As I’m sure you know, this race started from Portimao on Sunday 15th September and is due to finish at Punta del Este in Uruguay around 12 to 16th October (the arrival window). I am flying out a couple of days before to make sure I wave them both in this time (as long as they don’t come in at some unfashionable hour when I’m fast asleep).
The highlight of this race is crossing the Equator, making Shellbacks out of Pollywogs (those who have never sailed across the Equator before, flying around the world doesn’t count). You should just be able to see a dotted line on this shot, below the Doldrums Corridor End, which shows where the Equator is. A long way off yet.
I know that the youngsters who have signed up as Junior Crew Supporters have been practicing this event for a while, but as I’ve not been sent any photos (I wonder why?) then you’ll have to make do with this, John’s father’s certificate which has pride of place in his childhood home. I doubt the Clipper crew will get anything anywhere near as attractive.
In Post 48a, Qingdao had gone into Stealth Mode. They came out ahead of Ha Long Bay (who had been in Stealth the day before, but unfortunately came across Qingdao so the secrecy was lost). Qingdao were second over the Scoring Gate, with Sanya first and Ha Long Bay third.
Two more points to Qingdao! Now on 14 points at the top of the table with Punta del Este.
It’s now Tuesday 24th and Unicef were the third to go into Stealth Mode last night, we won’t know where they are until tonight. The front runners of the fleet were passing the Cape Verde Islands, with Unicef taking a different route through them. This shows their last known position so you can see where they went offline. They are the mid-blue blob in the middle of the Islands on the left of the shot.
I hope you understood, from Post 48, the horrible place that is the Doldrums and how boring it is with nothing happening for days on end. Well, things do not always follow the expectations. Here’s a shot of the Doldrums now, with Tropical Cyclone Garry showing up in deep orange to purple. The fleet look to be using the outskirts to get some wind to push them into the Doldrums more quickly, especially Punta del Este (the yellow blob). We should know in the next couple of days who was able to benefit from the cyclone.
BUT, I hear you cry, this is all about the fleet. What is our favourite landlubber up to all this time? Fear not, gentle reader, I have been busy and not just with washing and injections (ref Post 47). OK, so some of the time has been taken up with getting stuff to take out to John, although the compression straps are proving elusive. I don’t think I’ve mentioned the painting by Mark Wiggin, father to the Unicef Skipper Ian. He was asked by Ian to create a picture to commemorate this race. At the time only three boats had been branded, Unicef, the yellow one (Punta del Este) and the red one (Qingdao), and Mark chose to include the red one. Well, my two boats, it was written in the stars! It was in the Unicef tent at the Fanzone at St Katherine’s Dock and anyone could put in a bid, but not many people did so I managed to outbid them. Last week I popped over to Unicef UK to collect it and it’s now got pride of place in my home! I can follow the Race Viewer and look at the boats at the same time.
I have been doing other things as well: walking in Battersea Park with Rene (friend) and Clint (Welshie), going out to dinner at Moo, an Argentinian restaurant up the road and meeting neighbours in the block. In the next few days I’ll be getting some culture at the V&A and Tate Britain, possibly the Tate Modern too. I finally got around to turning the television on, the first time since July, and seeing what Netflix has to offer. Most of all I’ve been practicing the piano (Grade 4 scales and simple classical) and looking at the view in gloomy London. Portimao seems a long time ago already.
Two in one today. Rachel Burgess is a veterinary surgeon who is circumnavigating on WTC Logistics. Her parents and brother were in Portimao and joined us in the watching room (white bean bags outside by the pontoon). Rachel did her degree at Glasgow and was one year behind Kate, who has the sheep in our paddock at home. We weren’t able to ask Rachel if she remembers Kate, but Kate remembers her.
Then, chatting to Rachel’s dad, it turns out he worked at Astra Zeneca and knows George’s Godmother Fiona! She’s planning on coming to Cape Town and Seattle so they might catch up with each other.
Also seen in Portimao, a shop that seems not to know the meaning of secrecy:
I finally found the picture of me bandaged up (refer back to Post 45) and it’s this header. To be in the Doldrums can mean to be low or depressed. As both MBB are away for the best part of a year many people expect me to be in this flat place. I’m actually enjoying the novelty of eating when I feel the need and popping out to a museum or random cafe when I fancy it and seeing lots of friends as London is easier to get to than Somerset (or so they tell me). I’m treating the year as a series of business trips. I’ll probably be seeing George more often than when we’re all in the UK. Possibly I’m just a hermit or recluse by nature, although (unlike some people we could name) I’m not neglecting my personal hygiene nor stockpiling my waste or throwing it over the side of the flat.
