’m on cricket, I expect to see Swann or Cook or Vaughan so for a moment there in Cardiff I was confused. But Vaughny was there as a guest of GAC Pindar, sponsors of one of the Extreme 40s and trying his hand at sailing....for the first time, as it turned out. 

He had been out on an X40 in Cardiff Bay and had found the whole thing very scary...well, the breeze was around 20 knots and those things fly a hull in around three so I can’t blame him. There was nothing to hang on to and I think he felt a little exposed and shell-shocked. 

So that’s Michael Vaughan’s sailing career done...and dusted in the space of half an hour. Funnily enough, had it been a Help for Heroes soldier, of the wounded sort who did Round the Island with us in 2011, those conditions would have left massive grin on radiant face. 

Do you want to meet Michael Vaughan, I asked Team GB silver medallist Luke Patience who was there hoping desperately that one of the sailors would drop out so he could have a go. Yeah, sure, brilliant, fab, he said then whispered as we were heading over......who’s Michael Vaughan??   

By then, Vaughan and Paul Goodison, who this week is coaching the Oman Sail guys, were deep in conversation about Sheffield football because that is where they both come from. Not sure if they both support the same team but they had a typical footie exchange (ie INANE) before moving onto something much more interesting, the resignation of England captain Andrew Strauss.

Yes, good time for Strauss to go...but no, Kevin Pietersen will not be back any time soon...and that just about sums up the answers to all the big cricket questions at the moment. I disagree with him about KP. I think he will be back soon because I think Andy Flower will make it his priority to sort it out. 

KP is a rare and amazing talent and although he is a jumped up nob of a prick at times, he merits a special effort, management wise. Vaughny thinks KP is incapable of learning from this latest sorry episode but I think differently. 

Whatever, it is a huge problem for Flower, KP and now Cook  to resolve.....

But where were we? Oh yes on the start line of the Extreme 40 event in Cardiff and of course, by the time the boats fired off, Vaughny was drinking Americanos in the back of a limousine. Probably. Nice to see him though.