Posted in Culture, Sports

The “Engineer’s” Cycle Ride

At the end of June, I went on a great cycle ride with a few friends.  I did not tell them exactly where we were going, other than the starting point, but I knew that, like me, they would be fascinated.  I had not been able to plan the weather, unfortunately, and so it was cold and we had a littl;e rain, but fortunately nothing serious.  We started riding along the Canal du Centre, which soon branched into two section, the old canal and a new canal that was built in the early 90’s.

I have borrowed photos from my friends as well – not all photos below are mine.

As I said, the weather was not great, but we were still having fun.

In order to build the new canal, engineers had to ‘improvise’.  They could not necessarily follow the lay of the land (a canal needs to be rather flat!) and so there were places where they had to build a canal-bridge over streets and other obstructions.  Here is the larger of these bridges.  It is nice to notice that technology can co-exist with traditions: there is a shepherd watching a flock of sheep grazing on the side of the pond below …

The first major stop of the ride, and also the reason why the new canal had been built: The new Ship Elevators at Strepy-Thieu.  These are now the highest such elevators in the world with a height of 73 m; as a comparison, the world’s highest standard locks are on the Irtysh River in Kazakhstan and are 42 m high (the 6 Gatun Locks at the end of the Panama Canal only lift ships a total of 25.9m).  I had recce’d the ride in March, when the weather was a lot better and took this photo.

We approached from the other side.

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Posted in Sports, Travel

Sailing in Holland

At the beginning of July I went sailing in Holland, on the Greevelingenmeer.  This is a big moment for me as it was the first time that I am skippering an outing with the EM Sailing Club.  I started sailing with the club in 1995 and that is what gave me a taste to go for more.  However, I left Belgium before I could get my license and only now did I get back and get another opportunity.

The Greevelingenmeer is actually fully closed and should be very calm.  However, I have never sailed here, so I am discovering the area as well as the new function.  We also have a small and inexperienced crew with two members not having sailed before.

The weather forecast calls for low winds so there should not be any problems.

We set out at a reasonable time on Saturday and immediately everybody got a chance to steer.

Janice was very quick to learn how to enjoy steering.

The wind kept increasing making it more and more difficult though, so I decided that we should stop for lunch.

We had a great, uneventful sail up to the point where we could stop for lunch.  Unfortunately, our landing was not as uneventful – we survived, and so did the boat, and there are  no pictures to show the excitement…

We had a very leisurely lunch on an island (here are Dave and I relaxing…) and then set back for the return trip to Bruinisse.

We ran into a beautiful old (restored) canal boat.  These have a flat bottom so they can sail in tight to the edge and use movable side-boards on each side to stop drifting.

On a broad reach, we were doing over 8 knots but very relaxed.  The wind was just perfect so we also rigged the boat for “wing-on wing” and were able to maintain that rather well on a few tries.

Not a very intense afternoon!  Only one person doing any work as the fourth member of the team is taking these pictures…

We ran into one flat bottom boat under sail too…

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Posted in Sports

Channel Sailing Regatta

I interrupt my trip to Slovenia again to relate another experience I had recently.

Middle of October is the time when Channel Sailing organises its annual regatta for clients.  Channel Sailing is the company where we hire the boats that we sail with during the year.  Every year, at the end of the season, they organise a regatta for their clients.  It is competitive, but it is also friendly and offers an opportunity to those who are not used to race to get a little excitement in controlled conditions.

Well, controlled conditions is maybe not quite the best way to describe what we had again this year.

As usual, we arrived on Friday evening to take possession of our boat for the week-end, in this case Foxtrot, a 37 foot Jeanneau

By the time Nick and I get everything organised, it is drink time.  First we have to have some snack, so we dig into the lunch supplies for cheese and salami

Nick brought some excellent Rum.  Since the beer is not cold yet, and Xavier has not brought the wine, we have no choice!

Allan and Annemie joined us later and we went for a very nice dinner in Zeebrugge.

