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Luddites twiddle while Twitters tweet



The Official publicati rrespondents' Club, Hong Kong

FCC Play Sports

Luddites twiddle while

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Happy 2012

On The Wall:

Above Sai Kung


Melanie Nutbeam on the way to the top of one of the many peaks she climbed in one week last summer. All photos supplied by contributor

FCC plays sport

FCC members are an active lot. In the following pages you will see just how active they have been. The Correspondent sent an email to all members to elicit contributions. The key to all of the contributions was dedication to the sport they love, despite "maturing" bodies. Another common theme was having fun while you are doing it.

Towards the mountains

Just practise hopping across rocks," said Kate after inviting me to climb the Matterhorn. "Anything that involves a bit of balancing will be fine." I wasn't so sure, writes Melanie Nutbeam. I'd never done a technical climb. Yes, I'd had one isolated weekend of random rock face climbing at Mt Arapiles. Australia, 25 years ago, and yes I'd hiked to Africa's roof, Mt. Kilimanjaro last year, but that was it. Ropes, carabiners, crampons and ice-axes would be a whole new thing.

So in July this year, having stepped up my usual Hong Kong hiking and thrown in some yogic "tree poses" for balance, I packed for a week's climbing in the Pennine Alps bordering Valais in Switzerland and the-Aosta Valley in Italy It struck me that while most people were throwing string bikinis in their bags and heading for the beach, I was lugging 20kg of thermal underwear, Gore-Tex jackets, leather boots, poles and paraphernalia half way across the world. Rocks in my head perhaps?

Gazing up at the Matterhorn from Zermatt my jaw dropped. Kate expected me to climb that? I was flattered by her confidence. As it turned out, the Matterhorn remains a test for another time. It was snowed out far a week and no one climbed it. We waited, hoping, and meantime, climbed the east ridge of the Riffelhorn (2927m) and then had an overnight at the Quintino Sella hut at 3585m. This enabled us to knock off several 4000m peaks including the Gemini twins, Castor and Pollux.

It's amazing what you are capable of when someone wins your trust. Phil, our lead guide, was a Royal Marine Commando and has a Queen's medal for leading a group of soldiers out of a siege situation. Mark is one of the world's top climbers and a hard task master. Changing weather and snow conditions mean everything on a mountain involves tension between time and care. When you're roped to someone on a mountain with shale, snow, ice, sheer drop offs and crevasses to contend with, you can't afford to be slack mentally, physically or emotionally. There's a lot of risk-management. You have to be present one hundred percent. Mark made that clear. I learned that most things area matter of technique and that good guides teach good technique.

With a last "you'll keep look at the Matterhorn, Kate, Martin and I decided to explore the climbing conditions and opportunities from Chamonix, where Phil and Mark are based. From Courmayeur in Italy (linked to Chamonix by the tunnel under Mt. Blanc) we took the La Palud cable car skyward for two days of truly sensational climbing. That was the last of the group climbing, but the climbing compulsion was upon me. I'd come to climb something big and Europe doesn't get bigger than Mt. Blanc at 4810m. The great news was that Mark was willing to take me, providing we did it as a day trip.

At 6am we got into a cable car and started the highest vertical cable car ascent in the world to the Aiguille du Midi at 3842m. The weather was calm and still. Stepping onto the arete my legs trembled uncontrollably for the first time that week. I realized after 20 paces that my legs were already tired from six days of exertion. Self-doubt set in. Had I taken on too much?

We came down onto the Glacier du Tacul and traversed its welcome flatness for a good hour before skirting Mt. Blanc du Tacul. The slog to the top was broken by a lot of fun at an ice pitch over a crevasse. We continued on around the lower contours of Mt. Maudit and finally began the long, long haul up the expansive snow slopes of Mt. Blanc. We'd barely paused. The altitude was really slowing me down, cloud had set in, and everything was grey and daunting. I didn't look up, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. When Mark stopped and I finally realized there was no more "up" I didn't know whether I would laugh or cry. We had time for a few photos and, surprisingly, I look pretty happy and relaxed. A picture does NOT tell a thousand words!

Sailors everywhere

FCC members go sailing a lot, whether racing or cruising.

Hong Kong is a great sailing city that occasionally puts itself on display. Anyone who saw the Round the Island race in November will have seen both Hong Kong and sailing at its best. More than 250 boats got all the way around the island (rare) in superb sailing conditions...and you could see the boars from the land which is not often the case.

Many of Hong Kong's islands provide great anchorages. Probably the most popular destination is Po Toi island, with its matchless seafood and yachty ambience. Most sailors (and many others) have been there at least once. Some, many times: the late Derek Davies before them, Peter and Gabrielle Churchhouse manage to get there most Sundays.

