76. Subic BayWatch

Let me rephrase my question from the earlier Post: if it were your husband / wife, would you go back to Subic Bay? Aha, you’re thinking differently now, aren’t you? As far as I can see, coronavirus (CV, like the fleet!) is now widespread across the globe. I was thinking of visiting a pal in Switzerland but they’ve got cases. The hospital across the river from me had all the London cases. Where is safe?

Well, when I look at the Race Viewer, it seems that Qingdao and Unicef both have a good chance of getting on the podium, so I’ve booked to go back in time for the prize giving on March 4th. Not that I wish to jinx them but if neither are on the podium blame me! Of course, the day before booking I’d gone out and bought a load of fresh food, so I’m now creating day bags for myself so that everything is eaten before I go.

Post 75 detailed some of the reasons not to go. I forgot to tell you about the wine. You all know how much I enjoy wine. Well, the choice in Subic Bay was red or white. If you were lucky, there was also premium red or white (although that never actually seemed to be in stock). There were some good times there though: Ha Long Bay (HLB) organised a pub quiz in aid of Unicef (the organisation not the boat, silly. Just because they were last didn’t mean they were a charity case!). Our team was very diverse: one supporter (me), one Qingdao crew (George), two Unicef crew (JD and Bruce) and two Clipper office staff (Sarah and Karla). If I tell you that the only round where we got full marks (thankfully) was “identify the member of the Clipper office from the photo” you’ll know we didn’t come near the top. (I really must have a lesson on how to take selfies, or get a wretched selfie-stick).

Dawson’s Clique team

We went into Olangapo, the main town attached to Subic Bay, to see a bit of SE Asia. They have buses (sort of) called Jeepneys which you’ll be familiar with if you’ve been on holiday there. I hadn’t so found them fun (to look at, I wasn’t going to risk using one). There’s one below somewhere. There were some lovely old buildings but in general the whole place was pretty rundown. In this picture you can see the electricity cables, all tangled up in one big mess.

An American we met in Airlie Beach told us not to go to Subic Bay, saying he’d worked there and it was like the Wild West. We didn’t really believe him, but then I saw this shack. Hmmm, maybe he had a point.

In my last Blog Post I mentioned Manuela, donated to HLB for their Nav Station. Before they set sail Josh very sheepishly confessed she’d not lasted the course: see his skipper blog of 26 February for more details. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/ha-long-bay-viet-nam/race7-day3-team43

Here’s a race update before I forget what this is all about. No-one played their Joker. I forgot to say there is no stealth, so keep watching Race Viewer to see how they are doing. Although it’s not much cop this race, partly because it’s a loop and partly because all the hills and islands interfere with the signal that’s beamed back to the office. Ignore the DTF (distance to finish) and look at the pretty picture at the top of the screen with the colourful counters. Regardless of the table below the picture, it does look as though our two (red Qingdao and mid-blue Unicef) are in the lead. I think the system is not able to distinguish whether they are heading out or back. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings

As this race is a loop, it does not count towards the circumnavigation so some RTWers have taken the opportunity to have medical issues checked out or to go and visit family where they’ve not seen them since the start of the race. To compete with my Unidao / Qingcef tee shirts, this race we have “Unizhu del Puhai Logistics“: Zhuhai has two crew borrowed from Punta, one from Unicef and one from WTC. GoToBermuda has two from Imagine Your Korea but have not (yet?) rebranded themselves “Imagine You’re Going to Bermuda” or “Go Imagine”. In the Ocean Sprint, Qingdao and WTC Logistics opted for the South sprint (heading south back to Subic Bay) but the other nine are all going for the North sprint (heading away from Subic Bay). Thus both WTC and Qingdao are guaranteed bonus points in this race. The rest will have to battle it out as usual. In contrast to the lean mean machines that are the Clipper yachts, the Philippines has bikes with side attachments that are used to transport the whole family or goods for the market. Here’s one.

All of this is on the bike!

74. Race 6 Results

I arrived on St Valentine’s Day in the late afternoon. Six boats had beaten me here: in order, WTC Logistics, Qingdao, Ha Long Bay Viet Nam (HLB), Sanya, Imagine Your Korea (IYK) and Punta del Este (PdE). So once again I was unable to wave George in. Once again, after Christmas, New Year and my birthday, JD missed a special day! The race was an odd one with lots of wind holes and great difficulty predicting timings.

