March 19, 2019

Ukraine's recent nuclear reactor scare harkens back to ghosts of historic nuclear accidents

One of the reactors in Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine suffered an accident that triggered an automatic shutdown this week. Reports suggest that damage occurred to a transformer in one of the 1000-megawatt reactors at the Zaporizhye plant, which provides over one-fifth of the country’s electricity.

Ukraine’s energy minister said that it was a “technical fault” and assured the public that there was “no threat” to the reactor’s safety, according to BBC News

With the country already suffering fuel shortage, Ukraine this winter will probably be forced to import electricity from Russia.

Accidents at nuclear rectors makes folks understandably nervous, and is also a reminder that despite all the climate change benefits we get from nuclear energy – like cutting greenhouse gas emissions – there are a lot of risks associated with it, too.

Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima all grabbed the world’s attention over the past 30 years when the crises unfolded at those plants. But what happened after they left the headlines?

The worst-ever U.S. nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, near Middletown, Pennsylvania, was a partial meltdown that occurred on March 28, 1979

The facility was only 3 months old when a cooling problem caused one of the reactors to overheat and release radioactive gases and iodine into the environment, but it wasn’t enough to cause any confirmed health effects to local residents.

The reactor was shut down permanently, was decontaminated and put into what is known as “post-defueled monitored storage,” with plans for dismantling only after its neighbouring reactor on site is shut down sometime in 2034.

In April 1986, the world’s worst nuclear disaster occurred at Ukraine’s Chernobyl power plant. technicians lost control of nuclear fission reactions in the reactor core and heat rose quickly until pressure built up and explored the core, releasing radioactive steam into the atmosphere. After the initial explosion occurred, fire broke out that sent large clouds of radioactive particles high into the air, which was then swept over a large part of Western Europe. 

Thirty-one people – technicians and firefighters mostly – died from the accident itself, and untold thousands may have contracted cancer. Exact numbers are still being debated

If you want to see the devastation that this nuclear accident wrought in its immediate surroundings check out newly-released video footage obtained via a remote-controlled drone. This is the first time that the nearby ghost town Pripyat has been filmed from the air.

The power plant itself is entombed within an aging concrete structure that was hastily built back during the old Soviet era.

Currently, an internationally-funded project is underway to build a massive 32,000 ton metal arch that will contain the entire building. Hopes are that it will be ready by 2017, before the existing shelter collapses and releases more radioactive-laden dust into the atmosphere like a dirt bomb. It is expected that the arch should last anywhere from 100 to 300 years.

Finally, the March 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami showed us that there can be natural forces that have to be considered with nuclear power. The Fukushima Daiichi power plant, located 220 km northeast of Tokyo on Japan’s east coast, had three of its six reactors melt down when it got hit by tsunami waves triggered by a 9.0 earthquake. This knocked out its generators which caused its reactors to overheat, explode and release radioactivity into the environment – contaminating food, water and air.  

Over 300,000 people were evacuated from the surrounding villages. Nearly 16,000 residents are still unable to return to their homes because clean up efforts are being hindered by unsafe levels of radiation in the soil and water.

All this radiation from the disaster has definitely not been isolated to just Japan. Researchers monitoring the Pacific Ocean, in which much of the radiation spilled into, have detected radioactive isotopes this past November just 160 km off the coast of California.

So this story will continue to unfold for many years to come.

See the original article here – 

Ukraine's recent nuclear reactor scare harkens back to ghosts of historic nuclear accidents

South Africa marks one year since death of Mandela

South Africans on Friday marked one year since the death of Nelson Mandela with services, blasting vuvuzelas and a cricket match to honour his enormous legacy as an anti-apartheid icon and global beacon of hope.

An interfaith service kicked off the day’s events in Pretoria, at the Freedom Park amphitheatre dedicated to the country’s liberation heroes.

“Twenty years of democracy has been possible because of Mandela,” tribal chief Ron Martin said as the sun rose over the Pretoria hills and the smell of herbs burning in spiralled antelope horns wafted over the ceremony.

“Any sense of pride was frowned upon by apartheid,” he said, “but we are reclaiming that today.”

Veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the base of a five-metre statue of a smiling Madiba, the clan name by which South Africans affectionately call their nation’s favourite son.

“The body gave in but Madiba’s spirit never, never changed, it was always the same until the end,” Mandela’s widow Graca Machel said before laying a huge wreath of white flowers with pale pink roses at the base of the statue.

She then joined hands with members of Mandela’s family for a prayer.

“Madiba is, in spirit, the same even today,” said Machel. “I know Madiba is smiling, Madiba is happy because he is amongst the family he chose to build.”

