The easy winner of the first leg was Group Four, sponsored by the well- known prisoners' aid agency. Its skipper was so confident that the yacht would speed ahead and be in Wellington by Christmas that he had told his crew members they could not bring any presents with them.
Alas, pride comes before a splosh. Casting off, Group Four got its forestays mixed up with its gunwales and its shackles confused with its sheepshanks. Everything went wrong, the yacht was now last, and Sir Chay came gallantly to the rescue. "Shall I go back and get your Christmas presents?" he enquired as newly-named Chagrin Four snuck out to sea.
Incidentally, you will note that Rio's most famous landmark is named after the Brazilian branch of my family. Some people translate Pao de Acucar as Sugar Loaf Mountain - we like to stick to the more modest Bunhill.
WHAT would you think if you read this in your newspaper: "The stock market opened 20 points lower tomorrow"? Probably, that it was daft.
Now, consider the New Zealand stock market. It opens 20 points down at 9am on Wednesday. This is picked up by an evening paper in San Francisco, where it is 1pm on Tuesday. It runs the story in its afternoon edition, reporting on what happened the next day in Auckland. The headline? As above.
The evening newspaper in San Francisco is unlikely to write about the New Zealand stock market but I am not going to let that get in the way of a good paradox. Especially as it was kindly given to me by my cosmopolitan colleague on Flat Earth who, after the mysterious disappearance of Captain Moonlight, must be kept as sweet as possible.
Higgs in clover
I HAVE received another stimulating letter from Maguy Higgs, who refines my rules for Voicemail Pingpong, a game that involves leaving and receiving as many telephone messages as possible without ever speaking to the other person.
I invented the word "colocutor" for the other player. Ms Higgs points out that this would work only if you are speaking live (which you never do with Voicemail Pingpong). She suggests the initiator should be called the allocutor, the responder the relocutor, the machinery used the percolator, and the sign-off phrase "Simulator, Alligator".
SIR NIGEL Rudd, he who now rules much of corporate Britain, has a serious complaint about last week's ornate profile of him in these pages. We said he had a handicap of six. In fact it is 13, and his golfing chums have been giving him the most awful ribbing. We are pleased to say we did not make a similar mistake about his salary.
Debts all folks
AN ENVELOPE plopped through the letterbox the other day. "The greatest business genius of the century reveals his secrets," it said. I had to open it to discover that this genius is none other than Dr WG Hill.
He signs himself Bill Hill, so I wondered if the well-known turf accountant had perhaps come back to visit us. Not so, sadly, but his letter is certainly encouraging. "Dear Potential tycoon", it starts, "I want to explain a few simple things to convince you beyond doubt that you can make a fortune in property. You don't need an IQ of 150, you don't need to work hard. You don't even need a single penny."
His big idea is this: "It is essential you accumulate as much debt as possible." Um, yes, but what would your mother think? "You can also investigate probates, conser- vatorships, partition suits, foreclosures and tax sales." And if you don't know what he is talking about, you can simply buy the doctor's "elegantly- bound, gold blocked book for only pounds 49.95". Are we quite sure it was property, not publishing, that made Bill Hill's fortune?
ANOTHER conversation stopper, from Chris Sladen of Ealing: "Of course I thought the auditors meant the motor company when they said they'd spent two years at Ford."