28. China In Your Hand

George is on the Qingdao boat. Here they are coming into Liverpool last year, when they were placed third overall with 135 points (the winner, Sanya Serenity Coast, had 143).

Liverpool 2018

I have to start with George as he signed up before John, so I’m not showing favouritism. George was also the fourth name to be called out on Crew Allocation Day so he’s first there too. Do we already have competition? I know his boat would like to improve on their podium position of last time so there’s only one way John’s Unicef boat can beat them!

George is on one of the three Chinese boats (Qingdao, Zhihai and Sanya, more on the other two and on the destinations in future posts). Hence the comment about learning Mandarin last time. See post 05, we’ve already got two Mandarin phrase books so I need to start too. The crew of each of these three boats will include 16 Chinese members, chosen by the host ports after their training weeks. Qingdao has been involved with Clipper for 16 years and Zhuhai is making its debut this year. The current Clipper yachts were all built at Qingdao.

I am a bit concerned that George may do a Jeremy Hunt as he (George) is holidaying in Japan at the moment.

Mount Fuji from the Shinkansen bullet train

For those of you who’ve not heard of him, Jeremy Hunt is a British politician who is currently one of the 12 people (at time of typing) hoping to be the next UK Prime Minister. In 2018, when Foreign Secretary, when visiting Beijing, he said his wife was Japanese. She’s actually Chinese! His excuse was that he’d been speaking Japanese at the time. See the BBC link if you’re really interested: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-45004765

On the Qingdao boat there are 63 crew listed, 45 male and 18 female, aged from 23 to 72 years old. There are nine circumnavigators. They represent ten nations but I can only find British, Australian, Canadian, American, Irish (our George), Swedish and of course Chinese. They flew over for the Crew Allocation Day and are spending four weeks over here doing their Clipper training back-to-back. George tells me that not all will be sailing (this time) as there aren’t enough places on the yacht. Here some of them they are on May 11th at the end of allocation.

Qingdao hopeful crew members

The skipper on Qingdao is Chris Brooks, a 33 year old Brit with 26 years’ experience racing yachts. He’s been sailing since he was seven years old. The AQP (First Mate) is Rhiannon Massey, a 23 year old Brit who also started sailing when she was seven and has represented GB at the International Olympic class level. Doesn’t sound like it will be too competitive a boat then!

The RTW’ers all have a job to do and George seems to have picked up the Social Secretary role. As well as organising the Team Building weekend in July this seems to entail making sure everyone is entertained when they are in port. I’m looking forward to trying beers from every country we visit. Or wine, as I think nearly all the places are wine-producing regions. Good planning by someone at Clipper.

Their official colours are red and gold, as you can see from the first picture above. As it’s not too clear in the picture, here’s another one of the lovely looking dragon on the hull. Or is it meant to be looking very fierce and frightening the opposition?

Qingdao 2019-20

I’m busy knitting hats for the Unicef supporters at the moment so I hope at least one supporter for the Qingdao boat is a keen knitter, or else you’ll get no more updates from me for a while. When I started it was a bit like Goldilocks, the first hat was too dull, the second one too green and the third just right!

Too dull, too green, just right?

However, it may be apparent from the photo that the bright blue one is rather small. I made a mistake on the length so it was only the fourth one that was suitable for the supporters.

The plan is that we have matching hats so that we can recognise each other at each port, and also the crew coming in can see us and feel cheered that someone has come to see them arrive! So we all need the same colour more-or-less. On last year’s Qingdao a different type of hat altogether was worn, as you can see on the right-hand-side here.

I’m not knitting one of those!

If you want more in-depth details of the Qingdao crew then here’s the link to the Clipper website page. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/team/qingdao/race-skipper If you do check the website, you’ll see a red line at the bottom which is counting down the days, hours, minutes and SECONDS to the race start. Only just over 93 days to go!

Next time, John’s crew mates. And maybe more hats!!