She was “numb” when her husband died, but said she now remembers him as “tall and proud.”

During the service, bells tolled for three minutes and seven seconds — followed by three minutes of silence: a six-minute and seven-second dedication to Mandela’s 67 years of public service.

His old comrade, Ahmed Kathrada, imprisoned with him on Robben Island, also paid tribute to his “elder brother”.

“I miss him not only as a political leader, I miss him as an elder brother,” said Kathrada, his voice shaking.

“When Madiba died, I asked who should I turn to, I am still looking to somebody.”

A long list of other events dedicated to Mandela were set to take place into the weekend and beyond, including motorcycle rides and performances.

South Africans were also finding their own ways of remembering the former president who led the country out of the dark days of apartheid after 27 years in prison.

Tattoo studios for example have reported an ever-growing demand for Mandela-inspired ink.

Fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu called on South Africans to emulate Mandela’s example in a statement to mark the anniversary.

“Our obligation to Madiba is to continue to build the society he envisaged, to follow his example,” Tutu said.

“A society founded on human rights, in which all can share in the rich bounty God bestowed on our country. In which all can live in dignity, together. A society of better tomorrows for all.”

– Motorbikes for Mandela –

The iconic leader passed away at the age of 95 last year after a long illness.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa led the three-minute silence in the morning, followed by a friendly cricket match, dubbed the Mandela Legacy Cup, between South Africa’s national rugby and cricket teams at 1300 GMT.

At the weekend, artists and performers will hold centre stage at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which has launched an exhibition in honour of the life and work of its namesake.

Motorcyclists across the country have also been called on to dedicate their traditional Sunday morning rides to the anti-apartheid hero.

A five-kilometre (three-mile) Nelson Mandela Remembrance Walk will be held in Pretoria on December 13, passing some of the city’s historic landmarks, including the Union Buildings, South Africa’s seat of government.

The next day, the city’s inaugural marathon will dedicate its last mile to Madiba.

Mandela’s death was met with a worldwide outpouring of grief.

He set South Africa on a course towards reconciliation after he emerged unbowed from nearly three decades in prison in 1990 and became the country’s first president to be elected by universal suffrage in 1994.

His one-time jailer FW de Klerk, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela in 1993, called on South Africans to honour his legacy.

“Although Nelson Mandela is no longer physically with us his legacy remains to guide us,” he said in a statement.


South Africa marks one year since death of Mandela

Costa Concordia Captain Bullish At Trial

Francesco Schettino, the captain of the doomed cruise ship Costa Concordia, has fiercely defended his navigational skills as he faced cross-examination for the first time in his trial for manslaughter and abandoning ship.

In a spirited performance punctuated by jokes and constant hand gestures in which he frequently interrupted the prosecutor, Schettino tried to argue he followed procedure during the Costa Concordia’s fatal collision, rather than steering recklessly.

Schettino smashed the Costa Concordia into rocks off the Italian island of Giglio in January 2012 during an attempted “sail past”.

The holed vessel grounded and partially capsized in shallow water, forcing 4,200 passengers and crew to flee, with the loss of 32 lives.

Speaking at his trial in Grosseto in Tuscany, Schettino denied that he had organised the sail past to impress Domnica Cermontan, a Moldavian dancer who was working on the ship and has told the court she was having an affair with the married captain. 

“I didn’t do it as a favour to Cermontan,” Schettino said under questioning in Grosseto’s theatre, which has been converted into a court room for the trial.

When she entered the bridge, Ms Cermontan stood at the side the room, far from Schettino, he said.

In a combative performance, during which he often challenged the questioning of prosecutor Alessandro Leopizzi, Schettino said he had sought to “kill three birds with one stone” by undertaking the sail past.

He was doing a favour to a ship’s official and paying tribute to a former cruise captain who lived on the island of Giglio, while making the cruise more attractive to passengers, he said.

Asked about the number of people on the bridge as he took the command before the crash, Schettino argued he had always fought to keep numbers on the bridge down.

The court played a recording of the voices on the deck in the minutes leading up to the collision, during which Schettino is heard on the phone asking the former captain living on Giglio if there was enough water to sail as close as one fifth of a nautical mile from the coast.

When asked by the prosecutor why he asked that, since the ship was due to sail no closer than half a mile from the rocks, Schettino said he was not being serious.

Schettino has previously blamed the crash on the maps he was given to navigate with, and claimed the Indonesian helmsman on the bridge did not understand his instructions.

After attending the early hearings at his trial last year, Schettino has avoided the trial for five months, reportedly preparing for his performance, which is expected to run into Wednesday.