The premier offshore race is the China Sea Race to the Philippines, where many members over the years have had the pleasures of sailing under a full moon and playing with dolphins and whales. The legal sailors Michael Lunn, Fred Whitehouse, David Madoc-Jones, Adrian Bell and Kevin Egan regularly crew together. Paul Bayfield, with 34 crossings, Charlie Lam, Andy Chworowsky, Chris Slaughter, Lucinda Ho, Karl Grebstad, Mike Westlake often team up on different boats.

Other offshore sailors include Richard Winter, Chris Young, Bob Davis, Ken Mackenzie, Paul Scanlon, Charles Dixon, Bob Lavoo, Bruce Maxwell, Hendrick Penndorf, Tony Scott, Terry Duckham, Mike Keats, Penny Byrne, Caroline Lee, Malcolm Brocklebank.

Cruising sailors include Luis Lai, Robert Delfs, Patrick Smith, Bill Areson, Charlie Goddard, Paul Sillitoe.

Then there is racing all year either in die Harbour, or at Middle Island or Sai Kung. Philip Bowring's Moll (Impala 28), with crew Bayfield, slaughter, Chworowsky, races on most weekends of the year. Mo1l often competes with Impala l with Mike Burrell at the helm in winter and Hillary King in summer. Mark Clifford, Gareth Hewitt and Hugo Restall hold up the cause in the Ruffian class. Lucinda Ho and Slaughter team up on a J80. Grebstad gets podium finishes in the Dragon class. Howard Wynn and Ian Clark can often be found racing sportsboats.

Macau number 11

Motor racing and the Main Bar usually involve a debate about that old chestnut, sport on TV but for member Richard Meins, Silverstone, Spa and Monza are just some of the stages where he performs as a leading light in European historic car racing. A relative latecomer to the sport, only starting in his mid-30s with a road-going VW Golf, Richard has progressed to racing historic cars such as Grand Prix winners from McLaren and Williams and exotic 60s sports cars such as the iconic Ford GI40. Proving that he is more than just a "gentleman racer", Richard also takes part in contemporary events, mixing it with the young guns in races such as the Spa24 hours and his "local" race, the Macau Grand Prix. In November 2011, Richard returned to Macau to compete for the eleventh time, racing an Audi R8 in the Macau GT Cup.

Cheered on by a core of other FCC members, Richard finished a creditable seventh, but more significantly set the fifth-fastest lap, just behind the full-time professionals. He also managed to avoid a massive accident (which has had dose to 30,000 YouTube hits).

Describing the race, he said, "That was brilliant, I really enjoyed it. Three seconds faster than I've ever been round here before, so I'm extremely happy. Frank Yu in the Ford GT went off just in front of me and the other Audi, the back caught fire and there was loads of oil coming out and that was just before Mandarin Bend. I was just behind so I could see it and backed right off. Frank was just in front and when I got round Mandarin, there he was facing the wrong way and hurtling towards the right-hand barrier; My next concern was which way is he going to go? Anyway, I missed him as he shot in front of me. I guess everybody else was so far behind they hadn't seen it happen and then it was complete carnage. It's Macau: you don't have small accidents here." Get that man a drink.

Tim Huxley

Kickboxing demon

I have recently taken up the sport and found it to be extremely challenging and effective in keeping fit and healthy, writes Robin Wong. Most importantly it is great fun. How did I get started? I met my friend, Peter, who once weighed 2801b, and was amazed

Top: Michael Lunn and legal crew head for the Philippines on Xiphias.

Above: Richard Meins knows just how tough Macau can be.

Right: Robin Wong gets the elbow in with his trainer Anthony.

Bettina Wassener geared up to climb Mt. Kinabalu

How he looked so fit and well having lost more than 401b in four months. Eventually, he convinced me to try out one session with his trainer. I was very apprehensive at the time as I am 60 years old and not sure if I could handle the intense training, although I have previously been active in martial arts and karate.

My trainer, Anthony, is great. In my first session, we did a lot of loosening up and stretching before starting some basic moves in traditional Thai boxing and kicking techniques. We then do shadow boxing and sparring using hand and punch pads. One thing I noticed is that my reaction is much slower than I anticipated. It took quite a few lessons before I could react to a slow counter-punch or kick. Because the defensive moves require a lot of body movements you are indirectly undertaking a lot of different strengthening exercises in an unconscious manner. It requires you to be fast, strong and have perfect timing. I do find my reflexes are improving after each session.