Enough frivolity. Today is a technical blog post. Another definition of being in the Doldrums is to make no progress. This could be happening to the fleet in the next day or two.
They are just out of the picture here at about 08.10 Thursday 19th. The screenshot of the Race Viewer shows the Scoring Gate that they are all racing towards, the Ocean Sprint and, in the middle, the Doldrums Corridor. In case you’ve forgotten (or I forgot to tell you), the white line is the shortest distance between start and finish, known as the rhumb line. The dark blue wavy bit in the centre is (are?) the actual Doldrums. The darker the blue, the less likelihood of wind so VERY calm. The area is also referred to as the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone or ITCZ (pronounced itch).
As you can see, this band goes all around the world either side of the equator, but for this race we’re only interested in the bit between Africa and South America. Put simply, the northern (red in the slide above) and southern (blue) trade winds clash and effectively cancel each other out. Remembering the last day or two of race 1, where the leaders (Qingdao and Unicef) ended up third and sixth due to lack of wind, we may be waiting a long time for them to cross this part of the world. In a past Clipper race some boats were stuck for four days. We may even get fed up with checking Race Viewer!
The race has a reasonably tight arrival window so we can’t just leave them to wallow around on their own without cleaning their teeth or showering or changing their underwear. They cannot avoid the Doldrums. Clipper have therefore defined an area over which the fleet can elect to use their motors.
There are strict rules though. The Skipper has to tell HQ he’s going to do this at least three hours beforehand. They can only motor for a maximum 6 degrees of latitude (roughly 400 miles) and must stop motoring at 03 degrees North (just above the Equator). They have to send a photo of their position when the motor was started and when stopped to show that they’ve gone the 6 degrees. If it takes less than 60 hours they have to hang around and cannot start racing again until the 60 hours are up, possibly having to go back to where they stopped the motor. Thus, if the wind picks up, they may have been better off sailing. They can’t change their mind once they’ve said they’re going to use the motor.
Here endeth today’s lesson. If you’re looking at the Race Viewer (and who isn’t?) you may be confused as to who is in the lead. You need to take into account how far away from the rhumb line they are as they’ll need to get back there at the end. If you’re reading the Skipper and Crew Diaries on the Clipper website you’ll see how they are getting on. It’s interesting reading them all, not just “ours” as they are all having different experiences. Some are interested in wildlife, some (most) in the food on board, some give details of the issues they’ve encountered. Talking of food, here’s what I had for my first “proper” meal in Portimao (after the room service sandwich on arrival).
Ooh, Friday morning and Ha Long Bay Viet Nam has deployed Stealth Mode. This means that for the next 24 hours we won’t know where exactly she is and neither will the rest of the fleet (she hopes). They must have a plan to beat the others to the Scoring Gate. Once through the Scoring Gate her position will become public. Stay tuned!
Having told you about MBB and their arrival in Portimao, here’s the blog of my journey.
We (my pal Jane and I) should have been on the flight to Faro from Gatwick leaving about 2 pm on Saturday 7th September, but when I turned my phone back on at 5.30 am that morning (just to check Race Viewer you understand) I had messages from BA telling me it had been cancelled. They were offering me an alternative on Sunday via Madrid arriving about 8 pm. No, I need to be there now! MBB are on their way! They are currently first and second! The latest ETA for them is Sunday morning. I can’t wait!
Me, panic? Make a drama out of a crisis? Well, this whole blog is here for a reason. Once I’d let the world know via Facebook, WhatsApp, email, text etc I set to work. First phone BA to see if they can get us on the Heathrow flight. The irony is I chose Gatwick because I thought Jane would find it easier to get there, but she had to transit London so Heathrow would have been better. Needless to say, when I eventually get through, after 40 minutes, the two Heathrow flights were full. The Gatwick flight was not cancelled due to the impending strike but for technical reasons. Lots of suggestions from my pals: train, drive, other places to fly from. To cut a stressful couple of hours short, we returned to my new favourite place, Southend. The airport this time, to fly with Ryanair, four hours later than planned but still Saturday. As a comment in Post 44 said, I go to all the glamorous places, not once but twice!