27a. It’s A Small Small World (5)

There are two small worlds here but individually too small to really divide up into two posts. The first one: when I went to pick the Home Team (see post 2) from the kennels after our sailing trip detailed last time, I got chatting to the owner about our adventures. Not only did he once live in the same village as Sir Robin, he used to go shooting with him! Here’s Polly recovering from the ordeal of being away from home.

Life is hard

Then, a couple of days later, after my Pilates class, we went and had a coffee (no cake) as usual. Chatting about which boats George and John will be on, one of my pals told me her grand-daughter Georgia (not quite George) had spent a year in Qingdao studying during her degree. I’d never heard of the place before Clipper, although I think we’ve all heard of the beer Tsingtao. I’ll have plenty of pictures of China over the next year but in the meantime here’s a dragon.

Chinese New Year celebrations in the UK

Now I’m ready to let you know all about the two boats my crew members are on….

27. We Didn’t Go To Sea!

Unlike the Walkers in the Arthur Ransome book We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea, we had to think about mundane things such as insurance. Although to be fair I think fog had a large influence on their trip.

Straight from Crew Allocation Day we drove up to Heathrow and caught the plane to Glasgow where John’s brother picked us up for a week’s sailing around the Clyde. The week before, John had spent a day slicing what was left of the birthday cake featured in post 24 (the large bit at the bottom) into wedges and packing it up for this voyage. What the security made of triangular chunks of aluminium foil surrounding soft material I don’t know but it arrived with us!

Our sailing area

We had a 40 footer for six of us (I could have stolen another Arthur Ransome title and called this post The Big Six). What was confusing was that four of us have the same surname and three the same first name (which meant we kept thinking there were seven of us). This boat was very spacious compared to what MBB will face from September.

Luxury!
Seating as well!

Sunday night we had a good meal at Scotts on Largs Marina, just in case we were marooned during the week and never saw land again. We set off on Monday morning once all the food was aboard. If this is what six people need for five days (for two of which we ate ashore) then I cannot imagine how Clipper stocks up for each leg. I found out that you need constant infusions of tea or coffee and cake during the day, lunch on the move and something after dinner each night, even if you’ve been on land and had a good restaurant meal.

Largs Marina

We headed towards Little Cumbrae and practiced mooring alongside a pontoon, tacking and gybing. I learn to sail in Grimsby docks as a teenager, then many years later went to Poole harbour. My speciality is capsizing boats so I nobly decided that we could do without a dipping and the two Clipper sailors needed to practice things more than I did. Not sure how many pontoons they’ll find in the ocean though. After this we headed to Holy Loch then did a bit of night sailing up to Gareloch (Faslane). We’d seen porpoises and eider ducks along the way which was pretty exciting plus a number of naval craft but nothing big.

Moored up.

The next morning we set off for the Kyles of Bute and practiced some man overboard (MOB) with a couple of fenders tied together. I can now send a Mayday signal if necessary as well as spot the casualty in the water. A little while after, we had a real emergency HOB (hat overboard). Lucky we’d practiced! The hat was rescued but needed to dry out so the hat you first saw on post 14 came in useful.

Keeping the sun off

During the day I’d had a go at navigating (under supervision), I think that could be my forte with a bit of training. We’d had light winds most of the week so had to use the engine to make sure we arrived on time each evening (that is, on time to settle down for the night and have a meal). We headed to Portavadie for the night and had a great meal, so good that the only photo I have of us all is out of focus (hic!)

The Big Six

We then headed to Lamlash, inside Holy Island and moored up on a buoy rather than in a marina, so we didn’t go ashore that night. I had a little taste of going without a shower for a day or two. For a month? No thank you! As previously mentioned, after saying hello to my two at each port it’ll be straight into the showers.