The next day, Saturday, the wind has picked-up significantly and it rains occasionally.  Sailing will be tough! After the briefing, at about 10:30, we sail out of Zeebrugge into the North Sea.  Even this close to shore, the waves are high (3+ meters) and because of the harbour and shore, are not very regular.

Since we are running with the wind, Nick asks Allan and I to set up the spinnaker pole to hold the genoa.  It is a struggle as we have not done it for a while and make a few mistakes, but we get it done.  Unfortunately, both Allan and I are now a little seasick and with the weather and waves, there is little chance to recover…

As we approach the committee boat, we manage to take down the pole and sail normally.  There are only 4 boats today and we get ready for the first race.  Nick is steering and we all help as we can.  I am still coping, but Allan is looking greener by the minute.  On top of that, it is getting colder and we are all struggling to stay warm.

We get a good start and head for the windward mark – with the high waves, we can only see the mark when both it and us are at the top of a wave, so finding it is not easy.  However, at least we have a rough idea where it is, so we head in that direction.  As we get closer, we finally spot it and head for it.  We are second as we round the mark and head on a reach toward the next marker that we expect is to the left of the first mark.  After several minutes, we see nothing.  We head upwind to search there with no success.  the rest of the fleet seems to be mystified as well.  One by one, the boats give up and start running back to the committee boat and the leeward mark.  Nick does not ask us to set up the spinnaker pole – good – I feel woozy and that would spell the end of my breakfast.

We find the leeward mark but then the committee boat cancels the race.  We find out that they could not set the second mark and therefore we should only do an up and down, just like the America’s cup.

Is is now noon and we have not had a complete race yet.  We get ready for the first race again.  Good start, we now know where to find the first mark which we reach in second place.  Back  to the leeward mark, which we almost missed until Allan saw it than the finish line and we come in second! Good result.  I am surviving (just) but Allan is very cold now.  We have a long debate but decide to do one more race then stop regardless of what the organisation does.  Over the radio, they indicate that the next race will be just start-windward mark-finish, no leeward mark. We ‘survive’ again the last race, finish second again and then head for home … which will take more than one hour since we are heading into the wind and into the tide.

As soon as we arrive inside Zeebrugge harbor, I feel better!  We finally tie-up at about 17:00.  The rest of the fleet is right behind us as there was no additional race – wise decision.

The next day, the wind is down, the sun is slowly coming out, but the temperature is even lower.  It is only 5 C and with wind still at 20-30 km/hr, the windchill is very low.  We are fortunately equipped for it as demonstrated by Xavier and Nick.

We do five races on Sunday.  we win two, finish second, third and fourth in the other three.  We all get to steer a race.  For mine, we take a terrible start as I am blocked away from the start line by the other boats and have to do a 360 at the last second.  We start last, but are able to come back to a credible third place (which is later corrected to fourth as the boat behind us has a better handicap).  Races done, it is time to relax and head back to Zeebrugge.

It is still very cold!

Back at the West-Hinder Marina, we pack up our stuff, clean the boat, put everything in order and wait for the announcement of the final results.

Overall, we ended up in second place, same result as last year.  A good result considering.

Two and a half hours to drive home and I get there absolutely exhausted.  I was in bed before 9PM!

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Posted in Culture, Sports

Manneken Pis Celebration

I interrupt the telling of my trip to Slovenia to relate our recent Manneken Pis Day here in Brussels.  Every year, the cyclo club I joined, the Cyclo Woluwe St Lambert or CWL, celebrates the most famous statue in Brussels.  We did so again on Saturday, my first opportunity to take part in this unique event.  More about the club at  I am hoping that there will be more pictures there as I could not take any of the whole group.

It was a beautiful day and I was dressed for action, the first time I was wearing the club colours as I had only obtained my new jersey the week before.

We gathered at the usual starting point – Stade Fallon – at 8:30, quite early for a week-end.

Everybody is wearing his club colours.  There are a lot more people than usually on Sundays.  This is good.  We even have guests from Bouillon (in Belgium) and Meudon (in France), two clubs with which the CWL had events this years.

And we are off.  About 50 cyclists meander through the outer communes of Brussels on the way to the Grand Place.  It is quite a crowd waiting for the light on Avenue de Tervuren.

