Saturday, 20 December 2008

Dropping Out Of The Race To Save Another

The British Yachtswoman Samantha Davies, who is currently taking part in a solo round-the-world race, changed her course to try and save a fellow yachtsman.

The French sailor Yann Elies, who was also taking part in the race, had got into trouble after a wave hit his boat and he broke his thighbone.

The British woman diverted her course and sailed nearly 40 miles out of her way to try and reach to Frenchman.

She wasn't the only one to forgo their place in the race, as fellow Frenchman and sailor Marc Guillemot also changed his course to help out.

Helping Out

Guillemot was the first to reach Elies boat, which was 800 miles off the coast of Australia, and managed to throw painkillers to the injured man.

However the seas were too rough to be able to get on board or move Elies from his own boat to another.

Davies said to The Guardian that "there's no way we can get him off his boat and onto one of ours. The plan is to stand by and be moral and phycological support for him while he's waiting the real rescue".

She said that as soon as she heard to news she was determined to sail to the aide of her competitor and friend.

The Race

All three of the competitors were taking part in the Vendee Globe Race, which is essentially a race around the world, on your own, without stopping off anywhere and without any external help.

The competitors set off on the 9th of November this year. The starting point was Les Sables D'Olonne in France.

There are eight 'gates' that competitors must pass through in order to complete the race, and the total length of the course is around 24,000 miles.

Davies was competing on her boat named Roxy, while Elies' vessel was named The Generali.


This is not the first time in the history of the race that a competitor has been in trouble.

The Vendee Globe Race covers some stretches of water that are thought to be particularly dangerous.

In the race beginning in 2004 and ending in 2005, over a third of the boats that took part were forced to retire from the race.

According to The Telegraph, there were also several fatalities during the races that took place in 1992/1993 and 1996/1997.

Time Credits

After Elies was rescued by an Australian Navy Ship, both Davies and Guillemot returned to the race.

They have been told that they will recieve time credits for helping out their competitor, and will not lose their position in the race.

It was great to see such an uplifting story in the news, celebrating the willingness of people to help others when they were in need.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

New Test in Northern Ireland

The new motorbike test that was supposed to come into force in September this year has just been introduced in Northern Ireland.

The new test involves having to complete the original theory test and practical test, but now also includes taking part in a manouvres test as well.

It has been introduced by the Driver and Vehicle Agency as part of the European directive.

The test was supposed to come into force across the whole of the UK in September 2008, however there was a mix up. It will now be introduced in the UK in March 2009.

Whats Involved

The new manouvres test will involve a number of exercises that have to be completed. These include:
  • A slow riding exercise where the rider has to ride alongside the examiner at a walking pace.

  • A slalom and a figure-of-8 exercise. In the UK these are taught at a basic level during the CBT test.

  • Walking the bike in a 'U' turn, and then riding in a 'U' turn.

  • Getting the bike both on and off the motorbike stands.

  • Riding the bike in a curve, in either second or third gear at a minimum speed of 30km/h (roughly 19mph).

  • Emergency braking exercise, as well as an avoidance test at a minimum speed of 50km/h (roughly 32mph).
After passing the test you will be given a certificate, that like the theory test, is valid for two years and must be presented when taking a full test.

Comments on the Test

Environment Minister Sammy Wilson, who is a biker himself, has said of the test that "it is important that motorcyclists are fully equipped for the challenges they will face on the road. The new motorcycle manouvres test will enable examiners to test core skills in an off-road environment".

Others have suggested that it will help to reduce the number of motorbike casualties on the road.

DVA Chief Executive Brendan Magee has said that "only candidates who demonstrate the ability to carry out these manouvres safely will be able to progress".

UK Centres

In the UK, the test was due to be introduced at the end of September. It involved various new test centres being set up where the manouvres test could take place.

However the centres were not ready in time for the introduction date, and the government faced a lot of embarassment as learners were charged for the new test but could not take it.

In the end the introduction of the new test was put back until March 2009, so that the new centres could be set up. This did however leave a lot of angry new riders out of pocket, having paid for the new test.

So we'll have to wait until March to see if this time, the new test will go ahead.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Manchester Says No

On Friday, the city of Manchester voted whether or not to introduce and Congestion Charging zone like London's. The outcome was an overwhelming 'No'.

The idea was introduced after the success of the London Congestion Charge, which was put in place by mayor Ken Livingstone in 2003.

The city has been discussing the possible introduction of a Congestion Charging Zone since 2007.

Manchester is not the only UK city to consider a Congestion Charging Zone proposal, but they were the first to apply for backing from the Transport Innovation Fund.