The hotel I had booked into was on the coast. It was adequate, the room was small with a tiny balcony that overlooked the sea if you could see through the bamboos growing outside. The aircon was so noisy you could not sleep, but if you turned it off it was too hot to sleep (and the disco next door was suddenly very noisy). However, a night there revealed ants in the room by the bedhead. Well, some very small insects which I think were ants but I’d left my pocket microscope behind. Then I went down to breakfast. We were given a scrap of paper with various options to tick. As the waitress spoke English I guess it was to make life easy for the chef. Being unadventurous I chose ham, scrambled eggs, toast and hot chocolate. The toast was that sweet bread that clings to your teeth, the ham was like no ham I have ever seen and the hot chocolate was more water than anything else.

Unicef arriving

Unicef were due in (last estimate) between midnight and three am Sunday so I repaired to the Yacht Club about ten on Saturday night for a late supper and a wait. If you’re reading this on the website you’ll see my manic face at about three in the morning. They sailed into view about 2.30 am, unfortunately eleventh as GoToBermuda (GTB) had overtaken them in the last few hours. We went for the obligatory beer and managed to find a burger at about 3.30 am then took a taxi back to the hotel and crashed at about 6 am for three hours’ sleep before JD had to be back on the boat at 9 am. There was a team briefing for everyone, including we happy few, we band of 15 supporters, telling us the plan for after they leave here. I’ll give that in the next blog post. By lunchtime, when I next had the chance to talk with JD, he’d decided that he could not stay in that hotel and had found a room at the Yacht Club. A huge suite with decent aircon, two double beds and a sofa, a table to work at and a little balcony. No WiFi in the first room so they moved us next door where the router was and the WiFI works. No view of the sea but a small objection against the two minute walk to the boat. George also moved out of the original hotel to an apartment where other crew were staying.

Yacht Club room with JD in the far distance!

BUT the title of this post is Race 6 results so that’s what I’ll tell you about. The prize giving was on Monday 17th at the yacht club outside in the sun. There was a great reggae band which consisted of local high school kids. The results of the Ocean Sprint were announced: Dare To Lead (DTL) fastest with three points, PdE second with two points and Qingdao third with one point. In terms of the race, WTC have eleven points for coming first, Qingdao ten, HLB nine, Sanya eight, IYK seven, PdE six, DTL five, Seattle four, Zhuhai three, GTB two and our own Unicef one. Add in the Scoring Gate (HLB first, WTC second and DTL third) and we get overall positions of Qingdao first with 78 points (eleven this race), HLB second with 74 points (12 this race), PdE third 49 (eight), Sanya fourth 46 (also eight), IYK up to fifth with 41 (seven), joint sixth with 38 points are WTC (thirteen this race), DTL (nine) and Unicef (one), ninth GTB with 29 (two), tenth Zhuhai (three) and eleventh Seattle 26 (three). Still very close and all to play for in the remaining races.

Reggae band

Tomorrow (possibly) I’ll let you into the new plans made by Clipper and how it affects me and MBB. I’m still unsure what I will be doing but I guess if I give you my options we could put it to the popular vote (no London McLondonfaces or China McChinafaces though please!).

Prize giving

75. The China Syndrome

We’re not getting away from here any time soon. The rest of Leg 5 should be a race from here to Zhuhai. We’re already one race down, as the fleet should have gone to Sanya and then to Subic Bay. As a consolation (?), the next race will have two Scoring Gates and two Ocean Sprints. It goes from Subic Bay to … Subic Bay! The length of this new race is roughly the same as previous races 7 and 8 at 1600 nautical miles. As it’s not a “proper” race in the scheme of things, a number of crew are taking the time to go off and do other things, and a call went out for crew to volunteer to switch boats for this race to make sure each boat is fully crewed.

Each boat has to opt to compete in only one of the Sprints and realistically only one Scoring Gate can be reached so it is only one race with probably six boats getting points for the extra challenges. They will leave Subic Bay on Sunday 23rd February and should be back by 4 March for the next prize giving and start of Leg 6. The race start date for Leg 6 has to be confirmed: not before 10 March “probable”. My big dilemma is, do I fly back for that prize giving and race start or wait until the next destination? It would be the first one I’ve missed. Answers on a postcard please (or to the comments page here so you can all see how you’re voting).