John at the helm

On the final day we sailed into Largs to have a shower (thanks) then off to Rothesay for our final night, eating at Harry Haws, more casual than the photo above from Portavadie but just as enjoyable. We learnt from our amazingly informative waiter that the castle had been on the waterside but the Victorians had infilled such that now you can’t see the water from it. Next visit we’ll have more time there as it all sounded very interesting. I missed going into it, but there is a famous Victorian listed gentlemen’s toilet block (see the photo below).

Rothesay Gents
George at the helm (wondering what’s ahead)

Friday we sailed back to Largs, had a big fry-up on the boat to finish off the leftovers, handed the boat back and flew home. Great excitement on the way back to the Marina, we had to keep tacking around as a submarine appeared on the surface! (I have a photo but you’d not know what it is due to the distance, looks like a stick in the water).

Me reading!

Next time, more information about the Teams that George and John are in.

26. The Self-Preservation Society (SPS)

Otherwise known as us supporters. To continue from yesterday, after lunch we were on our own with no racers. Ruth Charles is the Clipper supporters coordinator. She went around the world in the 2015-16 race so she knows what the crew are facing and how her supporters coped. This is only the second time we’ve had an official “role”, and we are (so far) over 2,000 so we outnumber the crew, not quite three to one but possibly by the start of the race? If you want to sign up as a supporter, here’s the link. You should then receive “daily” updates (see previous post). https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/crew-supporters

The header photo is from the Clipper Facebook page, the first photo in this blog that is not mine. I’m not sure how to properly acknowledge copyright (ironic, as I’m a Lay Member of the Copyright Tribunal) so if anyone needs to correct me please do. As I didn’t take any photos on the afternoon, the ones lightening the text here are all from last year.

2018 Qingdao crew

Ruth will be at each stopover (as will I unless things go drastically wrong) and so she is our best contact. There is a (private) Facebook page for supporters of the 2019-20 race as well as the open stuff. There is information for Junior Supporters, mainly for the 5-12 age group although others may find it of interest. Each Junior Supporter will be linked to a crew member and will receive home-based activities to reflect what their crew member is up to (such as crossing the Equator). Often a class will plot the journeys on a map, so we could have whole schools following and supporting a team. The youngsters in our family are going to have to decide whether to support Uncle George or Grandad! Here’s the link for the Juniors. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/junior-crew-supporters

At each stopover there will be drop-in sessions so none of us need to feel alone whilst waiting. We’ve got the Race Viewer which although not live is worth visiting for the last race details. Qingdao came third and Unicef sixth, so MBB have something to beat as well as each other. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings

2018 Unicef team

During the race as the boats come in and / or when they leave each port there will be live streaming on Facebook Live ( http://www.facebook.com/clipperracelive I think). I’ve just looked at it but I guess there’s nothing to show yet. For the last few days as the boats are approaching harbour there will be live ETAs for their arrival. We’ll also be informed of other supporters at each stopover.

If you want to communicate with the crew, letters and parcels can be sent and the stopover information will give the address to send stuff to. Alternatively I will be going to each port and will possibly have space in my case, although I may be going from one stop to another without returning to the UK. More on that when I’ve done my research. What you could do is email me and I’ll pull them all together to give MBB a heap of them at each port. The official emails are not able to handle pictures, emojis or the like. We’re not allowed / supposed to give other information on other boats so I’m going to have fun biting my lip and maintaining a Chinese Wall (ha ha!).

We then had a Q&A session with supporters of crew members from earlier races. Of particular interest to me was Nicky, whose husband Mike is the AQP on Unicef this year (he was a RTW’er crew last time). We were told not to expect to hear anything whilst they are at sea. Any contact is a bonus.

Socialise with as many supporters as possible, not just your own boat, and help out at the ports wherever possible. As an example, “Seattle” was a week late into one port, so all their victualling had been sorted to save time for them. They may arrive at any time of the day or night so some spare cash, food (not tinned rations!) and somewhere to shower or sleep will be appreciated.

