Favourite Videos: AC72

The teams of the 35th America’s Cup, taking place now in Bermuda, are racing ACC (America’s Cup Class) catamarans. Although the top speed of the ACCs is in the 45-50 knot range (about 80-90 km/hr), which is roughly the same as what the AC72s hit in 2013 in San Francisco, what they lack is a massive 72ft wing: the ACCs are limited to just under 50ft.

Oh well. It’s still a spectacular sight, and if you have a chance to catch any of the races on BT Sport, I defy anyone to not get hooked. Here’s the race schedule. In the meantime, below is a tribute to the world’s fastest (and scariest) boat to date – the AS72 class.

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Holiday Time

val

Is this going to mess up my Q1 2017 savings rate? Perhaps. Am I going to regret it? Unlikely. Because for the second time in my life I skied two glaciers in one day.

Turned up at the lift 3 mins before it opened, skied on freshly groomed slopes on the way to Glacier du Pissaillas, the heavy cloud cleared away just in time for the ride on Leissieres Express (I don’t suffer from vertigo, but man, that thing gives me an adrenaline shot every time).

Made it to the glacier in record time, there was hardly anyone there! Left when people began filing in, then another ride on the up-and-over rollercoaster, an easy descent down Plan/Piste M, aka my favourite highway, and I’m back  where I started. Time to head to Tignes.

By then I was running on Red Bull and endorphins, so had a banana in the gondola in lieu of lunch to add a couple of calories to the mix. Got into the Tignes funicular at half one, had a few runs on Grande Motte glacier, took Double M down to the village, then a chair lift back to Val.

Another slope and lift combination put me at the top of La Face. I looked at it, I wanted to, but my quivering legs were saying no. So I went for what I thought was going to be an easier option, Santons. That frozen ravine where kneecaps go to die. Bloody snowboarders had dug it up so far beyond recognition that there was no ski slope left – only piles of compacted snow and crushed ice interspersed with patches of bare ice. Marvellous. Well, the only way is down.

I managed to not break anything, though had my legs had a voice they would’ve been cursing all the way to the bottom. Got back to the hotel, changed, found the rest of the crew in the bar, and still had time for a drink before dinner.

That’s what I’d call a good day at the office 😉

Here are a few tips for getting value for money on ski holidays:

  1. If you live in or around London, don’t fly. Eurostar’s snow train goes directly from St Pancras to Bourg St Maurice. No need to change in Paris. By the time you factor in the cost and hassle of airport transfers and bullshit extra charges for ski gear, the train is just as cost effective as flying. If you’re organised about it you can get advance tickets for £149 return. There are no check-in times, you don’t have to be at the gate 45 mins before it closes, there’s no baggage allowance, you can take your own food for the trip, and there’s no limit on the volume of liquids you can carry.
    It’s an 11 hour journey. If you take the night train, you’ll leave London at around 7.30pm on Friday and arrive in Bourg St Maurice before 6am on Saturday. You can easily be on the slopes by 9am. Just make sure you’re not in a carriage adjacent to the restaurant or you won’t sleep. A bus from the train station to Val costs €12 and takes a little less than an hour. It also goes to Tignes and neighbouring resorts. All hotels I’ve been to had luggage rooms and changing/shower facilities for early arrivals. For a small fee they’ll even feed you breakfast.
  2. Accommodation will be your largest expense item. Call the ski resort’s tourist office, tell them your budget and how many people are going, and ask for tips. There are many small family run hotels in L’Espace Killy area that aren’t on booking.com. If you have 6 or more people in the group, renting an apartment might be the best option. Tignes is generally cheaper than Val.
  3. A ski pass is going to be your second largest expense item. It’s virtually certain you won’t cover the entire ski area on your first day, and maybe not even on your second. On day 3 and beyond, as your legs adjust, a L’Espace Killy pass can be justifiable. Check the weather forecast, ask the hotel staff about the quality of snow on the slopes, and do some planning.
  4. If you’re not taking your own gear, pre-order ski rental. Skis are skis, there are only so many brands you’ll want to use, and they tend to be priced by performance level. Order in advance and you can bag a 30%+ discount on the shop floor price.
  5. Apres ski is nice, and if you’re buying lunch on the slopes, go for a proper restaurant. Why anyone would pay for overpriced cold buffet food at one of those canteen style places is beyond me. You’ll be carrying a day pack with water and extra gloves anyway, so if you only need fuel and not the apres ski experience, throw some snacks and sandwiches in the backpack, and you can picnic as you’re catching sunshine in the deck chairs they have everywhere in Val, which appear to be perpetually empty, even on sunny days. There are food stores in every village.
  6. Dinners and drinks. Go for it. After all, you’re only on holidays for a week or so. But if you’re skiing in March and renting an apartment, try to get one with a BBQ area. With more daylight hours and provided you get decent weather, burgers on your terrace for dinner, washed down with some red, can be quite nice. Dress warm 🙂

