The Voyage: Roz Savage
Amy Fawcett: pushing the comfort zone
Roz Savage
13 Jun 2006, Canary Wharf, London

This is Amy Fawcett, Chief Administrative Officer for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Europe. Soon to become Amy Fawcett, transatlantic sailor.

She is a high-powered investment banker, I am an impoverished ocean rower, but we have this much in common - a compulsion to get outside our comfort zones. Here's what it says on Amy's website,

'I'm Amelia Fawcett, and in addition to turning 50 this summer, I am going to sail for the first time across the Atlantic Ocean on a 47-foot yacht with four men! As someone who has spent her entire career in the City, and therefore much more at home navigating the murky waters of financial services, this challenge is a first for me and represents a true leap out of, what management consultants call, our "comfort zones". And it's not just me - none of us on the challenge has made an Atlantic Crossing on a small boat before, and this unfamiliar 3,000 mile voyage is expected to be anything but comfortable - tightly rationed food, a routine of four-hour watches, battling fear of the unknown and nobody immediately able to provide help.'

Add to this that Amy suffers from labyrinthitis, which makes her feel dizzy and queasy (a bit like being drunk, but less fun), and you start to appreciate the full scale of her challenge....

They set sail from Manchester, Massachussetts on 30 June - join me in wishing them all the very best in their bid to raise £250,000 for breast cancer research.

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Taking tea at the House of Commons
Roz Savage
12 Jun 2006, Westminster, London

On the House of Commons terrace: Susan Kramer, Stephen, Trish, me, Caroline

It was a boil-your-brains sweltering day in London and I was a sweaty mess when I arrived at the House of Commons to have afternoon tea with Susan Kramer, Lib Dem MP for Richmond, and the 3 winners of the prize from my Prince's Trust charity auction. Luckily it was soothingly cool in the Victorian Gothic halls of the Commons, and I took a seat in the Central Lobby to compose myself.

A white-haired gentleman tottered over and collapsed onto the green banquette next to me. 'Marvellous lunch,' he slurred. 'Fine wines. Excellent.'

'Hmmm,' I said, non-committally.

Turns out he was there with the Poole Conservative Association - they had paid a fair amount to come and enjoy some Commons hospitality. He'd clearly got his money's worth.

'Poole has got one of the finest beaches in Europe, you know,' he went on. 'Sandbanks. Funny thing happened. Couple comes to stay for a fortnight. Disappear off to the beach every day. Gets to the last day of their holiday, and they say, "Don't think much to your beach. No more than a mudflat." "Where have you been going?" I say. Turns out they've been going down to the wrong side of the peninsula, and that IS a mudflat. 100 yards further, and they'd have found Sandbanks. Daft buggers.'

I made a note in my diary. How many people settle for the first thing that looks vaguely like what they're looking for, when they might find something much better if they could be bothered to make a little bit more effort? 'This looks like a life, this will do.'

My jottings were interrupted by the arrival of Trish, Stephen and Caroline. Susan Kramer bustled into the Lobby to meet us and we went to the Pugin Room for tea - elegant sandwiches with the crusts cut off, scones with jam and cream, a choice of fruitcake or fruit tart, and tea served in fine china cups. Only the service was a let-down, our waitress arguing the point when Susan pointed out that one medium size teapot might not be enough to serve four.

We bagged a policeman to take a photo of us out on the Riverside Terrace. Neil Kinnock was out there having a meeting with 7 or 8 people. I wasn't brave enough to try and get a photo.

I WAS brave enough to try and rub Winston Churchill's toe (the statue, that is) - the Lib Dems and Tories do this for luck before a vote. But a stern security guard intervened.

Too bad - alongside Oscar Wilde, Winnie is one of my heroes when it comes to providing the pithy quote. How about this one - 'A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.'

Best not to share that one with Susan Kramer, I thought, especially as she clearly does make things happen.. Not least persuading recalcitrant Commons staff to bring another pot of tea.

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A Dashing Blade
Roz Savage
09 Jun 2006, Christ Church, Oxford


What a nice surprise, when something arrives on budget, ahead of schedule, and exceeds expectations.

I was living in my old college, University College Oxford, for much of June, and it seemed like a good opportunity to get my Atlantic blade painted up, as there are signwriters in Oxford that specialise in that sort of thing. But I was chatting with an aspiring ocean rower, Sarah Outen from St Hugh's (conspicuously bald, having just shaved off her alopecia-stricken hair - watch out for her in ocean-rowing circles), and she recommended that instead of the signwriters I should go to the Clerk of Works at Christ Church.

So I tracked down Karl Lemar, blade in hand. This was one of the two oars that lost its spoon on the Atlantic, and at the time I'd chucked it in the forward cabin, already thinking it might make a good trophy. I'd then whiled away several rowing shifts designing a suitable symbol in my mind, but when I tried to draw my design on paper I couldn't manage to make it look right.

So it was rather a half-baked idea that I presented to Karl. 'Err, well I think I'd like the yin and yang symbol in the middle, and a compass, and a couple of crossed oars, with maybe a dolphin and a rose in there somewhere.'

Turned out Karl was no stranger to the sea himself, having spent 25 years as a submariner, and although he was a man of few words, I got the impression he was pleased to help.

Front of blade

Detail on back of blade

I am very impressed and extremely pleased with the results. He'd brought all the elements together with far more artistic flair than I'd managed in all my hours of pondering. I've already booked him in to do the Pacific oars - although hopefully those spoons will have to be cut off rather than being severed by the force of waves in mid-ocean.

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Steamy Windows
Roz Savage
03 Feb 2005, Yorkshire

Yesterday someone asked a very good question - won't I lose all my hard-earned fitness if I spend April swanning around on the yacht Steamy Windows?

I'd been worried about this, so I'd done some research. Apparently endurance fitness is much more resilient than, say, strength. If my training programme was based around building up lots of muscle bulk by lifting weights in the gym, that muscle would very rapidly disappear at sea when it's not needed. But my training programme is geared towards building up endurance, and that shouldn't suffer too much if I take 3 weeks off.

In fact, the break from routine could do me a lot of good - physical adaptations take place during rest, not during exercise, so a good training programme should include adequate recovery. And psychologically, it will be good to have a break from these long slogs on the WaterRower.

It's not like I'll be totally inactive, either - during the 2 weeks at sea I guess I'll be running around bracing the mainsail, or whatever the hell it is that sailors do. And I'm told that just being on a boat will be good for my core strength, as you're constantly using your back and stomach muscles to hold yourself upright against the motion of the boat.

And while we're ashore I can go running. So I think I'll be OK.

The ocean experience will be absolutely invaluable. I'll hopefully find my sea legs, which could make the difference between success and failure in the race. I've heard it rumoured that alleged 'food poisoning' has defeated a significant number of ocean rowers.

I'll also be able to practice my navigation, make sure my technology works at sea, learn about marine instrumentation, use Russ's Atlantic planner to plan my race course, and most importantly, test out my Green People sun cream.... Definitely worth skipping a few gym sessions for!

Roz Savage travel writer and photographer

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