“If he wasn’t so sure of himself he would not have agreed to be questioned at the trial,” said Schettino’s lawyer Domenico Pepe before the hearing.

“He has been studying the court papers and is here to highlight all the points in his favour which have not emerged yet in court.”

Schettino, who was dubbed Captain Coward after he was accused of abandoning the stricken ship before passengers had fled, has remained a notorious celebrity in Italy, and has spent this week denying rumours he was due to appear on Italy’s version of I Am A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.

No longer under house arrest, Schettino has addressed a group of students at a Rome university about stress control, despite allegations he panicked after the collision and failed to manage the evacuation.

See the article here – 

Costa Concordia Captain Bullish At Trial

Special Report: Why metro Houston fears the next big storm

By Duff Wilson, Ryan McNeill and Deborah J. Nelson

GALVESTON, Texas (Reuters) – When Hurricane Ike hit this city on the Gulf of Mexico, William Merrell found himself trapped in a second-floor apartment as storm waters coursed eight feet deep through the floor below. “I had time to think,” said the professor and chair of marine sciences at Texas A&M University Galveston.

One thing he thought about was the Dutch Delta Works, a vast coastal protection system he had seen several years earlier on a trip to the Netherlands.

That led to his big idea: build a 60-mile-long, 17-foot-tall dike that would guard against the next hurricane that hits the long, thin barrier island on which Galveston sits. Like its Dutch inspiration, his idea included massive gates that would swing shut as a storm approached, blocking the 1.7-mile-wide entrance to Galveston Bay. The gate would protect low-lying parts of metro Houston, home to hundreds of thousands of people and an oil and petrochemicals complex essential to the U.S. economy.

Ike hammered Galveston and its 57,000 inhabitants, funneling a surge of water around an existing seawall and into the bay. Eighty percent of Galveston’s homes were damaged or destroyed, including Merrell’s apartment building. The hurricane killed 112 people in the U.S., including 36 in the Houston-Galveston area alone, and caused nearly $30 billion in damage.

The toll left little doubt that something was needed to defend residents and the U.S. economy against the next big storm. “It’s a national security issue,” said Bob Mitchell, president of the nonprofit Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership.

Six years on, Galveston and Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city, are as vulnerable as when Ike hit. No major projects are under way to fend off surging seas.

Instead, Merrell’s “Ike dike” remains the leading proposal for coastal defense. Nineteen cities and towns lining Galveston Bay back it, but with an estimated cost of $6 billion, the Ike dike is far from a done deal. It has no big money behind it.

For the Ike Dike to evolve beyond wishful thinking, Texas would have to get funding from Congress and support from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the go-to federal agency for coastal protection.

But the corps has been sidelined by new spending limits, and Texas’s advocates in Congress have been silent. Major local powers – the city of Houston and the oil and petrochemicals industries – have yet to weigh in on Merrell’s plan or a competing idea pushed by Rice University.

“It’s absurd it’s been so slow,” Merrell said.


The paralysis in Texas reflects a troubling truth: The United States lacks a unified national response to the threat posed by rising sea levels. The policy vacuum leaves vulnerable communities to come up with their own self-defense plans and then hope to snag federal dollars before the next big storm.

“Without some sort of national perspective on this, it pits parts of the country against each other … And Houston is stuck right in the middle of it,” said Richard Luettich Jr, a marine scientist at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and chairman of a National Research Council panel on coastal risk. The panel in July said U.S. government agencies have “no central leadership or unified vision” on reducing coastal risk – a failure that extends even to towns that are literally washing into the sea.

As previous articles in this series showed, the threat of rising seas is not an alarmist prediction. It is already a reality, resulting in increased tidal flooding and worsening storm damage along much of the U.S. coast. And even as the water has risen, subsidies for flood insurance, utilities and disaster bailouts are encouraging development along some the nation’s most at-risk shores.

For places like the Texas Gulf coast, which on average gets slammed with a major hurricane every 15 years, higher waters mean a storm today will tend to be much more dangerous than one of equivalent strength several decades ago.

“Sea level is not going to kill you today,” said Larry Atkinson, a professor at the Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. “It’s the storm surge that comes on top of the sea level rise.”

The probability of a flood in New York like the one that accompanied Hurricane Sandy in 2012, while still low, has increased about 50 percent since 1950, and tripled for parts of the New Jersey shoreline, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a September 2013 report.

That adds up to a lot of people and property at increasing risk.

