Posts Tagged ‘Jan Falkowski’

Picture this

Friday, August 17th, 2012

This week I succumbed to the inevitable, something I’ve been staving off as long as possible. Someone still needs to explain to me how a timeline of two columns with entries staggered on either side is more logical or easier to navigate than a single column with consecutive entries falling one after the other, or why Facebook should impose a layout on its users when surely they could have provided a choice. But then maybe that “we know best” attitude has contributed to the dramatic plunge in their stock value. Anyway, I digress.

Faced with a choice of thousands of photographs I could have used as my cover image – which spans the width of the page at the top – I opted for a picture that shows me in what was arguably one of the happiest and most memorable days of my life, and coincidentally, it was something that happened nine years ago this month. I’m standing on the aft deck of Spirit of Cardiff, renamed Jolly Sailor for her recently completed transatlantic. We’d already set the official New York to Lizard Point record in 2001, but this one from St John’s to Cape Wrath gave us 2,102 nautical miles with an at sea time of under 120 hours, which remains the fastest crossing for a RIB. More to the point, it was Spirit of Cardiff coming home after circumnavigating the world, and a winter in Newfoundland.

With me in the picture are Alan Priddy and Jan Falkowski, with numerous RIBs and other powerboats following behind, our flotilla of honour escorting us into Portsmouth Harbour. I seem to remember some of them slightly bemused when they saw the entire crew out on the aft deck (Newfoundlander Eg Walters took the photo), but not only was Spirit on autopilot, Alan had a remote control in his hand that could steer the boat from anywhere on board.

It was the hottest day of 2003, the temperature up to 34 degrees. As we approached Gunwharf Quays, packed with hundreds of people, the world-famous Portsmouth Field Gun Crew fired a six-gun salute. After the champagne and speeches, we took the boat around to the historic Camber Dock of Old Portsmouth, where she was craned out of the water, lifted on to a trailer, and then manhandled through the streets of Portsmouth by those burly tough guys of the Field Gun Crew.

Looking ahead, I can see it might take more than a single field gun crew to pull Accomplish More along on a trailer, but I’m sure we’ll come up with something equally eye-catching when we have something to celebrate. Meantime, there’s still a lot of hard work to put in before we even get the boat to the start line, but we’re getting there!

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Engines on test

Monday, September 12th, 2011

So far, most of the news about Circumnavigation Record‘s round the world superboat Goodheart has come from Dudley, where the boat is being built. So we head south for this latest update, where at Hendy Power in Cosham, near Portsmouth, Alan Priddy has been putting our newly delivered Fiat PowerTrain C13 500 diesel engines through their paces. This involves linking them up to a piece of equipment called a dynomometer, which measures the power output.

Running in a separate room, the engines weren’t that noisy, and Alan suspects that by the time they’re installed in Goodheart’s soundproofed engine room, we won’t hear much. On the other hand, thanks to cameras supplied by Raymarine, we will be able to monitor what’s going on at all times. Outside, however, the noise is likely to be more noticeable. Goodheart’s exhaust outlets will be 200 mm in diameter, so the sound promises to be “throaty”.

“We found the most efficient running speed was 1,900 rpm,” says Alan, “at which point the engines develop 450 hp, each burning 90 litres of fuel per hour. I still feel Goodheart will have a range of 5,000 miles, but possibly not at the kind of average speed I’m looking for.”

As a result, Alan has re-thought the route, and adjusted some of our stops. So from Gibraltar, our first stop will be in Puerto Rico (3,330 miles), where we will have a quick “squirt” of fuel before the 1,000 mile run to Panama. Our next “squirt and go” will be Acapulco in Mexico before heading out across the Pacific to Honolulu. The original plan was to go from here to Hong Kong, but instead, we’ll go 3,500 miles to Guam, and then straight to Singapore for the main service stop. From there it will be a 3,200 mile dash to Salalah in Oman before the run up the Red Sea and through the Suez Canal. There will be another short fill in Suez before the final run back to Gibraltar.

“When I designed Goodheart, I’d always allowed for an extra 15 to 20 percent fuel for those “just in case” times,” adds Alan, “mindful of what happened during Spirit of Portsmouth’s transatlantic in 1997, when Jan and I ran out of fuel 40 miles off Iceland. Doing slightly shorter legs means we can run Goodheart under slightly less load, which consequently means more speed.”