As I started at only 1401b, there wasn't much weight to lose, but I certainly feel a lot fitter, lighter and more alert with the intensity of the training. Because of the cooling down stretching period after each session, I seldom experience any aches or pains. This is something I will be doing for a long time to come. It is never too late co learn something new, not even for an old man like me.

Legs of steel

Like all of us here, I live, what, 50m above sea level. So naturally - weirdly? - I get as far up and away from that as possible when I travel, write s Bettina Wassener.

For me, 201l started off with a multi-day trek in the Simien Mountains in northern Ethiopia, whose highest mountains easily top 4000m, and where ravines hundreds of metres deep make you blink with disbelief. The highest point I reached during that trip was a relatively humble 4200m, but it had me convinced it was the hardest thing I'd ever done.

That is, until I decided to climb Mt.t Kinabalu (4095m)a few months later. Kinabalu is not technically challenging, and in pure distance terms you're looking at only 8km, one way - which is equivalent to a back-and-forth along Hong Kong's favourite jogging route, Bowen Road.

But again the sheer up of it all even starring from an elevation of l866m, means that, for most ordinary human beings, the trip involves an overnight stay halfway up. You need legs of steel and oodles of stubbornness. And the climb leaves you seriously breathless as you get above 3500m or so. Especially since your body has had no chance to get used to any sort of altitude at all: Mt. Kinabalu is, after all, only a skip and a hop from the sea.

still, I now have the get-above-4000-bug, and I managed 4350m last November: the Indrahara Pass, in the Dhauladar mountain range in north-western India. Getting there and back from Dharamsala takes 3-4 days; the last few hundred metres leave your heart thumping and your lungs bursting.

To get even higher, to any of the nearby peaks, "You need a big heart," my guide told me.

I agree - and argue that high-altitude trekking should be declared an Olympic category immediately.

Defender on ice

As one of the most popular and high-profile Winter Olympics events, hockey is great team sport and the fastest game on ice. Like most Canadian kids I started playing "street hockey" with just a stick and an old tennis ball, writes Loron Orris. I finally stepped onto the ice as a goaltender at age 11 and have been playing for over 30 years. The position, both in ice hockey and in other sports, is unique in that you can single-handedly win or lose a game. That feeling can be very humbling.

When I moved to Hong Kong in 1994, the first formal men's league was just starting so I joined one of the teams and have played ever since. This September, I was drafted by the Macau Aces of the CIHL, a new elite league that aims to grow ice hockey in the region. The big difference between the CIHL and other local leagues is the level of play and the intensity of hard-hitting full-contact ice hockey.

Playing in the CIHL is a challenging workout and being part of this exciting new league is a great way to begin a Saturday night. Similar to the FCC, we've also developed a social and business network that's become hugely useful and one that will grow alongside the new league. I am looking forward to playing this great game in Hong Kong for many more years to come.

Trailwalker tradition

Case Everaert and Neil Orvay took on the Oxfam Trailwalker, which follows the 10 stages of the Maclehose Trail which snakes 100km through the New Territories. It's the third time Case has participated and it's getting serious: the team is trying to do the trail in less than 20 hours. The photo was taken on stage two at beautiful Lai Long Wan.

Case Everaert

Hiking fanatics

FCC members Carlo Castellucci and Alan Norman have been hiking together four days a week since they met in Hong Kong 10 years ago. Every Tuesday and Thursday at 6am sharp they start their Peak walk at the top of the escalator and walk for 90 minutes up The Morning Trail. Once at the top they alternate between High West and Mt. Austin just to add a few more steps. On Saturdays they hike an 18km route through the beautiful hills surrounding Aberdeen, into Pokfulam, climbing up to The Peak and down the hill into Central. On Sundays they do different hikes which all finish in Stanley where after a refreshing shower they enjoy a few cleansing ales on the Stanley waterfront at Smugglers Inn, reputedly the oldest pub in Hong Kong.

Their love of hiking introduced them to adventure travel company Walk Japan. Carlo, Alan and their friend Ralph walked The Nakasendo Way, which is listed in the bestselling book "1,000 Places to See Before You Die". Walk Japan guides introduce the hiker co Japans food, customs, society and history, while doing what they love best-hiking. The tour guides are fluent Japanese speakers and have a wealth of local fascinating knowledge. The hiking varied from 10km to 30km a day and each night stop was in a traditional Ryokan. The food in these inns was outstanding and every night was completely different.

Alan Norman

Charity hike

Since 2005, member Chris Dillon (pictured above with his son Alex) has participated in Hike for Hospice, an annual fundraising event benefitting Hong Kong's Society for the Promotion of Hospice Care. This years hike - which takes place in Tai Lam Country Park on February 26 - marks the event's 20th anniversary Individual hikers, teams and sponsors are welcome to join in the fun.

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