At least $1.4 trillion worth of property – homes and businesses – sits within about one-eighth of a mile of the U.S. coastline. That number comes from a Reuters analysis of data provided by RealtyTrac. Incomplete data for some areas means the actual total is probably much higher.

More than 40 counties have coastal property worth $10 billion or more, the analysis found. In Miami-Dade County alone, about $94 billion worth of property lies along tidal waters.

Despite so much at stake, Washington shies away from large-scale action to defend the coast. Instead, it focuses on holding the line with smaller, temporary measures – dumping sand on eroded beaches, or building seawalls, breakwaters and berms to protect scattered sections of populated shoreline.

The price of these piecemeal measures is high: New seawalls average $36 million per mile, and a new levee is $10 million per mile, according to a 2010 study by Old Dominion. That doesn’t include maintenance.

But failure to act carries a high cost, too. In Galveston County, nearly 70 percent of businesses and 75 percent of jobs are in hurricane flood zones, according to a Reuters analysis of data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The picture is similar in other parts of the country: In Norfolk, 76 percent of jobs are in hurricane flood zones. In Charleston, South Carolina, it’s a little more than half.

The federal government has typically waited to take major preventive action until after a disaster, when public awareness provides political impetus.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, emergency congressional action gave Louisiana $14.5 billion to build a comprehensive system of levees, dikes and floodwalls to safeguard the New Orleans area. This year, the levee system was accredited as safe enough to allow residents to get cheaper flood insurance.

Similar moves after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 provided much of the $20 billion New York City needs over the next decade to build 250 projects to protect against storm surges.

Many other cities with tens of billions of dollars in assets at risk have no recent storm to point to. They remain vulnerable. Norfolk’s mayor says his city needs a billion dollars for flood gates, raised roads and storm water improvements to protect its shoreline.


Ike was the third most destructive storm in U.S. history after Katrina and Sandy. It would seem to have justified action on behalf of metro Houston.

But two days after Ike hit, investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, triggering a global financial crisis that quickly overshadowed Texas’s natural disaster. The state didn’t ask for any money for prevention, just for relief to clean up the mess. Galveston was represented in Congress at the time by libertarian Republican Ron Paul, who voted against any Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster aid anywhere. Paul declined to comment.

“All the coverage Katrina got and Sandy got, Ike just didn’t get,” Merrell said. Now, years later, “it’s hard to get someone’s attention when there’s not a hurricane.”

Most of the post-Ike disaster relief FEMA gave Texas has been spent to rebuild in the same places, as required by federal law. The agency is also offering subsidized flood insurance, another incentive to rebuild in harm’s way. Last year, Houston and Galveston officials and homeowners joined a nationwide rally to prod Congress to maintain below-market rates on flood insurance.

Galveston, like many cities along the nation’s imperiled shores, continues to encourage development. Over the past two years, the Galveston planning commission approved 81 of 85 applications to build even closer to the beach than normally permitted by state law, records show. New development is rising along the disappearing shore. Many of the expensive homes are perched on stilts.

Galveston and hurricanes have long shared a singular notoriety. On Sept. 8, 1900, an unnamed hurricane nearly wiped the city off the map, killing more than 6,000 people. To this day, it remains the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

Within a couple of years, construction was under way on a seawall to protect the city at the northeastern end of the island. It now stands 17 feet high. Originally about three miles long, it was extended over the ensuing decades to its current 10-mile length.

But Galveston Island is nearly three times longer than that. Most of its Gulf-facing shore remains exposed. Ike’s storm surge didn’t top the existing seawall, but it did go around it. A 20-foot-high surge shot into the bay, wreaking havoc.

Even without storms, rising seas are chewing away at the island’s unprotected beaches at a rate of two to 11 feet a year. The tide gauge at the city’s Pier 21 has shown a rise in relative sea level of 25 inches since 1908 – the largest increase over the past century at any of the scores of gauges monitored by NOAA.

About one-third of that rise was from oceans rising globally as water warms and polar ice melts. The remaining two-thirds resulted from land sinking due to subsidence, which happens when the removal of underground water, oil and gas causes the land to pancake.

Galveston Island is far from the only thing at stake. Between it and the mainland is Galveston Bay, connected to Houston by the 50-mile Houston Ship Channel, home to one of the world’s busiest ports. The entire area, once marshy wetlands, is lined with suburbs and at least $100 billion in oil refineries, chemical plants and related infrastructure. Metro Houston accounts for about 26 percent of U.S. gasoline production, 42 percent of base chemicals production, and 60 percent of jet fuel output.

A 25-foot storm surge pushing into the bay and up the ship channel would cause “economic catastrophe” to the nation and poison the bay in “the worst environmental disaster in United States history,” according to Rice University’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education, and Evacuation from Disasters Center. The Ike surge was just shy of that scenario.