The fuel calculations and rethink of the route have actually produced something else – the pleasant surprise of a revised projected time for the circumnavigation. But you wouldn’t want me to tell you that, would you?

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It’s all happening inside!

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Even though we knew this month would be a little light on things to report (simply because August is very much the time when factories have staff away on leave), activity on Circumnavigation Record 2011‘s round the world superboat Goodheart continues. This past week, Goodheart skipper Alan Priddy and Steve Mason have been busy with felt markers on the boat’s interior, getting the positioning for numerous items which have to be welded in next.

This includes the below deck bulkheads in the aft crew cabin, and the waste tanks for the toilet and shower prior to welding down the floor. Once this is done the double bunk beds will be fitted, along with frames for the heads and office compartment (yes, there’s even going to be an office with PC and satcoms for me to send my daily updates). The tops of these frames will form roof beams for the decks to sit on.

On a lighter note, Alan, Steve and Jan Falkowski are off to Northern Ireland this week – for Jan to take his RYA Yachtmaster certificate, and for Alan and Steve to convert theirs from sail to power. After their many thousands of miles at sea and years of experience, one might question the sanity of paying to prove they know what they’re doing, but the truth is that once you start taking unsuspecting members of the public aboard, these things become necessary for insurance purposes.

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Half a billion viewers – is that enough?

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Apart from bringing the crew of Alan Priddy’s superboat together for the first time, the 2011 London Boat Show was the scene of a couple of useful meetings – one with a photo press agency specialising in boating matters. When British yachtswoman Dee Caffari became the first woman to successfully complete a solo, non-stop circumnavigation both ways around the world, they put her on the front page of every UK newspaper. They seem to think they can do the same for us.

And we also talked over TV coverage with the company that puts out the weekly motorsport programmes “Motorsport Mundial”, “Planet Speed” and “Max Power” to 27 million households in the UK and Ireland. Oh, and over half a billion households worldwide. They’ve promised us coverage not just for the duration of the Circumnavigation challenge itself, but in the run-up – including the building of the boat, and the test run, which will most likely take on the Transatlantic world record set by Alan Priddy, Steve Lloyd, Jan Falkowski and me 10 years ago in Spirit of Cardiff.

We’ll be looking at getting news coverage as well, and hopefully a documentary to tell the story afterwards, but there’s no denying we’re starting out from an exceptionally good position. All of which would seem to add up to some pretty powerful incentives for potential sponsors.

Apart from bringing the crew of Alan Priddy’s superboat together for the first time, the 2011 London Boat Show was the scene of a couple of useful meetings – one with a photo press agency specialising in boating matters. When British yachtswoman Dee Caffari became the first woman to successfully complete a solo, non-stop circumnavigation both ways around the world, they put her on the front page of every UK newspaper. They seem to think they can do the same for us.

And we also talked over TV coverage with the company that puts out the weekly motorsport programmes “Motorsport Mundial”, “Planet Speed” and “Max Power” to 27 million households in the UK and Ireland. Oh, and over half a billion households worldwide. They’ve promised us coverage not just for the duration of the Circumnavigation challenge itself, but in the run-up – including the building of the boat, and the test run, which will most likely take on the Transatlantic world record set by Alan Priddy, Steve Lloyd, Jan Falkowski and me 10 years ago in Spirit of Cardiff.

We’ll be looking at getting news coverage as well, and hopefully a documentary to tell the story afterwards, but there’s no denying we’re starting out from an exceptionally good position. All of which would seem to add up to some pretty powerful incentives for potential sponsors.

Boat Show stars

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

What better place than the opening day of the London Boat Show for the first gathering of the Circumnavigation Record 2011 crew? For a start, our powerboat racing star Shelley Jory-Leigh appeared in the celebrity “Knowledge Box”, with a terrific presentation on the high octane thrills and spills of racing on the water. And I just knew we were going to get on when the video clip she showed was accompanied by my favourite Led Zeppelin track “Rock and Roll” – the song generally played as an encore by my rock band Firewire.