On arriving at Faro, about an hour’s drive from the marina, we collected our luggage and headed to the passport check. On turning the corner it looked like the queue to get into Glastonbury. Thousands of people and no one going anywhere. The electronic automatic passport gates were not working and of course the staffing levels have been cut down as they’re no longer needed. We reckon there was one chap on duty.
Forty minutes later we were lucky to spot our driver. Thank goodness I’d booked a car and he’d waited. Even though we took so long he was very cheerful and understanding. A high five for Favourite Arrive Transfers of Portugal, especially when we found out that the hotel had not told him of our delayed flight so he’d done the trip twice that day! On arriving at the hotel, 21.55 Saturday night, we asked reception when the dining room closed. In five minutes was the reply, and he then took ten minutes to check us in. We dropped our bags in our rooms (via golf buggy) and rushed to get a drink, having had very little to eat due to the disruption. (We had popped into Tate Britain and had a beetroot wrap and a jackfruit wrap about 11 in the morning. We cannot recommend jackfruit). Thank goodness for Ana on the bar, she told us we could have room service until 23.00 (what, back to our rooms? No, she offered us room service at the bar). I cannot remember what I had but Jane had a club sandwich which was enormous. In the restaurant people were still eating, then they had some Strictly-style dancers. Ana moved us into a quiet corner so we could watch them, and found us a couple of puddings that were spare.
We didn’t sleep well as there was a disco opposite our rooms that went on until the early hours. It didn’t help when I discovered that my bedroom window had been open all night. Never mind, the boats were not due in until the afternoon so we took life easy. At 1700 we rendezvous-ed with other supporters also waiting. After two hours, with the ETA going back and back, we decided to go and eat. After a very raucous meal (imagine six very restless women who had been drinking for over an hour) on the top floor of the hotel (so we could see the boats arrive) we realised it was going to be a LONG night and adjourned to Sandra’s room where she had a bottle of fizz cooling to drink with Geoff when he arrived. At midnight we signed onto the alert set up by Clipper and went to our beds.
I woke about six, checked Race Viewer and saw that Unicef were about to arrive. I’d totally slept through any alarm we may have had and missed Punta del Este coming in about half past midnight. As you already know, Qingdao were third around 3 am so I missed them too. Unicef were sixth. Go back to the previous post for more details.
The next day, MBB slept and /or cleaned their boats then had briefings regarding the prize giving ceremony that evening. Jane and I decided to top up our Vitamin D by the pool. For this we needed the dull pale brown towels everyone was walking around with. Off to reception to see the chap who booked us in on the desk. “Where do we get the pool towels from please?” “By the pool” “Ok, thanks”. As we start to head towards the pool he tells us we need a token. We ask where we get these and he (reluctantly) produces them! He tells us to go left but we cannot see anyone or anywhere that looks like it may have a heap of towels. We head to the far end and ask someone there, only to be told we get towels from reception. OKAY. We sit on a lounger and hope we’ll get told off for not having a towel (there is a sign telling us not reserve loungers). Eventually we find a pool boy who takes our tokens, heads off to (you guessed) reception and returns with towels! Victory!
The prize giving was in a restaurant by the marina and it was great to see Qingdao receive their pennant for coming in third. Every team member received a small one. I did offer to bring George’s home so he wouldn’t lose it but no way was he letting it out of his sight. They were rather damp, having been dropped in the pool before the presentation, but they got a lot wetter when the whole crew started to dance in the pool!
The next day Jane and I had a tour of Unicef and pretended to helm. I’m not really that much taller than Jane, there’s a board at 45 degrees that becomes the floor when the boat is heeling over.
I may give you a more detailed report of conditions on board in another post, but meanwhile here’s John showing us his cabin, with his storage space by his side.
The next day we went around the Museu de Portimao, an old sardine and anchovy canning factory, which was not too big and very interesting. As well as the commercial aspects of canning there was an exhibit on a famous accordionist of Portimao, the history of the region and some information on the underwater reserve that’s been created by sinking four naval ships some years ago.
George had planned to go and dive in the reserve on the Friday but the water was too murky; some others went and said they could not tell if they were inside the wrecks or not, the visibility was so poor.