“We do think we have a strong case for [protecting] a national strategic asset,” said Robert Eckels, a Houston lawyer, businessman and former chief executive of the Harris County government. Eckels was appointed a month after Ike to chair the Governor’s Commission for Disaster Recovery and Renewal.


The commission first heard Merrell’s pitch four months after Ike. Members liked what they heard and recommended a feasibility study. In early 2010, the commission created a six-county “recovery district,” a non-profit also headed by Eckels, to look at ways to protect metro Houston. It promptly ran out of money: The $4 million for the study got tangled in a legal dispute over funding for rebuilding public housing in Galveston.

For the next three years, the recovery district was dormant.

Meanwhile, Rice University’s Sspeed Center in Houston had come up with a rival plan – and it didn’t include a wall along the gulf.

Instead, the Rice team proposed building what it called the Centennial Gate farther inland, at the entrance to the Houston Ship Channel. The gate’s two metal walls would swing shut to block any storm surge threatening the area. The cost, about $1.5 billion, could be at least partly covered by bond issues backed by taxpayers or industry, the Rice team said.

Merrell rejected the Rice plan as “a waste of money.” Any effective protection for the entire area would, like the Dutch Delta Works, have to armor the outermost shore, not the inner bay, he said.

Jim Blackburn, a professor of environmental law at Rice’s engineering school, helped develop the Sspeed Center’s plan. He criticized the Ike dike for protecting shoreline that should be left in its natural state. “Perhaps the coast should just be a place to visit,” Blackburn told reporters in 2009.

Galveston Bay has lost a third of its wetlands to development since the 1950s, removing a natural buffer against flooding and storm surge. The Rice plan would set aside about 225,000 acres of low-lying land and undeveloped coast around the bay to reduce storm risk. This proposed national recreation area would also draw in birdwatchers, kayakers and other tourists. “A no-brainer,” Blackburn said.

But communities around Galveston Bay hit hard at the Rice plan for leaving them unprotected outside the Centennial Gate.

“Collateral damage,” is how a LaPorte City Council resolution described their city’s fate under the plan. A blogger complained: “They have already drawn us off the damn maps.”

Past attempts to protect vulnerable shores have run into the same problem.

The new levees around New Orleans don’t protect towns just to the north, south and west. Residents of LaPlace, a town of 32,000 people northwest of New Orleans, blamed the improved levees protecting their neighbors for their own unprecedented flooding by Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

A centerpiece of New York’s plan – 10 miles of berms and floodwalls forming a “Big U” around lower Manhattan – would safeguard Wall Street. But some people complain it would push more water onto New Jersey, Brooklyn and Queens shores.

Merrell’s Ike dike plan elicited similar complaints. Initially, he suggested that the dike simply trace a path from the end of the existing seawall along a highway that weaves beside the shoreline to the southwestern tip of the island. The highway would be raised atop the new wall.

But the strip of land that would lie between highway and beach contains $810 million in real estate, 11.2 percent of the island’s total, according to the county appraisal office. And if it were left outside the Ike dike, it could be washed away.

“If it’s on the highway side, it’s going to leave us underwater,” said Tom Booth, a retiree who lives with his wife in a condominium between the highway and the breezy shore where pelicans patrol the sky.


As a solution, Merrell would build the wall right along the beach and cover it with sand and salt-resistant plants to emulate a dune line. That revision still raised issues of cost, lost views and restricted beach access, among other things.

Merrell continued to refine and tout the Ike dike plan. He talked frequently with engineers he met through connections at Delft University of Technology, which helped design the Dutch Delta Works. In September 2012, he helped lead a group of two dozen Texas business people, academics and engineers on a tour of the Netherlands’ flood and erosion projects. Many of these were started after the North Sea flood of 1953 killed nearly 2,000 people.

For now, his Ike dike idea and the competing Rice concept are staying alive on local grants – $4 million here, $3 million there. Area politicians have been pressing the two camps to unite. And recently, the Rice team modified its plan so that it resembles something very close to the Ike dike: In addition to the gate on the Houston Ship Channel, it now has sea gates and raised highways along the Gulf shore, eliminating the major objection that it left too many communities exposed.

But with no agreed-upon proposal to evaluate, the all-important Army Corps of Engineers has remained out of the picture. Sharon Tirpak, the corps’ project manager for a Texas coastal flooding study, stopped looking at Galveston Bay earlier this year after Congress imposed a three-year, $3 million limit on feasibility studies. Those caps are too strict to allow for the large studies required for the type of big fix metro Houston needs.