Circumnavigation Record 2011 team at London Boat ShowAlan Priddy followed up with his session in the Knowledge Box, recounting his history of extreme powerboating, and illustrated with some rather fine photographs (mine). The final slide brought us up to date, depicting the wave-piercing superboat. The more we talk about it to others, the more I realise just what a unique concept it is. It’s easy to look at it and say it’s just another boat, but the design, and the way it will be constructed is very very different.

And while we were all together, someone remarked to me that not one of us seemed to be “normal”. I forget whether that was before or during our session in the Guinness bar. So here’s the relatively non-alcoholic line-up. Standing L-R: Joe Mearns, Peter Giovannoli, Shelley Jory-Leigh, Alan Priddy, Steve Mason. Front row L-R: Jan Falkowski, Clive Tully.

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Next addition to round the world team

Monday, November 29th, 2010

We’ve just announced the latest member of the Circumnavigation Record 2011 team, and it’s someone who goes back a long way with Alan Priddy. In 1997 Alan and consultant psychiatrist Dr Jan Falkowski crossed the North Atlantic from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Portsmouth, England, via Greenland and Iceland, in an open 7 metre RIB. It took them three weeks, and they braved pack ice and storms in what became the first open boat crossing of the Atlantic at such a high latitude in 1,000 years!

Jan Falkowski

Jan Falkowski

I met Jan in 1999 on my very first trip out in Alan Priddy’s round the world RIB, shortly after it was built. That trip was a real baptism of fire for me. We were trying to circumnavigate the British Isles, and we’d not even cleared the south coast when we ran into a container, disabling the boat. It was Jan who pulled on the drysuit to go over the side and inspect the damage, and to attach the tow rope when the Lizard lifeboat reached us.

Whilst unable to be with us on the round the world trip in 2002, we had the benefit of Jan’s huge experience on our 2001 Transatlantic, for which our world record still stands, and the second one in 2003. In the meantime, Jan has been part of a very successful powerboat racing team with Drew Langdon (two-times world champions), and has also set a number of other offshore records, including the British Isles record set by Alan Priddy, Steve Lloyd and me in June 2000.

The wider world is more likely to recognise the name Jan Falkowski as the victim of Britain’s worst ever case of stalking, dramatised in the recently screened 2009 TV drama “U Be Dead”. But from our point of view, Jan is an old friend, hugely experienced and totally dependable. And let’s face it, with two world champion powerboat racers on board – Jan Falkowski and Shelley Jory-Leigh – together with Alan Priddy, arguably the most experienced ocean adventurer alive, we really are starting off with the best hope of smashing the powerboat Circumnavigation Record.

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Truth stranger than fiction

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

They say truth is stranger than fiction, and if you watch the true life drama “U Be Dead” on ITV1 at 9pm on Sunday 5th September, you may find yourself utterly astonished. It’s certainly not the kind of thing anyone could have made up.

The drama is about consultant psychiatrist and powerboat champion Jan Falkowski, the way he was mercilessly stalked for over two years, and after a sting operation which led to the arrest of the woman concerned, how things then got a whole lot worse.

I met Jan through offshore powerboat guru Alan Priddy, and in fact Jan was aboard on my very first trip out in Alan’s round the world RIB in 1999. While he was unable to make the round the world trip in 2002, he was with us on Spirit of Cardiff for both transatlantics, in 2001 and 2003. It was during the latter that we learned about what was going on, in which the mystery texted death threats were just the tip of the iceberg.

I shall always remember the moment we came into Nanortalik harbour in South Greenland. We’d set off from St John’s, Newfoundland, and we’d been at sea for two days. As we came into network coverage, our phones started beeping as they picked up text messages. I had two or three. But Jan’s phone was beeping continuously for a good minute as over 30 texts came in, all from the stalker. He was so concerned that this mystery person might be able to eavesdrop on his phone that he ended up using mine to make a few calls.

I was also aware of the sting operation, the pretend wedding which was designed to draw the stalker out into the open, and was relieved when Alan sent me a text to say the police had actually arrested a woman. But then…

Well, I won’t spoil it for you. All I can say is it will make compulsive viewing, not least because Jan and the other central characters gave their full co-operation to the writer of the screenplay. I’m interested to see how actor David Morrissey handles the role. For looks and voice, I reckon James Nesbit would have been a lot closer to the mark, but maybe he doesn’t do a clipped English accent.

NB: You can watch it online for a limited period on ITV player.