It was decided that the citizens of Manchester should be able to decide themselves whether or not the plans should go ahead.

Cars were to be charged £5 a day to travel into the centre of Manchester. For the first years trucks would be exempt from the charge, until a study into it's effectiveness was carried out.

If there was a positive response to the proposal, the new Congegstion Zone would be effective from July 2013.

However, on the 12th December 2008 all ten of the Manchester boroughs that make up the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities voted against the plans.


Apart from London, Durham has also introduced a Congestion Charging Zone in the busiest areas of it's city from 2002.

Cambridge is one of the cities that is considering introducing the charge, along with Manchester.

However, Manchester would have been the biggest city to introduce such a charge since London in 2003.

Had they gone ahead with the plans, it is thought they would have been the first of many large cities to bring in such a charge.

By saying no, there is a suggestion that other cities and congested towns will also follow suit.


One part of the proposal from Manchester's AGMA was that motorbikes would not be charged to enter the city.

This is the same as London and Durham, and is also what Cambridge have suggested would be part of their own proposal.

In effect, the introduction of a Congestion Charge in Manchester could have lead to an increase in motorbikers, as drivers try to find a cheaper way to travel.

An increase in the number of bikers can only be a good thing: with better awareness paid to motorcyclists.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Ace Cafe Xmas Toy Run

Every year just before Christmas, the Ace Cafe hosts the Xmas Toy Run - whereby hundreds of bikes ride from the Cafe, stopping off a three London hospitals to give out presents to children.

This year is the first time I have taken part, and it was such a great atmosphere that it will definitely be on the calendar for next year!

Although I had been planning to take part in the Ace Cafe Xmas Toy Run for several weeks, I forgot about the event until late on Saturday night.

I had planned to decorate my bike, however by the time I remembered all the closest shops were shut. I had a little bit of wrapping paper left over and decided to wake up early the next morning to do the best I could.

Childrens Presents

Every biker that turns up to take part in the run brings along a childrens toy, wrapped up and labelled with age and sex. I brought a couple of Doctor Who books.

These get put into sacks and loaded into the back of a van, which comes with us an the run. After parking my bike and handing over my presents, I headed inside the Cafe to get a cup of tea.

The great thing about bike runs, is that you always meet new people, and everyone is very friendly. I got talking to a couple who were riding a new CBR 1000, as well as someone who had the 'naked' version of my bike.

At around 10.30 in the morning, bikes started to line up on the road opposite the Cafe, getting ready to leave. I finished my tea and heading over to put on all my thermals: it was a very cold day!

Ready for the off

I found myself somewhere in the middle of the bikes, with a Police escort bike to the right of me. Once all the bikes were out of the parking lot, we were off!!

Having a Police escort was amazing. Being able to get all the bikes onto the North Circular at once, while the Police blocked the cars from moving was a sight to see.

As we were going up the hill, all I could see in front was a sea of all different kinds of bikes; from cruisers and sportsbikes, to tourers, scooters and even a couple of trikes.

Fancy Dress

Most of the riders had either decorated their bike, or dressed up themselves. It was great to see a snowman overtake you, followed closely by a santa clause and a turkey!

There were many notable costumes, one of which was a woman who had turned herself and her bike into a moving Christmas tree, complete with fairy lights.

Another was the couple who were both dressed as bears and riding with a sidecar. Riding in the sidecar was a soft toy bear!

The best dressed bike had to be the one that had been made to look like a reindeer, complete with red nose and antlers!

The Hospitals

By the time we reached the first hospital, St Mary's, it was time for a well earned rest. Not that we had ridden far, but it was so cold everything felt a bit numb.

I got talking to a guy who had only recently taken up motorbiking, and this was his first big ride out. He told me he was thinking of buying heated gloves after today!

The van was unloaded, and a few people went it to give out presents. All too soon it was time to get back on a head off to the next hospital.

The great thing about the Police escort, was being able to go through traffic lights even when they were red. All the cars and buses stopped to let us pass, and many people honked or waved hello.

The second hospital was St Thomas's in Lambeth, where we stopped for quite a while, and I got talking to a woman dressed as a turkey.

She was videoing the ride as she was riding pillion on the back of a bike belonging to a snowman.

End of the Day

After the third and final hospital, where there was not enough room to park all our bikes so we all parked in a long line downt he side of the road, we headed back to the Ace Cafe.

I didn't stay for long once we were back, just long enough to buy a cup of tea and sit inside in the warm!

In the end it was a great day, everyone who was stopped to let us pass was friendly enough, and it must have been an amazing sight to see hundreds of Santa's ride past on motorbikes!