We also had drinks provided by the Marina as a welcome on most nights and a wine tasting with oysters at the other end of the marina. Apparently they were the best, creamiest oysters ever tasted. As I lost half a stone last time I had fresh oyster I demurred. I prefer to lose weight by lots of walking in beautiful weather.
Mostly during the day we sat by the pool whilst the sailors did maintenance on the boats. The day we went over to Unicef, one of the support crew from Gosport had to go up the mast to repair something. It looked challenging when moored up, I dread to think how it would feel at sea.
Whenever John and I go on holiday we try to buy two mugs and a tea towel as a reminder of the place. This trip was no exception. I tried to find a trinket to go onto the Pandora bracelet John’s daughter Penny gave me as a memento but no luck, so I’ll see if I can find a “3” on the internet to commemorate the podium finish of Qingdao.
On Saturday we said goodbye to George and on Sunday morning John left at 9.30. We supporters had lunch next to the pontoons so we could watch the fleet leave. It was pretty emotional waving them all off, their team songs blaring away in the background. We say them go upriver then come back but missed the race start as we had our flight back. I forgot to mention the techno pop festival that was on the last three nights from 1400 to 0600 the next morning. Once again, no sleep. Here we are enjoying some relative peace in a beach bar.
Now back to normal, slept late, did laundry, bought food, had my last Hepatitis B injection and ordered yet more stuff to take to the next stop for John. I was reading “Piano Man” by Charles Beauclerk on holiday, a book given to me by Caroline, my piano teacher. If anyone in the Yeovil area wants to learn I can recommend her, as long as you do not steal my slot! Not particularly light reading but a compelling story and heart breaking. I am now listening to recordings of John Ogdon playing Rachmaninoff and Bartok whilst typing. Meanwhile, back to Race Viewer. The fleet are off the African coast above the Canary Isles. The next excitement is which route they chose through the Isles and who goes for the Scoring Gate.
Back in Post 18, as long ago as March, I tried to explain the rules to you and probably caused great confusion. Now that we’re off, let me do it again with results. If you want more technical details, the Clipper website has Course Instructions for each race which gives reasons for infringements (things they must not do), exact start and finish, times and positions etc. I don’t know if it’s there throughout the year for all the races or gets taken down once a race has finished. The photos here are from my phone as I forgot the connector for the SD card to my computer. Better ones later I hope. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/course-instructions
Race 1 set off from Southend, Essex, UK at 10.00 on Monday 2nd September 2019. The race went to Portimao on the Algarve in Portugal. The arrival window was estimated to be 8th to 10th September, that is the time between the fastest and slowest was possibly up to two days. Every team has one Joker that they can play once in the whole year and it will double their points. The first team to finish the race gets 11 points, the next 10, down to the last boat in getting 1 point. You can see that they’ll play the Joker when they think they have a good chance of winning. No one played their Joker this time, not surprisingly as they’re still learning about the boat and each other.
To add more excitement to what is an already exciting event, there are two other possibilities to score points. The first is the Scoring Gate, an imaginary line in the ocean through which they may pass. The first three (and only the first three) collect three, two and one point respectively. It means a diversion from the straight route they should be taking to come in first at the end of the race so is often used either by boats lagging a bit behind wanting to pick up three extra points or by the leaders if they are so far ahead they think they can do this and still come in on the podium (1st, 2nd or 3rd).
The very first Scoring Gate was into the Bay of Biscay on 5th September and caused a great deal of angst for us Watchers. If you go onto Race Viewer (assuming this is before the next race starts on 15th September) you can replay the course the yachts took by pressing the back button (an arrow going anticlockwise) just below the map. This shows Zhuhai, lying in 6th, be the first to make a break for it. We then see quite a few of the others, including Unicef and Qingdao, do the same before Unicef turns back on course. This could be because they realised they were not going to be in the first three, or because they wanted to steal a march on the rest of the fleet by getting a greater lead. This proved to be the correct decision as they went into the lead with a good margin. Those of us addicts watching the Scoring Gate saw Qingdao (George) go for it but it looked as though they had missed it and scored nul points and also lost their place in the main race. Thankfully, the Race Viewer is not accurate enough to allow exact positioning and they were first through. The Skipper has to record the time and email it to the Clipper Office and also take a photo of their GPS which can be checked at the next port if there’s a dispute.
The very first points of the race to Qingdao!! Three points in the lead!