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Posted in Sports, Travel

Zeebrugge-Dunkirk-Zeebrugge by sea

On Monday, I met Rob, Zuzana, Machteld and Filip. We are part of the crew going sailing this week-end and this is the one and only meeting for us to organise the outing.

On Thurs, Rob is enthusiastic about the week end, where we are going and the weather – here is the note that he sent out (the underlines are mine):


As we get closer to leaving, the forecast is looking good for Sunday, but a
little more unsettled on Saturday.  Depending on which weather forecast I
look at, I would summarise the current position as:

Wind force 3-4 SW going W on Sunday
Chance of showers on Saturday, with some maybe harder.  Looks like the
weather will get better during the day as a low front passes away.

Looking further at locations, if we cannot get to Gravelines on Saturday
night, I think that Dunkerque may be a good option.  There are a number of
marinas open to all states of tide, and (at least from the websites) looks
quite pretty.  I will do some more research tonight.

Don’t forget to bring enough dry clothes.  See you all tomorrow evening. “

It turns out that this weather forecast was not far from the truth – the problem will be the direction in which reality will deviate from forecast. But once again I am getting ahead of my story.

We left for Zeebrugge on the Friday evening after work. Rob was driving and I was navigating. We did not have too many problems with traffic until we came close to Gent where we lost about ½ hour because of road works. We arrived at the boat and Machteld and Harry were already there. Zuzana and Filip arrived soon after and so we started organising food, drinks, personal stuff etc. It always takes quite some time to checkout the boat too, and do a full inventory so that we know where everything is.

For this week-end, out home will be Swing, a 37 ft Jeanneau from Channel Sailing. I have sailed on her sister ship, Foxtrot, last year and I know she is a good boat. Annemie arrives later – she was stuck in the office later than anticipated, and so with a full crew, we decided to have dinner at a local restaurant at about 21:00.

When we get back the the boat, there is an annoying alarm and we do not quite understand what it is for. We are able to silence it, and since it is late, we decide to deal with it tomorrow.

By 6:00, most of us are already up and eager to get started. The weather looks great and I decide to wear normal clothes to start: long pants, warm shirt, sweater and a windbreaker vest. It may seem like a lot for the middle of summer, but with the wind and the cold water, it is just right. The wind feels like a good force 5, or somewhere around 20 knotts (about 35 km/h).

Since the alarm is still on, we call Carlos to discuss what to do. He indicates that this is because the second battery is running low on power. We figure that as soon as we turn on the engine, it will recharge and the alarm will clear – nothing to worry about.

We leave our mooring a little after 7:00 and start motoring towards the mouth of the harbour. It is a rather long way in Zeebrugge and after 20 minutes, I call Port Control to get permission to get out – it is granted immediately.

Unfortunately, we discover that Battery 2 is still not charging and therefore we are not able to clear the alarm. This could be a problem as it is already low and all the electronics on board run off that one battery. We decide to go on, thinking that we will figure out a solution later.

Once outside the harbour entrance, we raise full sail and shut down the engine.  The wind continues at about 20 knotts in a Southerly direction. Since we needed to go South West, we were beating as close to the wind as possible, doing a good 5 to 5.5 knotts with a slight tide against us. We take turns at the wheel, changing about every hour or so. Most people have done it before so it goes without problems.  Here is Harry at work, while the rest of the crew relaxes.

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Posted in Culture, Food, Sports, Travel

Singapore Visit

After Laos (I will cover that trip later), I spent 10 days in Singapore.  I realized as I was there that this is the first time that I am visiting Singapore – all my other stays were either on business, or because I was living there.  For the first time, I was a tourist, and I acted like one…

On the Saturday, I was lucky to be able to attend the EM Dragon Boat Carnival, an annual affair that has been growing each event.  There were over 80 teams entered this year.

From the start

To the finish

All teams worked really hard to do the best they could.

For me, this was an opportunity to see a lot of my friends and I spent most of the time walking around from one team to another reminiscing…  The weather was not very good that day.  As a matter of fact, it rained most of the time.  I decided to leave after the inter-site race, which was fortunately scheduled early this year.  Chemical won again, proving that last year was no fluke!

