Friday, November 29, 2013

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. by Elsie Gabriel

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

Elsie Gabriel

Impressive, international, competitive, colossal, adventurous and classic are the words which overwhelmed me as I walked through the gates of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, to join thousands of spectators who came to pay tribute to the participants at the start of the 68th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, December 26th 2012.

At once I knew why it was such an iconic sport,of which so far I had only read about in the sailing and sports world news magazines.
 The assorted fleet were registered and set to sail as we came in to flag off the competition for the 68th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and true to it’s name I knew it would provide a spectacle befitting of the event’s reputation. The Boxing Day annual 628-nm ocean classic running from Sydney to Hobart, often referred to as a ‘nautical rite of passage’, has been sponsored by Rolex since 2002.Rloex as apt as ever ruled the timely sport by the ocean side.Event organizers Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) were equally alive with enthusiasm and sportsmanship.

The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is an annual event hosted by the CYCA, starting in Sydney on Boxing Day and finishing in Hobart, Tasmania. The race is run in co-operation with the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania and is widely considered to be one of the most difficult yacht races in the world.
The 68th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race once again lived up to its reputation as one of the world’s toughest ocean races and am glad I was there to witness this milestone, once in a life time experience.
It is said that the race was initially planned to be a cruise by Peter Luke and some friends who had formed a club for those who enjoyed cruising as opposed to racing, however when a visiting British Royal Navy Officer, Captain John Illingworth, suggested it be made a race, the event was born. Peter Luke, who contributed to the formation of the Cruising Yacht club of Australia and the establishment of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, died on 23 September 2007 aged 92.

The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race has gathered much might over the decades, since the inaugural race in 1945, to become one of the top three offshore yacht races in the world, and it now attracts the biggest yachts from all around the globe.
All I could hear was the buzz of ‘Wild Oats’ in the air amidst much conversations. Eventually I came to learn that the race record was set in 2005 by Wild Oats XI which crossed the line in a time of 1 day, 18 hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds. And later, it was wonderful to know that the previous record was beaten by Wild Oats XI in 2012 when it crossed the line in 1 day, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds. This brought about another record for Wild Oats XI , as they became the first boat to claim the treble - race record, line honours and overall winner - twice.

Bass Strait and the eastern rough waters of the Pacific Ocean are renowned for their gusty treacherous winds and notorious seas. Although the race mostly takes place in the Tasman Sea, the shallowness of Bass Strait and the proximity to the race course means that the fleet is very much under the influence of the Strait as they transit from the mainland to Flinders Island. Even though the race is held in the Australian summer,  storms often make the Sydney–Hobart race cold, choppy and extremely challenging for the crew.

The Rolex Sydney to Hobart is often described as the most grueling long ocean race in the world. This traditional sporting event a day after Christmas is filled with tradition and has the ability year after year to  bring an entire country to a dramatic stand still. A fiercely contested race across the often dangerous seas, this is always an engaging event for the whole of Australia.
Seventy six boats of various types and sizes, the largest of them 100-footers, started off right before us. Leading the pack from the starting line was five-time line honors winner Wild Oats XI, which last year lost out to Investec Loyal. As the race leaders turned right into open sea, one could see how Wild Oats XI was kick starting as the leader.

 Over the past 68 years, the Rolex Sydney Hobart has become an icon of Australia's summer sport ranking top in public interest. No annual yachting event in the world attracts such huge media coverage than does the start on Sydney Harbour. I bowed down to Sydney’s offering, as one attraction I wouldn’t forget in a long long time.
For me, the fresh strong southerly breeze and sunshine provided the perfect angles for all the photographs I wanted to capture, it sure was a photo journalist’s delight. That December month,the weather gods intervened to make the 2012 race all about the big boats.

This grand classic ocean race is remembered for many things from records and personal achievements, challenges to tribulations and unfortunately, disasters too. It has proved quite a baptism for the news traveler in me, I was simply overjoyed to simply watch the frenzy of the crew preparations and catch first hand conversations with some sailors!
Ofcourse I wasn’t there at Hobart for the winners reception which is said to be as grand as the flag off but I did come to know of it’s spirited battle for line honours just as I had expected.
Yachts scorched out briskly with the endless blaze of media and public attention, as I waved vigorously, knowing deep in my heart that the crew in every yacht surely must be bowing their heads to God above and to nature below!

Monday, November 25, 2013

How I grew rich in Goa! Wealth of memories! Elsie Gabriel.

How I grew rich in Goa! Wealth of memories!

Elsie Gabriel.

The endless drive filled with traffic jams and intersected by thick green jungle sites, from the Panaji Goa airport all the way to Hotel Colonia Santa Maria [CSM]18 kms away on the Baga beache was well worth the exhaustive drive, as a great family reunion awaited me. Of course this was my umpteenth visit to Goa, but each visit always reveals it’s new side to me. The brief entrance of the  Portuguese-Goan style resort greeted us with the ‘lights off’ ‘electricity gone’ welcome along with the thumping beats of a far away generator. I didn’t let the beginning ruin my entry. The ‘Gabriels’ and their extended families were meeting after two whole years all under one roof.

Believe it or not the elegant comfortable pool inside the CSM was the first beautiful site which brought us all ‘Gabriels’ together under the fading twilight sun, hugging and greeting each other like long lost friends. Yes it was bonding time and I dedicate this piece of writing to my elder sister Gladys!