Only a congressional waiver can get around those limits, and as Tirpak told the Galveston City Council in April: “The political support, you don’t have it in Texas.”

She had a point.

Governor Rick Perry hasn’t commented publicly on the Ike Dike or any other storm protection plan. The state’s two U.S. senators, Republicans Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, are noncommittal, as is the U.S. congressman who replaced Ron Paul.

The oil and petrochemical industries, whose multibillion-dollar facilities would be protected by both competing plans, is in a delicate position: Texas leads the nation in emitting greenhouse gases, which are at the heart of the debate over human-induced climate change and thus rising sea levels. The industry’s powerful lobby said it is still evaluating the rival proposals.

(Edited by John Blanton)

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Special Report: Why metro Houston fears the next big storm

Bumper field for Australia's most famous yacht race

Sydney (AFP) – Some 119 yachts have entered this year’s Sydney to Hobart race down the east coast of Australia, the first time since 2004 that the field has topped 100, officials said Monday.

The size of the field for the 628 nautical mile course means there will be three start lines for the 70th edition of the nation’s most famous sailing contest, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) said.

“It’s such a high standard and represents a good cross section of yachts from all over Australia as well as 10 international entries,” CYCA Commodore John Cameron said.

The last time entrants topped 100 was in 2004 — when only 59 of the 116 boats which set sail on December 26 made it across the finish line after the fleet was hit by gale force winds and rough seas.

This year’s field is set to include five supermaxis and 10 international entries with yachts from New Zealand, the Cayman Islands, Britain, Poland, Germany and the United States.

Among those entered is race record holder Wild Oats XI which won line honours last year after completing the gruelling course in two days, six hours, seven minutes and 27 seconds.

Its close rival and fellow supermaxi Perpetual Loyal is also registered, as is Syd Fischer’s new Ragamuffin 100 which will see Fischer, 87, take part in his 46th Sydney to Hobart race.

The fleet will include boats old and new, with the 50-foot Victoire which won handicap honours this year up alongside vessels such as the 1932 Maluka of Kermandie, which is just nine metres long.

American entrant Comanche, a new 100-foot supermaxi built in Maine, has been designed to break speed records but is yet to be tested in the endurance contest after only a few weeks in the water.

The classic race departs Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day and the yachts can face treacherous weather as they sail down the coast, across the notorious Bass Strait and towards the island state of Tasmania.

In 1998 five yachts sunk and six people died when the race was hit by wild weather.

The final fleet for this year’s race will be announced on November 25.

See the original article here: 

Bumper field for Australia's most famous yacht race

Athletics-Kenya's Kipsang, Keitany win NYC Marathon crowns

* Kipsang edged Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa by 11 seconds

* Keitany finished three seconds ahead of closest pursuer (Adds quotes, details official times)

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK, Nov 2 (Reuters) – Wilson Kipsang won a lucrative duel to the finish to join compatriot Mary Keitany in a Kenyan sweep of the men’s and women’s races at a cold, windy New York City Marathon on Sunday.

Kipsang and Keitany both pulled away in the last Central Park stretch, with Kipsang’s victory bringing him a $600,000 payday as the win also gave him the $500,000 World Marathon Majors bonus.

“Of course I was thinking about it,” Kipsang said about the bonus. “My only chance to win the jackpot was to win this race. I was trying to apply all the tactics to make sure I would win.”

With temperatures around 42 degrees Fahrenheit (6 Celsius) and wind gusting to 40 miles per hour (64 kph), some 50,000 runners set off in the world’s largest marathon on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Staten Island.

Runners wore ski hats or head bands over their ears and some pulled on sleeves or knee-high socks to deal with the elements that eased during the course of the 26.2-mile (42.2 km) race.

Conditions led to deliberate, tactical races that did not see the leading packs break up until after the 20-mile mark.

Kipsang, the London Marathon champion running the New York race for the first time, ran shoulder to shoulder with Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia over the last few miles.

In the final half mile, Desisa snuck ahead of Kipsang, who turned on a final burst to claim victory.

Kipsang crossed the finish line in two hours 10 minutes 55 seconds to win the $100,000 first-place price and catapult past compatriot Dennis Kimetto to win the massive bonus.

Desisa, the 2013 Boston Marathon winner, who said he felt discomfort from missing a bathroom stop, faded at the last and finished 11 seconds behind Kipsang, with fellow Ethiopian Gebre Gebremariam, the 2010 New York champion, third in 2:12:13.

Keitany won an exhilarating duel with compatriot Jemima Sumgong to claim the women’s crown.