On the Sunday, things were more serious for me.  The main reason for this whole trip was the Aviva ½ Ironman to be held once again on the East Coast.  For Richard and I, this would be our fourth participation – Dave had done the last two with us and therefore he will be doing his third.  I left the hotel very early (around 5 AM) as I was awake anyway. 

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Posted in General, Sports

Farewell Party

This is long overdue … and there are tww reasons for it: (1) I have been very busy and (2) it is both a pleasant and a tough experience for me to go over that day.

A week before I left Singapore, Papillon and Friends organised a party for me at my favorite beer joint – however, they were able to find a branch I had not visited yet.  We got together at the Breweks on Bukit Timah, not far from Sixth Avenue.  It is smaller than their place across from Clark Key and so more intimate – we had about half the place to ourselves.  I decided to take a taxi so I would not have to worry about how to get home.

A few guests were there already when I arrived.  Here Freddy (main organiser and much much more) and Hans.


People kept on trickling in little by little – Wong and Vincent soon arrived – Vincent is the “godfather” of Dragon Boat


and Christie and William – I hope you realise how unusual it is to see Christie with a beer – and she did it just for me!


soon too many to name … but I will still try – added are Ben (actually behind the camera for most of the pictures…), Dennis, Jessica, and Su Li


We had beer (of course) and food with more people showing up


I did mention beer didn’t I …


We even had an uninvited guest – I have no idea who is the person in front of Freddy – he just showed up for the pictures….  Then is was time for dessert


and speeches, and more speeches, and prizes – I received an unexpected gift from Brewerks, a very nice polo shirt given to me by their branch manager


and one from Papillon – this is the back side of it – notice how Ben was able to catch my better side in his sketch…


I did mention beer, right? The girls …. and Hans (why?) and the front of the frame, with an actual rowing shirt for the 2009 season which I will miss.


and the boys …


and the whole gang …


I am so glad I did not have to drive home after that!

Thanks to all for a wonderful time, and not just the party, but … you know what I mean!

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Posted in Sports

2009 1/2 Ironman Triathlon

The 1/2 Ironman Triathlon was earlier than the previous years – March instead of September.

Once again, we entered Tri50+ with myself doing the swim (1.9 km), Richard doing the cycling (90 km) and David doing the run (21 km). We were disappointed with our time and position last year so we were determined to do better, even though the obligations at work did not always give us all the opportunities we would have liked to train and both David and I had to travel just before the race.

My day began at 4:30 AM when I woke up and finished well past midnight when I finally could go to sleep in the airplane taking me to Paris.  Everything was ready so all I had to do is get dressed, collect my bag and leave for the East Coast Park where the event will take place.  Since I had not looked at the set-up on Saturday, I spent the first few minutes just orienting myself, particularly for the return from the swim to the cycle.  They had changed the transition area and therefore I wanted to make sure that I knew where everything was.

At 6AM I got my numbers (they always paint numbers on your arms so that they can identify the bodies that they recover in Indonesia after the race – just kidding…) and than ran into Richard and Donald – Donald is once again doing the full triathlon on his own.  Richard got his arm “tatoo’ed” as well even though there was limited risk of him getting lost at sea.


By 7 AM all was set and we listened to the final race briefing. At 7:15, the elite athletes (man and women) left and 5 minutes later, all ladies amateur athletes were given the start.  I was in the third wave, all teams plus men 18-24 and 50+. 

The start of the swim was tougher than usual as I was not able to get to the front and I was therefore stuck in a washing machines of arms, legs, knees and elbows for about 200 m.  I discovered immediately that there was a significant current that would actually be in my favour for the  outward leg, but dead against me heading home. My first lap was OK – I felt good and was passing as many people as were passing me.  However, the very short run on the beach between the first and second lap really got to me.  It was good that David was there to encourage me loudly, but I still do not like running in soft sand.  I had to slow down at the beginning of the second lap to recover.  Fortunately, I could once again count on the current, even stronger now, to take me to the turning point.