The next excitement is the Ocean Sprint. This is (again) two imaginary lines in the ocean, for Race 1 roughly from Finisterre in Spain to Coimbra in Portugal (43N to 40N for those who are techies). This is the fastest boat of all eleven so we’re never absolutely sure who wins the three, two or one point until they’re all through. For this race it was Punta del Este in 15 hours, 2 minutes and 26 seconds, then Ha Long Bay in 15 hours, 51 minutes and 54 seconds followed by Zhuhai in 15 hours and 53 minutes. A long sprint! This is all very precise; the skipper takes a photo of their position and time at both ends and sends it to the Clipper office. George says they were four minutes slower than Zhuhai so next time…The first few boats were slower than the ones at the back as the winds changed and improved, so there’s luck as well as skill involved. As we saw at the end of the race.
For much of the last two days it was Qindao and Unicef at the front with GoToBermuda third and all the other boats a long way behind. Once around the corner towards the Algarve, the wind dropped and the rest of the fleet caught up with them. We waited and waited, their estimated arrival times going back and back from mid afternoon to early evening to late evening. We’d planned to walk to the end of the breakwater and wave them in but not in the dark! Six of us got together and had a meal then went back to one of the apartments and polished off the Cava bought to celebrate a safe arrival of one of the boats. At midnight we decided to call it a night, they could be another 24 hours for all we could tell. About half an hour later Punta del Este was the first boat in with Dare to Lead second and Qingdao third at about half three. Unicef was sixth just after 6 am and GoToBermuda ninth. Seattle came in mid morning and WTC Logistics the last boat at about 3 pm Monday afternoon. I missed Qingdao as I was asleep (as was George, I found out later,waking up for the actual arrival then going back to bed!) and we didn’t get an alert from the Live Facebook page. We were on the dock in time to see Unicef arrive. They had a celebratory beer then moved the boat to the marina mooring they’d been allocated. Each boat has a different regimen. Qingdao left their deep clean for the next day but Unicef did it immediately. Thus I was able to have lunch with George but John wasn’t free until after two o’clock, by which time he was falling asleep on his feet. He did shave the beard off though!
Enough verbiage, what are the results? In first we have Punta del Este with a total of 14 points (eleven from winning the race plus three for the Ocean Sprint), second Qingdao (ten points plus three for the Scoring Gate), joint third Dare to Lead and Zhuhai with ten points, fifth Sanya with nine, joint sixth Unicef and Ha Long Bay with six, eighth Imagine Your Korea with three, ninth GoToBermuda with three, tenth Seattle with two and last WTC Logistics with one. All can change though in the next race to Punta del Este in Uruguay!
This is totally out of sequence but who cares. Over the Bank Holiday weekend John and I went back down to Hamble School of Yachting to study for a four day MCA STCW Proficiency in Medical First Aid on Board Ship. (For description of acronyms go back to Post 40). This was in addition to the two day course John had done with Praxes, the official supplier of remote medical support to the fleet. See the video below for brief details of this, although you’ll not see John I’m afraid.
Back to our course. Someone asked me if there is any sort of first aid other than medical. It does seem tautological when you think about it but maybe we have engine first aid or sail first aid or some such. There were four of us, three Clipper crew and me. In contrast to the VHF course (see Post 35), John was in the minority with me, Michelle and Maite being the other attendees. Neither Michelle nor Maite are circumnavigators, they just thought it would be a useful course to do, like me I guess. We had a wonderful tutor, Sue Johnson, who has two boats of her own and pulls together the medical packs for other races such as ARC (the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) https://www.worldcruising.com/arc/event.aspx
I’m not going to give you gory details, I don’t want you fainting when I’m not there to administer first aid! Although it was mostly “normal” first aid, Sue managed to make sure we were aware of special issues that could be relevant to Clipper crew. We managed to have great fun whilst learning a lot and we all passed our exams at the end, both written and practical. I’ve pulled out some of the more interesting / amusing situations for this post.
Let’s start off with John, and one bad limb. We all had to show that we could bandage a limb and use two types of sling for the arm, depending where the fracture or other damage was. There was a shot of me looking equally glum (I was told to pull my “Daily Mail” face!) but it’s gone AWOL.
The first thing we learnt were the three Ps (not to be confused with the three Fs who keep popping up in this blog): Preserve life, Prevent the situation getting worse and Promote recovery. It is quite easy to make a minor injury or other problem worse, for example if you move someone with a simple fracture (not open to the air) you could end up with the bone sticking through the skin and a possible infection risk. We tried to handle each other carefully to avoid this.