The 2012 London Marathon winner, whose best New York showing was third place in 2011, edged ahead of Sumgong in the last two miles of the race that covers all five New York City boroughs.

Keitany, whose best New York showing was third place in 2011, widened her lead at the end as she crossed the line in 2:25:07, three seconds ahead of Sumgong in tying the closest women’s finish in the New York race.

The winner started her push at the 20-mile mark.

“I knew we still have only five miles to go. So I say let me push in and dig in in order to be in good position,” said Keitany.

Said Sumgong: “My target was to win, but it was Mary’s day.”

Portugal’s marathon debutante Sara Moreira finished third in 2:26:00.

Tennis player Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who finished her season last week ranked eighth in the world, completed her first marathon in 3:26:33 while running for a charity that benefits youth runners. (Editing by Frank Pingue)


Athletics-Kenya's Kipsang, Keitany win NYC Marathon crowns

US rower robbed of food, passport near Haiti

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A U.S. man who recently rowed across the Atlantic Ocean to raise awareness about HIV testing was robbed on Thursday off Haiti’s north coast, authorities said.

The incident occurred when Victor Mooney began having trouble with his boat near the tiny Tortuga Island, according to a U.S. Coast Guard report.

Mooney, a Brooklyn native, was headed back to the U.S. from his trans-Atlantic journey but had diverted toward Haiti on advice of his U.S. weather router, which warned a storm was coming and that he needed to seek shelter. The 48-year-old had completed the 3,000-mile (4,800 kilometer) journey in June on his fourth attempt, a journey to honor a brother who died of AIDS.

Mooney said he saw several boats approach on Thursday morning and that people aboard them began yelling at him in a language he did not understand as they tied his boat to theirs.

“It was like mosquitoes,” Mooney said in a phone interview. “One came, two came, three came and they surrounded my boat.”

Once he was towed to Tortuga Island, Mooney said a group of people ransacked his rowing vessel.

“They just took everything,” he said.

Police agent Kenssley Derival said Mooney’s food was stolen, along with his passport, which he said authorities have since recovered.

Helping Mooney with translations from Creole to English was 33-year-old Emmanuel Milhomme, who lives on Tortuga Island but previously lived in Fort Myers, Florida. He said he was in the area when he saw the commotion and noticed the U.S. flag on Mooney’s boat and approached him.

“Where he came from, I don’t know,” Milhomme said. “It could have been worse.”

Mooney was staying at Milhomme’s house until authorities arrived. It was not immediately clear exactly when Mooney would resume his trip back to the U.S.

“It was a frightening situation,” he said. “Thank God there’s no bodily harm, but I want to go home.”


Associated Press writers David Caruso in New York and Evens Sanon in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, contributed to this report.

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US rower robbed of food, passport near Haiti

Marquez takes MotoGP pole in Australia

PHILLIP ISLAND, Australia (AP) — World champion Marc Marquez of Spain took pole position and Cal Crutchlow and Jorge Lorenzo also secured front-row starts in the MotoGP race at Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.

Marquez, who clinched the 2014 season title last week with a second-place finish behind Lorenzo in Japan, took pole Saturday with a 1 minute, 28.408 second lap on his Honda, outpacing his nearest rival by 0.234 seconds on the 4.5-kilometer (2.7-mile) Phillip Island circuit.

Crutchlow, of Britain, was riding a Ducati Team entry, and Spain’s Lorenzo was on a Yamaha, ensuring three manufacturers will be represented on the front row in Sunday’s 27-lap race.

A first-place finish for Marquez on Sunday would equal Australian Mick Doohan’s record of 12 wins during a single MotoGP season. The Spaniard said to achieve the feat at Doohan’s home track would be fitting and humbling.

“It’s Australia, his country, it would be nice to do,” Marquez said. “I will try to take the risk to win the race. The records are always important, especially when people compare you with legends.”

It was Marquez’s 12th pole of the season, equaling a record for most MotoGP pole positions in a year.

In the three-way battle among Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi to finish second in the championship, Pedrosa overcame the most adversity.

After finishing 11th in practice and forced into an extra qualifying session for slower riders, he emerged to sit on top of the time sheets at one stage. He will start fifth in Sunday’s race, while Rossi will begin from seventh.

Lorenzo said he was pleased with the front-row start as he looks to repeat his 2013 Australian GP triumph and make it three wins in a row this season.

“My target was to push the limit to make the best lap I could. Third place is good for tomorrow,” he said.

Tito Rabat of Spain, who could clinch the Moto2 title this weekend, won his ninth pole of the season Saturday.