The way back was very tough.  I was barely moving against the current.  I had to swim as hard as I could just to gain a little bit and it seemed to take forever.  I passed a few swimmers who must have been moving backwards.  Finally, I reached the last marker and I could turn toward the beach and the final run to the transition area.  Out of the water and an easy jog up the path toward HOME – I do not want a repeat of last year when I tore a muscle at this stage.  Richard is waiting for me at the transition, takes the timing chip and leaves on his bike – I am spent, but David is there to lift my spirits.

After 50 minutes, Richard is back at the end of his first 30 km lap.


We see several cyclists changing tyres because of punctures and two of the elite athletes quit the race because of punctures – one pulled a large thumb tack from his tyre in disgust.  After another 50 minutes, Richard is back and starts his last lap.


You can see one rider fixing his tyre behind Richard on this shot…

And now, all we can do is wait.  Several other ‘runners’ are also waiting for their ‘cyclist’ to return and we chat.  Some people are trying to concentrate on their own – the transition area is somewhat of a mess as every athlete has a lot of gear to support such a long race.  There are very few bicycles at this time – most people are still in the cycling leg.


After 45 minutes since his last passage, David is ready for the run – but no Richard.  50, than 55 minutes pass and still no Richard.  He finally arrives, I grab his bicycle and David grabed the timing chip and he is off on the last leg.  Richard tells me that he too had a puncture, also a thumb tack.  Where he stopped there were several other people actually fixing their tyres, as if some one had intentionally thrown tacks on the road to disrupt the race – who would do such a thing?  Richard is very tired too, but recovers fast.


Richard and I watch David running up and down for his three laps – he is keeping up with the two teams in front of him and staying away from the team behind him – keeping position.  Here he is in the middle of the first lap


He still looks good at the middle of the race


He started to struggle during the last lap but still finished with a faster time than last year.  I estimate that there are about a dozen teams in front of us, much better than last year when we finished 29th overall.


You have to remember when looking at the clock that we left 15 minutes after the top athletes and therefore our time is only about 5h34m50s, a decent time. We are all exhausted at the end of the race.  We get our finisher’s medals, and we are off to freshen up and recover at home.  I still need to pack for my trip!


At about 5PM I get an SMS from Richard that says: “We came 2cnd. Well Done!”  I was  not quite sure what he meant.  So I sent a message asking if we are 2nd? Must be in Men’s category.  And Richard confirmed that we were indeed Second and that we would be getting trophies!  We were 10th overall, so were actually beaten by 7 mixed and 1 ladies teams.  It is a mixed team who took the overall victory for teams, about 20 minutes faster than us.

Here are the trophies that Audrey was kind enough to pick up for us – I have not seen them yet, other than this picture. Those of you who know can recognise the road in the background.


Another wonderful experience…

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Posted in Culture, Sports, Travel

Catchup PM

It appears that I have a lot to catch up on to let you know what I have been doing up to the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009.
I will do this in two installments – one that I will call ‘before Myanmar or AM (Ante Myanmar)’ and another that will be called ‘after Myanmar or PM (Post Myanmar)’ but please do not hold me to that as I have no ideas how much effort either of those will take.
Here goes PM…
In November, my team and many others participated in the annual Singapore Regatta, right in the heart of the business district on the Singapore River. Several thousand participants row at this regatta every year and it is one of the toughest of the year. For the first time, there was a Corporate Mixed division and therefore Papillon hoped to do well.
I really enjoy this event because of the atmosphere.  This event is run right in the heart of the business district, along the Singapore River.


The boat in the foreground is Papillon getting ready for our heat.  We were against tough opposition, with OCBC, HSBC and RBS teams in our heat. We had to come in first or second to be sure to move into the semi-finals.
I am almost embarrassed to show this picture – look carefully at the right and left side rowers in boat 2 … maybe this is part of the reason why we only came in third behind OCBC and HSBC.


As always, there are plenty of cheers after the race as we pass in front of the EM Tent.