Friday, 12 December 2008

TRIP OF A LIFETIME: Plans Wrecked!

Just as things started to become more concrete on the bike trip round Europe, everything has come to a shuddering halt.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been looking into getting together a worst-case cost for the whole trip.

It looks like not only would it be an affordable holiday, but also I could afford to stay in an actual hotel once in a while, and even go shopping on the odd occasion.

I have managed to get hold of some hard panniers for my bike that are pretty sturdy and also don't feel as heavy as others I've seen. After a bit of bargaining, they turned out to be relatively cheap as well.

I've asked for various things for the trip for Christmas, and I have been faithfully promised by various family members and friends that I should find them under the tree come Christmas morning.

University Course

As part of my Broadcast Journalism course at university, I have to put together a documentary, either for radio or television.

I have been considering making the trip the focus of the documentary, as it would be a great way to record everything.

I am planning to take a module in Travel Journalism after the Christmas break, so hopefully this class will help turn it into a great project.

It also seems like a great way to combine the two interests into one: journalism and motorbiking, as well as travel!

Spanner in the Works

However, recently it has turned out that all my well laid plans may not be able to go ahead after all.

As part of the course, I also need to complete three weeks work experience at a radio station newsroom. This is due to take place in January.

I have been really looking forward to putting to use everything I have learnt, and getting to see how a real newsroom works.

Last night I had a phone call to let me know that I had been accepted onto a work experience placement - but it wouldn't be in January as expected. It is in April - the month that I have planned my trip for.

New Plans

So now I'm thinking about how I can work around the setback. I still want to go, and I do have three weeks in January when I won't have anything to do.

I'm not sure how much I fancy the idea of riding around in the middle of winter however, so I not sure if that idea will last long!

I could reduce the trip drastically and try and do less in a shorter period of time. I still have a week in April that I might be able to fit something into.

For now the trip takes a backseat as I focus on getting ready for Christmas, then a media law exam in January. Hopefully I'll think of something and still be able to complete the trip!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Backlash at Tennant's Back Pain

Doctor Who star David Tennant, who is currently performing as Hamlet, has been unable to perform for the past few days.

His part is currently being played by his understudy, Edward Bennett, as Tennant is out with a back injury.

Most of the reviews of his performance have been positive, and according to BBC News, he recieved a standing ovation.

The show's director Gregory Doran spoke about Tennant missing the performance, saying that the actor was very upset at not being able to perform.

"Before this injury, he has only ever been off for one performance in his entire career to date, and is hoping that he will be able to return to the show as quickly as possible".

Well Recieved

The play has moved from it's run in Stratford-Upon-Avon to London, and is showing at the Novello Theatre.

Monday was the first run in Hamlet's shoes for Edward Bennett, but it was Tuesday night's performance that mattered most.

This was press night; a night of critics followed by a morning of reviews. It seems he had nothing to worry however, and The Guardian was just one of the positive reviews he recieved.

He had originally been playing Laertes, a smaller part which involves a fight scene with Hamlet. With Tennant out, the whole cast was moved around to accomodate the new protagonist.

Tennant Backlash

What was most striking about the reports of the change, was the way in which many papers took the opportunity to strike at David Tennant.

The Telegraph ran with the headline that Tennant had dissapointed theatregoers, instead of concentrating on the success of the understudy.

The success of the play had been sold on the fact that the Doctor Who star was taking the lead role, but it is a notable achievement to find an understudy who still recieves an ovation despite the Tennant fans in the audience.

It seemed to be suggested that Tennant - who never missed a night in 60 performances while in Stratford - was letting audiences down.

He had taken a year off from acting in Doctor Who to concentrate fully on the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Hamlet.

He has already released a statement saying that after surgery, he hopes to return to the show as soon as possible.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Ace Cafe: The Legend That Is

Every country has places that must be visited by every biker, at least once. In the UK, one of those places is the Ace Cafe.

It was originally built in 1938, as a road side stop for truckers using the then new North Circular road.

Being open 24 hours and also being so close to a main road, meant that it was soon taken over by motorbikers - the 'Ton-up' boys.

It closed in 1969 when the rock n' roll era was up; but was reopened again on the original site in 1997 - now catering for all bikers as well as car enthusiasts.

The Cafe is now famous for it's event's, from bike nights and car meets, to motorbike runs and charity causes.

Charity Supporter

This year, the Ace has been supporting the charity Jeans for Genes, and according to their website, "aims to raise £100,000 to create The Genetic Road Map".