Having started with one limb, we then went onto two. Michelle’s arm may look over-enthusiastically bandaged but it was in order to stop too much pressure on the limb, the bandage is actually wrapped around a blanket. I think it may have been a compound fracture (bone through to the outside) this time. Once you’ve sorted out the most immediate problem (which may not be the obvious one on view) you go onto finding out what happened and how, in case there’s an underlying issue you’ve missed.
After Michelle’s injury of course we had to go for three limbs. It was great that there were so few of us, we could all have a go rather than having to stand and watch. I think Maite said she fell down the companionway to sustain these injuries. We remembered we’d have to monitor her for a possible head injury. All the situations (heart attack, stroke, hypothermia, burns…) seemed to involve similar signs (what you can see) and symptoms (what the patient or bystander can tell you about it).
I, of course, had to go the whole hog and needed to be Medevac’d off the ship. The first thing the sadists, oops sorry, first aiders did was to tie my legs together at the ankles with a figure-of-eight to stop me rolling around (or walking off). Then they put my head in a cervical collar to stop the top part of me moving. As you can see, once they’d done that they strapped me securely to the spinal board and went off to lunch. Oh no they weren’t actually that cruel, just my imagination. They all lifted me to show they knew how to lift a heavyweight safely (note to self, must go on a diet).
All of the above can happen anywhere. More specific to the sailing was hypothermia and what to do. The Ikea-looking bag that Michelle is being zipped into is known as a TPA or thermal protection aid. It looked pretty flimsy but is very warm once you’re inside. If you’re really cold and need extra help, a buddy can join you: there was some discussion on whether you both needed to take your clothes off but we decided this was unnecessary unless they were soaked through. Maite decided to try being the buddy and after much manoeuvering we managed to achieve this. It could be difficult if the victim sorry patient was unconscious. It looks like Michelle is being strangled here but I assure you no-one was harmed.
There is another type of TPA that Michelle also modelled for us. No buddy warming here but you probably need to be a burly stevedore for it to fit snugly.
There was lots of other useful information which I hope never to have to use, but as I’ve run out of photos I’ll stop now. I notice I’ve given you three new acronyms, maybe if I get to Post 80 I’ll do another summary of the extra ones that have crept in. In case you’re wondering of the relevance of the header photo, it was my Grandmother’s. I’m not sure I can ever be that competent but you have to start somewhere!
Picking up from Post 43, I headed off to Southend to make sure the boats really did leave with MBB aboard on Monday morning. Forgetting that the nights were drawing in, I arrived in darkness and exited at the end of the platform. I asked the ticket collector where the pier was and was greeted by a blank stare. As I walked down the street, hoping to find some helpful landmark, I contrasted the Dickens Inn at SKD with the one I was walking past, not favourably I regret to say.
Maybe it was the lack of sunshine or maybe the lack of people around. I kept going and found myself in a deserted high street. Well, it was a Sunday night, I’m sure the place is packed on a Saturday.
I continued under the railway bridge and suddenly all was revealed: very clear signposts at every corner so I knew which way to go. As I marched down to the hotel I came across two other Clipper bods, Jo who will be on Unicef for Leg 7 (I think, I’m sure I’ll be corrected if not) and her partner Vicks. A welcome sight, they turned round and escorted me back to the hotel. At check-in the receptionist noted I’d not booked breakfast, for a mere £9.50 I could add it in. Without thinking I agreed and paid there and then. Vicks, Jo and I then headed off to the best restaurant in town or possibly the only one that was still open at 9.30 on a Sunday night: Nando’s. Can I confess that, in addition to this being my first time in Southend, I was also a Nando virgin? True. It was fascinating to learn that you ordered and paid before sitting down, a bit like an old fashioned fish and chip shop.
The next morning I woke up to see the sea and the fleet. As it is now officially winter the door to my sea view balcony was locked to prevent me going out and slipping on the ice. I opened it as far as possible, slid my hand out and took the best picture I could. Another confession, we did not go on the fairground rides after Nando’s, which I’m sure we should have done.