Gladys and me actually grew up like two parallel lines in the geometry lessons if I can remember, like twin sisters as we almost grew up together, almost the same coloured dresses, same class and same shoes, same horrid ribbon bows and same raincoats all the way to school! We were like ‘look a likes’, we Gabriel sisters! Marriage, children work, distance and chores, social commitments and a host of new extended family members kept us busy, year after year. But at that poolside everything faded away only to have us give tight hugs and Hi fives to a refreshed new beginning. With children all grown up and some time now for more phone gossip I guess we two sisters are here to stay!

So, we sisters rocked Goa! We found comfort in an old friends bungalow kitchen one time, where we took off to the market and brought back Goan fish of every kind to make crazy gourmet offerings for the entire family. Caju fenni, beer and seven up shandys and what not cocktails sip after sip kept us sisters hilarious as we cooked up stews, crabs, squids, pomfrets, shells and what not, non stop, cleaning and cooking, cooking and cleaning! 

More cleaning and more cooking, an inside joke that only Gladys and self will cherish for life I guess, as we drowned the gastronomical escapade like master chefs with endless hi-cupps of every sort! Not to forget the changeover of two pressure cookers and a huge ‘deckhchi’ to solve the sorrowful mysteries of that fabulous meat curry!

Am sure Gladys you are doubling up laughing remembering this. I have fond memories which have given me a wealth of moments to cherish for life and finally help me get super rich in Goa, all thanks to my other twin- Brother Wilson who kindly paid for this entire reunion. My emotional bank is full Wilson and I have learnt to keep to it that way. Mercy! Salute! Gracias!

So, there you have it, the truth and only but the truth, be prepared for long drives and electricity tripping while in Goa. Also keep an open mind and go with the flow, enjoy as much as you can with where ever you go in Goa! And of course when in Goa do as the Goan’s do, just hang loose and wear comfortable beach slippers, a good dose of sunscreen, a hat, and you are set to go trotting.

Of course we hit Britto’s by the  beach the first night itself to celebrate Wilsons day, again an inside family thing , of why we call him ‘Miraclegabe’ fondly. And we sure give praise to God for reassurances, refreshing and re-living and re –uniting all as we journey through the land we call family!

The Brittos restaurant specializes in Goan, Chinese, Tandoor and Continental cuisine and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. One can get some mouth-watering and relishing food here and the sea-food platter is just mesmerizing.

Brittos also has live entertainment, karaoke and a barbecue on different nights. The place has a beach shack section which is ideal for families and couples to spend some special moments together or have a candlelight dinner.
We did visit the Francis Xavier shrine at the Basilica of Bom Jesus or Basilica of Good Jesus is adorned by the holy mortal relics of Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552) since 19th February 1624. The church is the UNESCO World Heritage Site Monument since 1986. Regionally known as old Goa where the church stands, it was capital of Goa in the early Portuguese reign.The saint’s body is preserved in a silver casket and is open for worshiping to the public.Made from white marble, cupids and angels holding wreaths adorn its border. A huge bluish marble casket surrounded by bronze shields inlaid with carvings of the saint’s life lies upon this base.

We also had the most sumptuous lunch at Martins Corner, Martins Corner Restaurant Goa is situated just off Betalbatim beach Goa, Martins Corner is probably one of Goas best known restaurants.
It is said,Martins Corner Restaurant Goa was started of from a small shop where boys from a locality would come to play carome or drop in for a soft drink. It gained popularity to serve traditional Goan dishes like pomfret rechad, sorportel, Goan sausages bread and pork chilly fry.Catering to people from all across the globe for years, Martin’s has made a mark receiving the “Life Time Achievement Award” at the International cuisine conference and Times Food Award in 2012.

The family visited the Margao cemetery made by the portugese hundreds of years ago where Mama Celine lay now, It was wonderful to connect with her and like I told you I got richer in Goa.

Back closer to the hotel, the Baga Beach adjoins Calangute on the shores of North Goa and offers all the elements for a memorable holiday. People wanting a palm-fringed sandy spot for peaceful relaxation will find plenty of choice if you do rise early and step out soon after sunrise. There is also an abundance of places along the adjoining stretches of beach for those who like the usual beach stalls offering beer and seafood, seashell trinkets, local crafts and buckets and spades, but we went off the beaten track and have kept all of this for the next trip.

Colonia Santa Maria is close to the Baga Beach, Anjuna Beach, and Calangute Beach if you’d like to go beach hopping. Also nearby are the Tibettian market, Calangute Market and Baga Night Market, don’t forget to check on which days of the week they are actually open before you venture there. Of course we stayed in at CSM, and I have fond memories of the dances at the restro bar at the hotel which had a fabulous guitarist who jammed the night away! 

I have  travel advice, take it if you wish. Holidays can be fun. But don’t get overexcited and tired.Do not let the endless days burn you out, look out for those tell tales signs. Should stress levels start to go through the roof, find time to edit.  You don’t have to throw out all your plans, but you might decide to drop a few.  If you can put a good face on it, smile and relax, you will create the feeling of joy around the holiday.  It’s likely that your kids are ready to be happy if they see you being happy.
Whatever you do, I hope you find holiday traditions for your family this Thanksgiving,Christmas and the New Year that nourish you and bring you closer, best wishes and keep bonding. Grow rich!