The Jeans for Genes charity aims to 'change the world for children affected by genetic disorders', and hold their main fundraising day during October.

Bikers have been urged to get sponsored for ride outs, or simply to donate during the many key events at the Cafe through the year.

This isn't the only charity work that is supported by the Ace Cafe however.

Every year at Christmas, hundreds of bikers bring a childrens toy to the Cafe, and then ride out to hospitals around London to give them to children who will be in hospital over Christmas.

Global Attraction

Although based in the England, it's not just a place to visit for UK bikers. The Ace is known across Europe, and and ride out you can often meet foreigners come for the day.

One of the biggest attractions is the three day Ace Cafe Reunion event, usually held in September.

Part of the event is the Continental Run, which starts at a cafe in Germany, and picks up riders while going through Holland, Belgium and France.

In the past it has been estimated that around 15,000 bikes have taken part on some point of the run, and over the three days, 40,000 bikers have celebrated the Ace.

The Reunion includes a run from the Ace Cafe to the famous Madeira Drive in Brighton - known as the Brighton Burn-Up.

This event can attract riders from as far afield as America and even on the odd occasion, from Australia.

In the Media

The Cafe has often been the subject of media attention since it's opening nearly seventy years ago.

In 1964, the Cafe was the centre for the film The Leather Boys, which focused on the rocker scene that was big at the time.

It also came under a lot of critisism from the press as well, who saw the place as a centre of young untrustworthy youths.

The bikers were stereotyped as being loud, rude and uncaring, riding too fast and having to thought for other road users.

Charlie Boorman has visited the Cafe in his TV series 'By Any Means', riding to the Cafe on his bike and then leaving on a bus.

The Ace Cafe has gone from truck stop to rocker's world to it's new incarnation celebrating motor love - and it's the only greasy spoon to be seen at.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Interviewing LCC and MCN

As a journalism student, I often practice putting together interviews and radio packages. One of my recent radio packages was on the 'motorbike's in bus lanes' story.

This is the news that Boris Johnson has announced that from the 5th of January this year, motorbikes will be allowed to use all London bus lanes as part of an 18 month trial.

I have already blogged about the news before, so if you want to read what I said on the story you can click here.

London Cycling Campaign

As part of the news package, I wanted to make sure I got the arguement from both sides of the debate.

I called London Cycling Campaign, who are against the trial as they believe there is no evidence to suggest it will be safer or reduce congestion, and spoke to Charlie Lloyd.

He told me, among other things, that there was evidence to suggest the scheme would have no significant impact on the safety issues for any road users.

Charlie Lloyd has written about the LCC's opposition to motorbikes in bus lanes on the bikerforum website.

On it he says that previous testing suggested that "any benefit to motorcyclists might be outweighed by increased risk to pedestrians and cyclists".

Motorcycle News

In order to get a balanced view of the arguement, I also rang Motorcycle News, who campaigned for Boris to release a date for the trial to begin.

The mayor released the date of the 5th January 2009 before the petition was handed to him - though they did manage to collect 3,900 signatures.

I spoke to Steve Farrell at MCN, who told me that there would be many benefits to both motorcyclists and other road users.

It would mean bikers could travel without the fear of being caught by cars who aren't looking for motorbikes while filtering, and the road would be freed up for car drivers and other motorists.

It may even encourage more people to get on a bike, therefore reducing the amount of congestion on the roads of London.


Obviously I had a bit of a bias on the story, being a biker living in London myself. However I tried to make sure this wasn't evident.

I have uploaded the package on the story below. Both interviews have been cut to fit within the two minute maximum.

Any feedback on whether the package works well and is interesting would be much appreciated!

Monday, 8 December 2008

A British Obama?

An American lawsuit claiming that Barack Obama is 'too British' to be President of the United States has been turned down by the US Supreme Court.

The appeal claimed that when he was born he had held 'foreign citizenship' - even though he had been born in Hawaii - and therefore he shouldn't be eligible to run for and hold the Presidential Office.

His father was a citizen of Kenya, which at the time of Obama's birth was under British juristiction. The case argued that because of this, Obama would have been been a British citizen 'at birth'.

The Telegraph have said that the case gained a high profile as it was distributed to Supreme Court Justices by Justice Clarence Thomas - who Barack Obama said he would not have nominated.

Constitutional Rules

Article II, section 1 of the US Constitution requires that "no person except a natural born citizen" is eligible to be President.

This means that the country's leader cannot have emigrated to the US, no matter how long they have lived in the country.

This rule only applies to the Presidency: hence the Governor of California is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was born is Austria. Under the constitutional rules he cannot run for President.