Our time was still good enough to get us into the semi-finals – actually, our heat seemed to be one of the fastest and therefore we had the sixth fastest time of all the heats.
The other EM teams did equally well and therefore we had 4 teams in the semis with the ladies qualifying directly for the final – a big crowd still on Sunday.  Here is the whole ‘family’…


There is always a lot of waiting in between races.  An opportunity to look around at all the other teams participating – in this event there are more than 300 teams registered and with either 10 or 20 rowers per team, this means 4000-5000 participants!  Each team, or organisation has staked out their patch of land for gear, warm up etc … You can tell Christmas is coming too.


Our team is in good spirits since we know we get to come back on Sunday for the semis.


A lot of the racing is very competitive, much more so than in previous years where the heats had sometimes significant distances between finishers.  In this case, you almost need a photo (which they have) to determine who was in what position.


The energy and the close fighting can be seen on the face of these teams, even the drummer and the coxswain are fully engaged.  And you know there is a lot at stake when you see the fans (actually rowers from the same team but in other divisions) running along in the background to cheer their team on.


For some reason, on Sunday we are again drawn against OCBC in the semi-final. We also have to contend with Citibank, always a very strong team.

We do well and finish second, just behind OCBC.  We have to depend on timing to see if we qualify for the final, but the other two semi-finals are quicker than ours and therefore we are eliminated.

The men’s teams have better success and make it to the final. The first few strokes of “Ace” are quite impressive…

blog-08     Attention! (Ready)

blog-09     stroke 1

blog-10     stroke 2!

and are sufficient to carry them to second place behind HP.  The Lillies finished 5th in the ladies finals and OCBC won the Mixed final (some how the teams which had gone 3 to 4 seconds faster than OCBC and us in the semis could not do it again and lost by over a second…)
At the end, we all celebrated with a good lunch (at 3PM – you have to learn to be flexible with meal times) and a team photo in front of more Christmas Decorations.


A fun time was had by all!
In early December, I did a quick trip to Koh Samui in Thailand.  An opportunity to do several dives but also rest and pamper myself in a very nice resort.  Koh Samui is very much like Phuket – very touristy but still interesting and I did get very good food.
I celebrated New Year in Seoul, South Korea.  Actually flew there on 31 December.  I had upgraded my ticket to business class, and I was the only one in the cabin!  I had my “personal” stewardess for the 5 hour flight.
I went to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace which has an impressive gate


Unfortunately there was an even more impressive outer gate called Gwanhwamun – it burned down a few years ago (in 2006 I believe) as a result of arson.  It is now being rebuilt so I did not get to see anything.
The palace itself is very impressive – similar layout to the Forbidden City in Beijing, with a “Hall of Preserving Harmony”


that includes the royal throne


We had an excellent local guide in local costume – but you can see that it was quite cold that day (and the whole time I was in Korea, with temperatures typically hovering between -5 and -10 C)


The next day I went to the Korean Folk Village, about 1 hour by train from the center of Seoul + 30 minutes by bus.  I was glad that there were some people speaking English to help me out with transportation.  A saw some typical Korean Dances


Girls playing on a teeter-totter


A very popular tight rope walker


And very unhappy ducks on ice


The last day I went to Panmunjong with the USO.  If you do not know, the two Koreas are still officially at war.  There has been a truce signed many years ago, but no armistice.  The two countries are separated by a 4 mile wide Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ and the only ‘common’ ground are the barracks at Panmunjon where the truce was signed and where there are still occasional meetings between the two sides.  There are United Nations troops (mostly Americans but I did find out that there were Belgian troops and officers as well) still stationed just outside the DMZ.
The bus dropped us off at Camp Bonifas where we boarded a “secured” bus to go in the DMZ.


The sign says it all: “United Nations Command Security Battalion – Camp Bonifas – In front of them all”.  We were not allowed to take pictures in the DMX until we arrived at Panmunjon so I had to go to Google Earth to give you a perspective of where we were.  First, the view of the land between Camp Bonifas and Panmunjon


There is a small village located on the South Korean side of the DMZ.  It can only be occupied by people who lived there at the beginning of the war, or their relatives and they are allowed to farm areas in the DMZ.  They have a strict curfew and have to be at home every night before 10PM
Here an overhead view of Panmunjon itself


I think everyone will recognise the blue buildings in this shot and the next one.  South Korean guards in the foreground (these guards need to be 6 feet tall minimum and only Koreans get the job) and NorthKorean soldiers in the background.  The actual border is the raised concrete plinth just in front of the North Koreans.