Coming into Liverpool

We were advised to start / join a WhatsApp group for the team supporters and get involved in fund raising. I’m already in the Unicef supporters group and I’ve started knitting team colour hats so we can be spotted on the docks. If at home, organise a “stopover” party for others so you all still feel involved.

At the ports, Clipper supporters do not receive any special treatment, we are part of the normal crowd. However, Clipper staff are also part of the crowd and usually this is where the best views are to be found. If there is capacity then supporters will be invited to the prize-givings and parties. We the SPS have our own parties anyway!

Then the exciting news that Musto have developed a Supporters Kit for the first time ever, in the team colours! It’s not yet live so I can’t share the link. I’ll need a seamstress who can take apart two kits and get me a jester’s outfit of half Unicef (pale blue) / half Qingdao (red and gold). Hmmm.

Look at those winning pennants!

Next time, what we did on our holiday (last week immediately after Crew Allocation Day). I think.

25. And The Boys Watch The Girls

Because of course everyone can go on Clipper! Although on this header more people seem to be watching their phones. Some of you will have already found out what happened on Crew Allocation Day, May 11th. If you watched it live you can probably miss out this post. For those of you waiting for this update, I’m sorry you’ve had to bite your nails for a week. The next post will tell you what else we’ve been up to.

Back to May 11th. We arrived in Portsmouth the night before to meet up with George, who had been on his Day Skipper course. The next morning we joined the queue to get into the venue.

Outside the Guildhall

We found out that it was the biggest crew allocation to date, with over 400 crew in attendance and 300 watching live. There are five weeks of Level 4 training, starting in June, with 535 crew booked and about 140 yet to book. Sir Robin warned that anyone NOT completing Level 4 will NOT sail in Clipper. In addition there were over 150 of us supporters in the room. We had a reminder of the race rules and features (see Post 18 if you want to remind yourself). During the night hours, the racing is according to IRPCS, the International Rules for Prevention of Collisions at Sea. Race specific course instructions will be sent to the crew about five days before each race.

The race skippers have completed eight weeks of training with another 14-15 weeks to do. We were introduced to them, here’s before they sat down and obscured the details. We have AQPs (additional qualified person, in effect a First Mate) for the first time but we didn’t get their specific details. You can find them on the Clipper website, https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/meet-the-clipper-201920-race-aqps

Skippers

Four yachts have already been rebranded: Unicef, Sanya, Zhuhai and Qingdao. At the meeting we found out that both Seattle and Punta del Este will be host ports and boat entries. Only another five to go! I’ve not got any pictures of them but I’m sure you’ll have had enough by the end of the race. We also had a LOT of information on safety. Crew will be clipped on if the speed is over 15 knots, at night time and if the Skipper says so. Both tethered and untethered Man Over Board (MOB) will happen before each race and the Skipper will have to email HQ that this has been done.

We then heard a bit about Brand Ambassadors, essentially crew who volunteer to represent a particular brand associated with Clipper. Team partners have not all been confirmed (see Post 14 for the different types of partners and Post 23 for announced ones) but they should all be announced in the next few weeks. After this each crew will know their team colours and identity and be issued with kit. Cape Town and The Whitsundays (in Australia) were announced as host ports in addition to Seattle and Punte del Este. We still don’t know a couple, see the updated table below:

LegRace numberLeavePortArriveDestination
0 (Prep)16th Aug
1a11st SeptSt Katherine’s Dock London??????
1b2??????14-16 OctPunta del Este
Uruguay
2323rd OctPunta del Este7-11 NovCape Town
3417th NovCape Town9-14 DecFremantle
4522nd DecFremantle9-12 JanWhitsundays
5a618th JanWhitsundays10-15 FebSanya
5b721st FebSanya25-26 FebSE Asia
5c828th FebSE Asia2-3 MarchZhuhai
6a99th MarZhuhai17-19 MarchQingdao
6b1026th MarQingdao19-24 AprilSeattle
7a112nd MaySeattle27 May -1 JunePanama
7b125th JunePanamaMid JuneEast USA
8a13/14Late JuneEast USAMid JulyN Europe
8b14 or 15?Late JulyN EuropeEarly AugSt Katherine’s Dock London