Rabat arrived in Australia 38 points ahead of his teammate Mika Kallio. A victory for the Spaniard on Sunday, combined with a fourth place finish or worse for the Finn, would secure the title for Rabat.

Kallio qualified in third place on Saturday.

Moto3 championship leader Alex Marquez, Marc’s younger brother, also took pole for Sunday’s race. He looked a likely pole-sitter throughout qualifying, setting the pace with an early lap record of 1:36.387 before improving to 1:36.050.

“Today we had a really good rhythm, we made really good laps…we need to try to win this race,” Alex Marquez said.

KTM rider Niklas Ajo had a high-speed crash off Doohan corner, requiring a trip to the medical center and major repairs for his bike. Brazilian Eric Granado, who broke a finger earlier in practice, needed a stretcher to leave the track after a crash, but wasn’t seriously injured.


Marquez takes MotoGP pole in Australia

Motorcyling: Marquez equals season pole record in Australian MotoGP

Newly-crowned world champion Marc Marquez will start off pole position for Sunday’s Australian MotoGP as the fastest qualifier.

The Spanish Repsol Honda rider clocked one minute 28.408 seconds in Saturday qualifying to finish ahead of Ducati’s Cal Crutchlow by 0.234secs, with Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo a further eight-hundredths of a second away third.

It was the 21-year-old Spaniard’s 12th pole of the year to equal the most poles in a season, previously held by Australian Casey Stoner.

“I’m really happy to be on the pole after winning the title in Japan,” Marquez said.

“It will be a tough race tomorrow especially Yamaha (Lorenzo), they are very strong and they have a good pace.

“But I was able to ride well, I was consistent, and we are ready to fight for the victory tomorrow.”

It was Marquez’s 21st career pole as he chases his first premier class victory at the Phillip Island circuit after winning a 125cc race in 2010.

Marquez secured this year’s world title in Japan last weekend with three races remaining in the season.

Lorenzo is battling Marquez’s Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi for second place overall in the championship, with the trio separated by just three points.

“Everyone has struggled this weekend to get the grip with the tyres and we are half a second to one second slower than we were last year here,” Lorenzo said.

“It’s the same for everyone. It’s good, third place, my rivals Rossi and Pedrosa are behind me so I’m happy.”

Lorenzo, who won last year’s MotoGP at Phillip Island on the way to losing the world championship by four points to Marquez, is coming off back-to-back wins at Aragon and Motegi.

Pedrosa was fifth fastest in qualifying after having to go through repechage qualifying while Rossi, a nine-time world champion through the classes, was eighth.

The Italian great, 35, has finished on the podium 14 times in 17 visits to Phillip Island across all three GP classes.

The 4.448-kilometre (2.764 mile) circuit, located on the shores of the storm-tossed Bass Strait, is a season classic for the world’s top riders with its sweeping blend of seven left-handers and five right-handers.


Motorcyling: Marquez equals season pole record in Australian MotoGP

Lorenzo leads MotoGP practice at Phillip Island

PHILLIP ISLAND, Australia (AP) — Despite a late crash, Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo set the fastest time in Friday afternoon’s MotoGP practice for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, edging ahead of the morning time posted by his Spanish countryman Aleix Espargaro.

Lorenzo had a lap time of 1 minute, 29.602 seconds Friday, faster than Espargaro’s morning 1:29.749 effort in his Forward Racing Yamaha around the 4.5 kilometer (2.7-mile) Phillip Island circuit.

With his quickest times achieved early in his run, two-time champion Lorenzo came off his bike around the turn four hairpin, ending his session but causing no injuries.

Marc Marquez, also of Spain, was third-fastest with 1:29.752. Marquez is looking to win his first Australian GP and a season-record 12th victory to add to his second consecutive MotoGP title.

While Marquez sealed the 2014 title by winning in Japan last weekend, Lorenzo had won the previous two races and is the defending champion in Australia.

Lorenzo is in a three-way fight for second place overall with his factory Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi and Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, with the trio separated by just three points. Rossi was sixth fastest on Friday and Pedrosa 10th.

Spain’s Esteve Rabat, on his Marc VDS Kamex, was fastest in both sessions of Moto2, which produced a series of accidents. Finnish rider Mika Kallio walked away from a crash into a tire wall, somersaulting onto his feet.

British rider Danny Kent was quickest in Moto3 morning practice with a 1:36.906 on his Ajo Motorsport Husqvarna, while Australian Jack Miller led the afternoon groups in 137.033 for Red Bull KTM.

Qualifying will be held on Saturday.

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Lorenzo leads MotoGP practice at Phillip Island