I was told that the soldiers only come out for “our protection” – when there are no visitors, they go away.  We also visited the room where delegations from South and North Korea meet on occasions – there was a significant thawing of the relationship a few years ago, but all that went away recently and they have not met in several years.  In this room, I was able to cross the border and walk 3 meters into North Korea.  Here too, we were well protected.


We also went to one of the outlying guard posts for a better view of the North Korean side of the DMZ.  Here is the other village located in the DMZ, on the North Korean side.  It has the largest flag pole and largest flag in the world.  The village is empty of citizens.


It was a very quick visit to Korean, but I really enjoyed it.

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Posted in Sports

February Events

A busy end to the month of February …

On Saturday, 21/2, we had our last practice for the EM Dragon Boat Carnival.  There are three teams representing SPT (the project I am working on) and 66 teams total, all from EM, entered into this competition.  Two teams (SPT Long Chuan and SPT Dragoneers) practiced together, and raced against each other, just to see where we stood

blog12 photo by Freddy

This is taken before the second mock race.  We did not look this good after a second all out effort.

On Sunday 22/2, I was up early (like 5AM), had a quick and light breakfast, grabbed the bag I had packed the night before and took my bicycle to the F1 Pit Garages.  Today, OCBC (a local bank) was organizing the first large scale cycling event in Singapore, and I was one of many EM employees to participate.

The first event is a 50 km race for elite racers (those capable of maintaining a speed above 40 km/h).  They left at 6 AM and I wanted to be there to take some pictures.

Before the event, cyclist are slowly (mainly because it is still so early) getting ready


There are about 200 cyclist ready to go


I was entered into the 40 km race with the number 902.  The start was scheduled for 7:30 AM but was given in order of expected finishing time.  Ahead of me were all the people who had indicated that they would finish in less than one hour; I was in the group of riders who expected to finish in 60-75 minutes and the last group was for those expected to take more than 75 minutes.  There were over 2500 participants.


Some people have really tried hard to have a unique look


Immediately after the start, I follow a group that is moving at a pretty good speed.  I am drafting towards the end of the group and working hard to keep up.  That is when I made the mistake to look at my odometer and see that we are doing 38 km/h.  On my own, I can ride consistently at 31-32 km/h so this is significantly faster, but I do not have to fight the wind resistance.  I am able, just, to keep up with the rest of the group.

However, at each turn, the group slows down than re-accelerates and I loose contact – I have to re-accelerate back to 39-40 just to catch up and at each turn, this gets tougher.  Finally after 20 km of the race, I have to let the group go as I am afraid I will not be able to finish the race if I keep pushing.  I slow down to 32 km/h and they quickly move away from me.

I ride pretty much on my own for the next 20 km back to the starting point, occasionally passed by a small group of riders, occasionally passing a slower rider or two.  I finished the race exactly 500th in 1h15 – I am happy with that result.

There is a crowd recovering after the finish


While more cyclists keep arriving


The atmosphere before and after the race was fantastic.  As I was recovering, the 20 km fun ride was just starting – another 3000 participants were getting on the course. 


For me, this was an opportunity to ride non-stop on the streets with no traffic to worry about, and also see how I stack up against other cyclists.  I only took pictures before and after the ‘race’ as I wanted to do the best time possible since I had such a good start.

It was a great day and before 11AM I was back at my apartment, trying not to fall asleep on the couch! (I failed…)

This past Saturday 28/2 was the EM Dragon Boat Carnival.  66 teams were entered from all departments and many people I normally race with in Papillon were now my opponents in other teams.

All the following pictures were taken by others, as I did not have my camera for this event – credits with each shot!

