Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

It’s pretty boring hearing  about other people’s trips or athletic events.  The good parts are the really serious injuries, or better still, mere demonstrations of the places sans words. This is why all the snowboard videos rarely have dialogue. You mostly see dudes doing crazy tricks with loads of gorgeous snow, mountains and sunshine as a backdrop and some variation of reggae or punk music. And even still, a good third of those videos are typically the wipe outs.

Hence, I won’t ramble on about a three-day ski trip to Andorra. Simply put:

  • The serrated mountain tops make for incredible scenery. Skiing on the tippy tops of the Pyrenees, verses down a mountain’s face (aka in the Vermont), is a trip
  • Going up the lifts you can occasionally spot birds of prey, eagles I think, which is cool. Albert swears he also saw a fox, but I’m not sure I believe him.
  • It’s cold. -12C=10F. By end of day two I get frostbite on my toe, and am out of commission for our last day of skiing, which sucks, since the skies open up and its completely sunny.
  • We are puzzled to learn that in Pas de la Casa, the village where we stay, Spanish is practically useless. We are as relentless in continuing to speak Spanish to bar and restaurant owners as they are in answering in French.
  • Andorra is a real country. Or it has been since 1993, when a mere 9,000 of its eligible voters cast their ballot for independence.  Know what it was before that? A co-princedom, going back to Charlemagne. It’s not in the EU, probably because  80% of its GDP comes from selling tax-free booze, cigarettes, and luxury products; ski tourism; and anonymous account banking (where do you think all the Swiss depositors are fleeing?).

Andorra, the country

Some photos of the mountains and ESADE crew, who organized the trip.

Diarmuid and Dim

With the English board shop manager, who kept a bottle of vodka by his workbench, and lent Dmitry his personal snowboard

All smug after eating a spicy beef wrap. So hot....mmmmm

Shark's teeth peaks


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This post dedicated to my friend Andy, for whom sailing is leaps and bounds above any “rowing-type” nautical sport.

Someone up there in the heavens, manifested in the form of the ESADE “Sea and Wind Club*”  granted my wish of learning how to sail. Better still, it was a regatta race, not just your average day out on the high seas. It’s been on the Nina To-Do list for about 6 years now, and due to feasibility problems–have you ever tried to convince someone in NYC to take you out on his 40 footer?– taken a bit of time to realize.

The sensation of being propelled forward via manipulating the wind through mechanical engineering made me feel damn proud to be a human being. Working the jib (smaller sail in front of the mainsail) on a few of our tacks (turning the boat to have the wind hit the sail from the other side) was super cool. It’s a hell of a workout turning that crank, which explains Popeye’s large forearms.

Our Competition

Four sloops, each 40 feet in length, accommodated our group of about 30. In our boat we had nine people, four of whom had previous sailing experience. I chatted up a woman who learned to sail by answering a New York online sailing forum query. She went on to join a sailing team in City Island (Bronx), and thus got herself involved with a crew of insanely competitive lawyers, and their boat, for four years. For the first few hours we practiced sailing up and down Barcelona’s coast, tacking, and just took in the views. The wind finally picked up, and we had our first regatta race. An imaginary line between a black and yellow buoy and a boat inside the port provided the starting line and we set off, parallel to the coast, towards the finish, about two kilometers in the distance. The team blamed our loss on the false start of one of the boats, but we made up for it by winning the second regatta, hands down. I happily trimmed the jib, and took orders. Sometimes its kind of nice to be in an atmosphere of hierarchy, where only experience can earn you rank. Chefs in their restaurant kitchens come to mind. To round out the day, we cruised into one of the city’s ports to scope out the visiting Russian luxury yachts. I spotted a speedboat with two guys, one of whom was wearing a wetsuit. Surprised that there was diving in the area, I was corrected in my thoughts by being told that these were the boat divers, responsible for scraping the barnacles, which cause friction, off the bottoms of the sailboats.  A boat with lots of seafood on its underbelly is known as having a ‘dirty bottom.’ Hehe.

Fun sailing terminology:

  • Starboard: right side of boat, looking forwards
  • Stern: left side of boat
  • Bow: front of boat
  • Aft: back of boat
  • Boom: horizontal spar (pole) to which the foot of the sail is attached.
  • Tell-tales: little strings tied to the sails or masts that help tell which way the wind is blowing. Pretty low tech, but still common.
  • Trimming the sails: adjusting the angle of the sail, by loosening/tightening or letting it out/taking it in

Lessons Learned:

  • Seamen use a daunting amount of jargon
  • There is more than one sail and one rope to operate
  • 80% of the time nothing happens/there is no wind, the other 20% you scurry to change the sails and try to keep your head from getting whacked
  • You don’t “grow out” of sea sickness
  • Drinking and driving? Ok

* I’m not joking, they really have one of those. Business school. Typical

Chilling in the Aft

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Last weekend, I finally had the chance to experience a classico, a soccer game between two of Buenos Aires major futbol clubs, Boca Jrs. (Maradona´s old club team) and Racing.

Although this was supposed to be a relatively laid-back match, getting off the bus near Racing´s stadium, felt like going into a warzone. The place was surrounded by barricades and police in riot gear (which in Argentina includes shotguns). We were quickly whisked past the crowds by our three very capable tour guides, who were all sporting Racing´s blue and white colors, despite,  as we learned later, being die hard Boca fans (one of them was proudly showing off his Boca tattoo during the bus ride back).

The first thing that struck me upon entering the stadium was the lack of commercialism – here it was really all about watching the game. The only type of food for sale were hamburgers and peanuts and the only drink available was Coca Cola (the last thing Argentine sports fans need is beer). There were only two type of seats: bolted down backless plastic thingies and stairs on which people could theoretically sit, although that appeared difficult given that the stairs section looked like a giant moshpit with a marching band (organized by fans) playing in the middle of it.

The stadium was divided into 12 or so sections, of which nine were taken up by fans of the home team, and only one was allocated for Boca fans. The sections on either side of the Boca fans were left as empty ¨buffer zones¨ and had more guys with shotguns posted on either side. The field itself was surrounded by a barbed wire fence and a deep water-filled moat ostencibly to prevent crazed fans from rushing the field.

Although it was still a few hours before kick-off, the stadium was already getting filled with folks coming out a bit early to catch the clubs´ B-teams go at it.  Since we were sitting way up top, I could also peak outside where more marching bands and murga-type carnival dancers were doing their thing.

The build up continued for some time, until finally the players appeared on the field accompanied by some rather basic confetti being shot out onto the field (and immediately cleaned up by guys with rakes and trash bags) and rolls of blue and white plastic bags attached to the top of the stadium and unrolled down onto the heads of the hapless fans below announced that the time for kick-off was approaching.  Although these effects were not the most sophisticated, when combined with the fireworks and exploding smoke bombs snuck into the stadium by the fans, the sum total was pretty exciting.

The game was pretty awesome – especially for those in the Racing section, and especially after their team scored a few goals.  Not sure if you can see this in the videos, but during the really exciting parts, the crowd would start jumping up and down making the (supposedly concrete) stadium waver in a pretty scary but awesome way.  Also, I got to learn some highly colorful spanish which is definitely not taught in any classes and generally only comes out at soccer games.  Good times..

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