Back to my trip. I set off from London on Wednesday 9th October for a ten pm flight to Sao Paulo. I had to change here for a flight to Punta del Este: it was meant to be a five hour layover but the flight was delayed so I arrived in Punta at half four on Thursday 10th, with an hour’s taxi drive to the hotel close to the port. Thankfully not cancelled like Portimao! I didn’t know it at the time but there were at least another four Clipper people on the same flight. As I walked to the gate, I noticed this, with two of the five destinations being places I’ll be visiting. A long way round though, via Brazil!
Punta del Este airport is tiny, even thought International it’s not got any amenities at all. A shed is the customs and passport area. I had a walk around Punta in the evening and ended up having an early meal with a crew member from GoToBermuda at a self-service fast fish restaurant. Although he is a circumnavigator, he had to get off at Portimao and fly home for his daughter’s wedding in the USA. He’s not the only one, another circumnavigator had to do the same for his daughter’s wedding in Australia. These children are so thoughtless, interfering with their dads’ plans! Punta is a typical seaside town out of season, the view out of my hotel window seems to be a burnt out cinema. The summer starts in December and finishes in February so very short. Most of the tourists are from Brazil or Argentina, they have weekend apartments which are shut up most of the time. The Uruguayans are very friendly, nothing is too much trouble and the crime rate is one of the lowest in the world. A new chap joining Unicef left his phone and cards on the bus: it turned up safely (but not, unfortunately, until he’d cancelled all his credit cards).
On Friday there was the excitement of waiting for the first two boats. There was a thunderstorm in the morning which blew over so I didn’t need my raincoat. I called into the Race Office to confirm that I was on the list for prize giving and other events, of which more later. Those of us who had arrived in time walked along the coastal path to see if we could spot the first yacht: as you’ll have read in Post 52 it was Qingdao. We waited to see them in, so we supporters had our lunch at about 3 pm. (They’d eaten before they came in, whilst preparing the boat and themselves for port). That evening we went to Moby Dick’s, a pub that seems to be the unofficial headquarters for Clipper. I also managed to book George into our hotel as he’d only booked an airbnb place from the 16th.
On Saturday there was an even bigger and noisier thunderstorm with fork lightening which lasted all day. George and I went out only as far as the next corner, where the Cuatro Mare restaurant was. Great food, a buffet with lots of salad which was just what George wanted after a month of tinned and dried food on board. As one of the first supporters into Punta I had been tasked with finding somewhere for us supporters to eat on Saturday night. Even though no boats were scheduled to arrive, I found us Le Marea, on the seafront just in case any sped up and arrived before they were expected. After that we had a post dinner drink at Moby Dicks.
Sunday was taken up with watching boats arrive and the celebratory beers in the Yacht Club. We waited at the Punta del Este Yacht Club and had lunch there. Each boat in the fleet has local “ambassadors”. We at Unicef are incredibly lucky with the Canepa family: Gabby, Norberto and their children Tito and Flopi! They are really looking after everyone and helping out with supplies, hospital visits etc. The hospital was for Angie, a RTW’er who managed to slip and break her wrist in the shower the first morning. She obviously hadn’t regained her land legs. Flopi is a photographer and a lot of the shots you’ll see on the official website were taken by her.
John has a real beard, as you should have noticed in the last picture in Post 52. If not, here’s a close up. Whilst everyone agrees he looks like a real sailor now, they don’t have to kiss him! It’s very rough, like having a bristle brush thrust in your face. He’s allowed to keep it till next August then we’ll have another discussion. If he buys himself Crocs as well then I’m definitely not having him back!
Every day John had some task either on the boat (deep cleaning, sorting sails, showing local school children around) or near by (manning the spinnaker for signing at the Dome, sorting out the medical records and supplies for the boat). We managed to meet most days for lunch, sometimes with George, and had dinner together every evening. Tuesday night there was a tango demonstration which we felt was too short. Wednesday was the prize giving which of course was very exciting for Qingdao. Before that, in fact the first award of the night, was to Holly Williams on Unicef. She’s a paediatric surgeon from the USA who had raised the most money of all crew across the fleet. A great start! It was in the Yacht Club so not easy to get a good view. Here are the winning team with their pennant and Commodore’s Cup (which has to stay behind, I’m sure they’d not want that weight on board).
On Friday everyone had the afternoon off to go to an Asado hosted by the city. This is basically a meat feast. WHOLE cows, sheep etc are cooked on massive grills. I have some photos but thought you might be put off your chickpea stew. It was in a sculpture park around a lake and the weather, for once, was warm so no need for raincoats.
Cast your minds back to Post 51. I mentioned that John had won the sweepstake for guessing the time they crossed the Equator. I think he won a Chupa Chup (he said “a lollipop”). That post was also where I said I’d bought something for Skipper Mike on Imagine Your Korea. I found him at the Asado and handed it over:
If you’ve read his early blogs you’ll have seen he was desperate to see penguins. Now he’s got one to look at whenever he wants! Although I understand that some of the fleet saw Magellan penguins close to Uruguay.
On Saturday there was a beach clean which John and George took part in. I decided I didn’t have the energy to walk along the sand slowly digging things out so I went to help Holly in her new day job, as sail repairer.
I know it looks as though we’re all in bed, but we were doing a very important job. You can’t see the sewing machine behind the sail but we had to wrap the surplus material very tightly so it could pass behind the needle then feed it through whilst Holly sewed it up. You can just see Thom sitting behind us, he made sure the tension was kept steady. As the sewing machine only goes one way we had to thread it backwards and forwards. Prior to sewing, strips of material are cut and stuck to the tear. There are four to six lines of sewing per tear, so it’s a lot of work for each one. Then the sail is the size of a tennis court so it’s not easy to lay out and find all the damage. There were crew there every day for four days, on Saturday there were four of us supporters helping out to make sure it was finished. If you cannot mend it then it’s sent to professional sail repairers elsewhere. For ALL damage to the boat, any costs incurred are added up and if it exceeds £500 (across the whole race, not per leg) then penalty points are “awarded”. If you go into Race Viewer on a computer, under “overall race” you’ll see the penalty points in the final column before the total points. There aren’t any yet but keep an eye on it. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings.
That evening we had a birthday party for Alex, one of the Unicef crew. He and a few others had rented a “crew house” which was along the coast. We could not believe we weren’t back in the UK when we saw it. Maybe the colour of the sky is a giveaway.
This is in sharp contrast to George’s airbnb, which was a converted retail unit. The first hint of trouble was the railing he had to climb over to enter the block. There was then what looked like the ramp of a multi-storey car park to negotiate before he got to the unit, all glass so nice and airy. There was hot water, a bed, a shower with the toilet integral (I guess it was probably there first and the shower added when it became somewhere to sleep). However, there was no insulation and no heating so after one night he moved out to a place where other crewmates were, which was heated.
I’ve got lots more to write but other things to do so no more for now.