We arrived early as there were preparations to make and a lot of the organising committee was from Papillon so it gave us a chance to catch up after the long break since the Regatta in November.

blog01 photo by Samuel

The day started with a sail-pass of three boats to set the scene.

blog02 photo by unknown

We had practiced this for two hours several weeks ago, and than another 1/2 hour before the ‘show”.  I am glad that it looked good from the shore.

SPT Team members came in gradually and started to get into the mood…

blog04 photo by Samuel 

And than the heats began.  6 boats per heat, so 11 heats required.  The first two in each heat go directly to the semi-finals; all others go to the repechage.

Heat 6 saw SPT Naga-X finish in 3rd place.  In Heat 8, SPT Dragoneers(my team) did rather well from the start.

blog03 photo by Harry

and continued to do well at the end

blog05 photo by Harry

No, we were not the only boat in this heat.  We finished first by two boat length – we had one of the best times of all the heats.  In heat 10, SPT Long Chuan finished second, an excellent result since the teams was essentially all beginners.  The repechage was kind to Naga-X and they also qualified for the semi-finals.  Three-out-of-three into the semis…

There were 6 semi-finals with the top team in each going in the Grand Final and the second placed team going to the Plate Final.  Long Chuan was in Semi 3; Naga-X in semi 5 and Dragoneers were in the last semi, Semi 6 against SSM Inspection “A” which also had an excellent time in the heats (only 0.12 seconds slower than ours…).  We needed to get ready while Long Chuan and Naga-X ran their races and therefore we failed to see the results.  Naga-X was a very credible third and Long Chuan did better after a (incredible, I was told) come back to take first place by a dragon’s nose.  One team already in the Grand Final.

Our semi was very close! Dragoneers and Inspection “A” were neck and neck all the way and it was unfortunate that one of these teams should be eliminated from the Grand Final. 

blog06 photo by Samuel

Fortunately, we had a good finish and beat Inspection by 0.33 seconds.  We had given it our all and really had difficulties rowing back to the docks.  The cheers of the rest of the team on shore confirmed that we were first.  Two SPT Teams in the Grand Final.

Unfortunately, since we were the last semi-final, the organisers are already calling the plate final as we are starting to cool down.  Soon, they are calling for the Grand Final teams to get ready – we stall!  We go through our preparation and pre-game pep talk, more in order to give ourselves longer to recover than any other reason. 

SPT Long Chuan is in lane 2 – ready to go…

 blog07 photo by Samuel

SSM Vigilance (with a lot of people I know because they are regular rowers) is in lane 1; Dragoneers are in lane 6, all the way at the other end.

blog08 photo by Samuel

All teams have to be good to get to the final – now is a question of which is slightly better, or which has been able to keep the most energy at the end of the day.

The results are very close.  Most of our fans from the shore are not sure which team won.  What is sure is that Long Chuan, unfortunately, finished last.  This is still an excellent result and they have a good excuse – one of the rowers lost his paddle right at the start and therefore they did the whole race with only 9 rowers!  Sam finally showed me the pictures he took at the finish – it is clear that Vigilance pipped us right at the line by a whisker!  We figure second place is not bad, but there is still a chance that the photo finish was at a different angle and therefore saw it differently.

blog09 photo by Samuel

My day is not done though! I have one more race, and it is the most serious of all.  The Inter-site race.  For the last two years, I was racing withthe Harbour Front team, since I was located nearest to them – and for the last two years, Refinery won the race, with Chemicals in close second place.  This year I was in the Chemicals Team and we were determined to regain the trophy.  Both Teddy and I are again sitting side by side (he was also next to me on Dragoneersand helped me a lot running the team) but we are both exhausted from the semi + final we just went through.  However, everybody else in the three boats has done pretty much the same thing, so no excuse.

We have a good start and lead all the way for a very famous victory! Chemicals has regained the cup and bragging rights for a year.

SPT Dragoneers with the silver medal from the overall competition

blog10 photo by Samuel

and of course “Chemicals” with the gold medal from the inter-site and the cup!

blog11 photo by Samuel

Now, I can retire from Dragon Boat with me head held high – a silver and a glod medal for my last two races is not bad!

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