Hawiian Birth Certificate

According to the BBC News website, Barack Obama's aides posted his birth ceritificate on the internet during the election campaign.

It stated that he was born in Hawaii; and therefore was a 'natural born' citizen of the United States.

It showed that he was born on the 4th August 1961, in Hawaii, and was verified by Hawiian officials - clearing up any possible accusations of non-citizenship that may have been around during the campaign.


The lawsuit was brought about by a retired lawyer from New Jersey, called Leo Donofrio, and was one of many that claimed Obama did not abide by the constitution and therefore could not be President of America.

Although it agreed that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and had a Hawaiian birth certificate, it argued that he was still born with foreign citizenship.

It stated that:

Since Barack Obama's father was a citizen of Kenya, and therefore subject to the juristiction of the United Kingdom at the time of Senator Obama's birth, then Senator Obama was a British citizen 'at birth', just like the framers of the Constitution and therefore, even if he were to produce an original birth
certificate proving he were born on US soil, he still wouldn't be eligible to be president.

Other Cases

This was not the only case that was brought to the Supreme Court's attention on the subject of Obama's right to be President.

A second, from the Pennsylvanian lawyer Philip Berg, suggested that the circumances surrounding Obama's birth are unclear - and he could in fact have been born in Kenya.

It suggests that Obama has a Hawaiian birth certificate as his mother flew to the state in order to register his birth - therefore giving him American citizenship.

Surprisingly, this suggestion has gained a number of backers who believe the birth certificate is suspicious. This blog by SodaHead has more details on the case.

Tenuous Link

The lawyer has also contended that both John McCain, and Roger Calero of the Socialist Workers, are also not eligible to run for president as they are not 'natural born citizens'.

The electoral race for President has been closely watched by many countries, as the world asked 'was America about the see their first black President?'

Although Barack managed to keep the race issue largely out of the limelight, it cannot be ignored that he will go down in the history as the first black President.

And while this is the case, could it not be argued that these attempts to stop Obama becoming President are simply attempts to stop a black man leading America?

Sunday, 7 December 2008


Being a student involves spending a lot of time in the pub. On Friday, after a particularly drunk birthday night out, a friend invited me to Ireland for a few days.

It sounded like a good idea: I'd ride to Liverpool and get the ferry into Dublin. Surprisingly, the next morning it still sounded like a good idea.

That was when I thought I'd look into it for real, and a plan started forming...

Instead of riding straight to Dublin, I could ride south to a friend in Winchester. Then I could head into Cardiff where a couple of friends from uni live, and eventually head north to Holyhead, where the ferry crosses into Dublin.

Practice Ride

It will be a good practice run for my big trip after easter, and hopefully will also remain relatively cheap, with petrol and food being the only costs.

According to Google Maps, the entire journey would take around 15 hours, so theoretically it could be done in a day.

However I am currently thinking of doing it just after New Years, and I imagine the weather won't be the warmest! The ability to stop every few hours (and hopefully overnight) would be very welcome.

This all depends on the kindness of friends of course, and what they're up to. In the end it could turn out to be quite an expensive trip, but well worth the effort.

UK against Europe

While travelling through Europe and seeing all the sights sounds a lot more glamourous, I'm actually quite excited at the prospect of doing this ride.

Having the chance to visit friends I hardly see, and also to visit Wales, a country I haven't been able to see much of, is a fun idea.

As for Ireland, it's somewhere I've always wanted to visit but at the same time never really got round to it, so seeing the country while in the tow of a native would be the best way to see it.

After this, I will hopefully know a little more about planning for a long trip. The amount of clothes and baggage that is safe to take is the question I am most interested in being aswered.

The Road Less Travelled

While I like to think that I can move around the country quite happily without getting homesick, I'm still not a well-travelled girl.

I have lived away from home at boarding school for my A-Levels, then moved to Essex University for three years to study, and finally I have moved down to London for a year.

Yet I still haven't seen much of the country I live in. There is a saying where I live, that states "if you go north of Watford Gap, you get a nosebleed!"

Unseen Places

So I have never seen Scotland, or Ireland, or Northern Ireland. I have visited the outskirts of Wales, but barely ventured in.

My mum was born in Liverpool, and I have never visited the city. Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Leeds are all cities I'd love to see but have never made the opportunity available.

The English Tourist Board has loads of great tips on travelling round the United Kingdom, and if this trip comes to fruition, I plan to make full use of their ideas.

At the moment this all depends on finding out if the offer to visit Dublin still stands: but I'll find that out tomorrow!