Three Peaks Challenge

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Aeneas climbs the mountain’s airy brow, And takes a prospect of the lands below

What’s all the fuss about climbing three small mountains in under 24 hours? Yours truly sets out to investigate.

It starts at 7am with a 40 minute train ride to Gatwick. After a short flight we arrive in Glasgow decked out in our Snow+Rock gear, and find our mountain guide waiting at the agreed pickup location. We’re going to be skipping sleep and climbing mountains for a full day. We’re rearing to go.

The clock starts at Ben Nevis. It’s sunny at the bottom and snowing at the top, and there’s mist, rain and sleet in between, in whichever order. We lose interest in photos about halfway up, then ski jackets come out of backpacks. It’s an August afternoon. We cross a field of hard packed snow and ice, climb up a little higher, and we’ve reached the summit. Or so our guide tells us; we can’t see anything through the thick cloud.

It’s a six hour drive to Scafell Pike, we reach it after midnight. At about a third of the way up there’s a knee deep stream, which we traverse before continuing the long haul on what is known as “the staircase”. Fuck the staircase. I’m tired, I’m freezing, my socks are wet, the mountain’s upper slopes are covered with loose scree, and it’s blowing a gale. In torchlight we make out the summit marker and stumble towards it like newbie zombies on their first walkabout. The marker provides a little shelter from the wind, we huddle together behind it and try not to whimper. But we have to move, the clock is ticking.

I nap on the way to Snowdon, it’s a much needed boost. The path begins on a gentle incline, then, as we approach the plateau, the terrain turns steep and rocky. My knees have formed a union and are threatening a strike. Finally we reach the top, take a photo on the summit, begin the descent. The timer stops when we return to the carpark: 24 hours and 27 minutes. It’s a fail.

Why couldn’t we make it back in time? The mountains aren’t that tall, the trails aren’t that difficult, even in bad weather. Climbing either of the three peaks is not that hard. The hard part is having to do all three in succession, tired, cold and bored (let’s face it, grass and rocks and trees and grass and rocks begin to look all the same after a while).

A quest for FI is in many ways similar to the three peaks challenge. Anyone can save money. The challenge is keeping it up month after month for years whilst dealing with life’s minor frustrations of wet feet, cold hands, achy knees and wondering why the hell I’m doing this to myself when most other people are warm at home sitting on a sofa in front of a telly eating Doritos. I like Doritos. Then there’s the weather factor: market adjustments, recessions. They might not happen from the outset, but it’s a question of when, not if.

Mind-over-matter only works for so long. Reading other people’s blogs, like the one that Monevator guy writes, certainly helps with staying focused. But what’s helped me the most so far was something LAFI once said about changing the mindset from “I’m saving money” to “I’m spending money on my future financial independence”. I’ve tried it. It works.

So I’m not trudging up some stupid mountain in the dark at 3am on a Sunday in a gale-force wind. I’m walking towards my sweet, sweet pack of guilt-free Doritos, which I shall wash down with sauv blanc as I’m showing my friends photos from the trip. It will be worth it.