As you can see, the very first race destination isn’t known and once past the Panama Canal we’re off into the unknown. The Race will actually start on 2nd September from Southend Pier. I’ll update when I can. We then had information on stopovers (see Post 22); we’ll know more eight then four weeks before each one. I hope to get myself organised before that though. We heard that there is a travel company who will be announced in the next few weeks, mainly for crew who are only on one or two legs and so need to arrive in the right place at the right time, but I’m sure we can piggy-back on this. Unicef updated us that each yacht will have a fund-raising co-ordinator for the first time. This is not an extra person but one of the crew. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that every crew member is going to be wearing a number of hats, especially the circumnavigators.

The next section addressed communications. Race crew news will be via email to the crew. The website will carry information as will Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I’m going to have to get into this century and join all these. There will be on-board reporters (a crew member) and Youtube stuff, with Skipper daily blogs and crew will also be encouraged to blog. If you sign up on the Clipper website you should received updates in your inbox. However, don’t forget that they will be far from civilisation, so “daily” may not actually mean what we think it means. A RIB will go out to each boat at the end of each race to interview crew members and there will be local press interviews.

Smile and wave!

After all this and greater details of the race than I’ve given in the table above, we had what we’d all come for, the crew allocation (from midday, so we had about three hours of anticipation). To prolong the agony, each Skipper stood up in turn and announced HALF of his crew, so if you were in the first half you could relax. I didn’t have a bird’s-eye-view so not good photos, but here are our two teams.

George 4th out of the sorting hat!

Team Chris was first to speak so George didn’t have long to wait. Chris Brooks is Skippering the Qingdao boat: George needs to start learning his Mandarin. (Louise, you volunteered Neil to accompany me on this leg so we can test his Mandarin, you thought you were joking!). The AQP is Rhiannon Massey.

John had to wait a bit longer.

The eleventh Skipper to stand up was Ian Wiggin but luckily John was also in the first tranche. This is the Unicef boat, so John is already ahead of the game in terms of fundraising. His AQP is Mike Miller, who went round the world in the last race. For completeness here are the other two halves of our crews.

Rest of Team Chris (Qingdao)
Rest of Team Ian (Unicef)

After this we had lunch then split into teams for the afternoon. I’ll tell you more about these two boats and the host port Qingdao next time, as well as what we learnt in the afternoon session for supporters. You may be getting one of these posts a day for the next week.

24. The Girls Watch The Boys

This Saturday, May 11th, we have the Crew Allocation Day, when all the sailors will be told which skipper and which boat they will be with for the duration of the race. I shall be there as a Supporter but you can watch from the comfort of your sofa on the following link.

www.clipperroundtheworld.com/livestream

This will be live from 09.30 to 12.30 on the day, you may not get the exciting atmosphere but you’ll be able to go and make cups of tea if you get fed up! If you’d rather watch it later and fast-forward then this is the link you need, which has lots of other Clipper stuff to keep you occupied for hours on end (I know, I’ve been on it a few times).

Clipper Race YouTube

There are (as I type) more than 10 videos for Our Race but plenty of clips from the previous races to give a taste of what is to come for Our Brave Boys.

I’ve had a break from posting for a while not because I have nothing to say (as if) but because we’ve been busy with birthday parties. Starting with George in late April we have six family birthdays in a fortnight ending with John and one of his grand-daughters. John seems to think that this year is something special and had three parties (to date). Needless to say, boats in one form or another featured quite a bit:

Birthday balloon from Victoria
See the sea?

I’m going to have to post this now otherwise I’ll not get to all the others things in life that need attention (now, when did I last feed the dogs?). I have lots to tell you but it’ll have to wait for another week.