As it is difficult to tell who is who I have another shot for you, of Race Viewer from the Clipper website. You’ll probably be seeing a lot of this, either via me or because you too can become addicted. Here you can see Adventure World marked, in the foreground of the shot above, and the pier stretching out to sea. The eleven Clippers are there, we are interested in the red one (Qingdao) and the mid-blue one to the very left (Unicef). You can also see the race start marked and the line they would take in an ideal world (the rhumb line). OK, if you are a sailor and reading this I know I’ve simplified but if totally incorrect please post a comment so that everyone else can see what it really is.
Having greeted the day I strolled down to breakfast with eager anticipation. Let me give you a hint: if they make you pay upfront for a meal then don’t let your hopes get too high. (That’s a bit harsh as Nando’s was perfectly acceptable). Breakfast consisted of coffee from a machine that sang a little ditty as it dispensed the brown fluid, a choice of three sugary cereals, sliced white bread with a toaster, pain au chocolate and an empty croissant basket. NO Earl Grey. Jo and Vicks, having arrived a bit earlier the night before and therefore more alert at checking in, had decided against the indoor feast and gone down to the local Costa. Probably cheaper and definitely a wider choice. We could also have chosen from two Greggs or two McDonalds, all within a ten minute waddle of the hotel. Here we have Clipper supporters arriving for the race, not waddling I’m happy to say.
Southend Pier is the longest in the UK or maybe the world, depending upon the source you consult. It’s over a mile anyway, and there is a train that runs from the shore to the end. We understood that the train would not be running so early but we could walk along and arrive in time to see the fleet setting their sails. The first hint of trouble came in the form of various WhatsApp messages from supporters who’d caught the early train from London and were now queuing by the pier waiting for it to open at 8.45. We arrived about 8.50 and saw a few people going up the stairs to the walkway so followed them, only to be stopped by the ticket lady telling us there was a barrier there (to be honest, there was a bit of cord across half the stairway) and we weren’t allowed up. We’d have to catch the train at 9.00. After a mild altercation we did so, paying £5.35 for the privilege. I could have saved myself 50p by deciding to walk back but not knowing how long we’d be standing I decided to splash out. It looked a long way.
Finally we arrived at our destination. It was fantastic, the boats were incredibly close and milling around practicing with their sails and stuff. Here are our two boats, I think you may just be able to make out MBB if you squint.
They were close enough to wave to us and were also getting very close to each other, although I don’t think they were as close as they look in the next two shots. Maybe they were practicing ship-to-ship transfers.
In Post 43 I mentioned my special beanie that had been knitted for me by Sue. It’s reversible so you can be a supporter of either boat. Here I decided to wear it low so it appears that I’m supporting Columbia, although it should be red/blue/yellow rather than blue/yellow/red. It was nice and warm in the early morning breeze. I know George spotted it and I think John did too, I’ll have to check.
With the boats jockeying for position it was all a bit frantic. There was a ten minute gun that made us all jump, one at four minutes then the last at one minute. You want to be at the line not over it or you’ll incur penalty points. For this race there was a “leader” but we were unable to work out who it was as they were all so close. Prior to the race you can see here that it was a melee with them facing every which way.
But all became organised and here they are with their spinnakers flying heading towards the open sea.
Except for poor Seattle, who got their spinnaker in a muddle (technical term?)
We jumped up and down and whooped and generally made as much noise as we could, then calmed down and most of us walked back along the pier enjoying the sun. A surprising number of spectators had come along knowing nothing about Clipper, they just knew there was a load of yachts going off for a race, but one chap had raced in CV26 in a previous iteration and was planning a round the world cruise in a 62 footer next year. I found a Waterstones on my way back to the station so I was happy, I bought a Portuguese phrase book to remind me of some basics for next week and a couple of Science Fiction books as I’m getting a bit low, only 20 or so in my diminished library here in London. Now that I’ve finished knitting en masse I can get back to piano and reading (not at the same time silly). I enjoyed myself so much in Southend I even ended up buying a return train ticket! To put it another way, the sun was shining on the screen of the ticket machine and I didn’t realise I was buying a return until it was spat out. Still, if I do go again in the next year I’ll be able to travel back to London “for free”.
I’ll leave you with my final view of the fleet as I walked back along the pier, heading off towards a tanker and into the sun. NO, I can’t stop here, the race viewer is addictive and as I write (Thursday morning) both OBB are thinking of a podium finish. There are some days left before they reach port and plans can go wrong but they’re showing that they can do it! I’m out for the day with no internet access, how will I cope?