Waiting for the first lunch

I have to confess that staying here until 4 March on my own did not appeal. You can see from the header photo (on web page) that they are big on Valentine’s Day so it might be interesting to see the place once all the celebrations have ended. It’s about 13C and wet in the UK, versus 33C and sun here. However, I’m not enamoured with the food. The main choice seems to between American fast food and local Asian food. Lots of burgers, pizzas, noodles and rice. We went to a place called Magic Lagoon the other night and asked them to give us local specialities. (Confession, we left our specs behind and could not read the menu!). It was a lovely setting looking across the lagoon but the dishes set before us were pork bowels (yes, that e should be there: intestines) and very bony kid goat. The other interesting aspect is that dishes, including drinks, come at random intervals bearing no relationship to the order in which we normally expect to eat them. Timing is also elastic. You eat when your dish appears as the others could be another half hour. We had our pre-prandial cocktails in the middle of one meal and the prawn tempura starter (with unexpected chips and onions rings) at the end.

Magic Lagoon

The next stop has not yet been decided, thanks to the coronavirus. The crews have been totally unaware of the developing situation whilst sailing other than being told they couldn’t go to Sanya. The options we were told about were (1) still making it into Qingdao. In my humble opinion this is not going to happen. Coronavirus is still actively with us and until mainland China returns to “business as normal” we don’t know what will happen. (2) Korea (South of course!). This makes sense as one of the boats has a Korean sponsor. BUT they were not due to come on line until the next Race, in 2022, so how prepared are they? I know the Chinese built two massive hospitals in ten days but that was very different. Also, the coronavirus seems to be getting a hold there, it’s Saturday morning as I post this, overnight the cases have doubled with one town (Daegu) in lockdown. Although nowhere near the coast, it is troubling. (3) Japan. An attractive option. Clipper have been to Japan previously, to Okinawa. That was with the 68-footer fleet though, fewer boats and a shallower draught. Okinawa apparently cannot accommodate the current fleet. Yokohama was mentioned as a possibility but they have the (small?) issue of cruise boats hanging around in quarantine. Yokohama was a stop in the very first Clipper Race of 1996, involving eight 60 foot boats.

The only certainty in all of this is that (at the moment), the dates for Seattle will not change. My bet, for what it’s worth, is that they will set off not knowing and sometime in the first fortnight will be told they are sailing direct to Seattle. There’s a full crew brief going on upstairs from where I’m typing so I may have updated news before I send this out. Sorry, they have all just come out and no news on next destination. The increasing cases in Korea were mentioned but also the fact that the cases in China are decreasing.

Sail repairer Holly and her assistants JD and Steve

In addition to not enjoying the food here, I’ve not been victualling this time. I have got a new job in the sail repair department: making wool ties! Normally each crew member just has a ball of wool and breaks off an individual length as needed. These are used to keep the sail tidy when not in use, and as they are wool they just break (and fall into the sea? Oops) when the sail is hoisted. If my system works I may sell it to other boats! You can see my creative method for mass production then them in use around the necks of the sail repairers.

Spot the wool ties around their necks

If you read Skipper Reports at random and not just our two, you will have noticed that on board Ha Long Bay they had a flamingo pen named Manny for recording data at the Nav Station. I read that Manny was dying (ran out of ink) so I found a flamingo pencil and presented it to Josh Stickland, the skipper of HLB. We decided it looked female so have named her Manuela. I look forward to seeing her being used on the boat.

Josh and Manuela

There was, as usual, little rest for the crew of Unicef. In addition to the sail repairs and victualling, the two rudders were swapped around. There had been some issue about their balance and it is hoped that this will help to address it. We shall see what result they get in the next race. Then this morning it was all hands on deck at 0700 to bring the main sail on board and rehang her (technical term??) on the boom. After the crew briefing, each team has a briefing on board (the Skippers and AQPs having had their briefing prior to the crew briefing). They may get last minute jobs to carry out on the boat before sailing tomorrow. All go!

The starboard rudder out of the water

So, having finished this, whilst waiting to see if MBB will be free this afternoon or have tasks to be completed on their boats, do I continue to sit in the air conditioned crew quarters and read my book, or go down to the pool and read my book? I don’t need answers to that one, I’m off to get my bikini and top up my Vitamin D.

73. Make A New Plan Sam

My flight to Sanya would have been on February 9th, maybe I would not have made it out of the country anyway as Storm Ciara was affecting transport across the UK. I booked my flight to Subic Bay for 13th February and have a flight coming back to the UK close to the end of February, but as yet (Wednesday 12th) we do not know where next nor when. If they go straight from Subic Bay to Seattle I’m all sorted, back to the UK in the interim. However, the latest update from Clipper says that crew changeover will be “either Zhuhai or a port outside China” on March 6th, a few days later than originally planned. I’m OK, I can afford to be flexible, but what about the poor souls planning to join their boats for the beginning of Leg 6? Where do they fly to? The coronavirus is changing plans for everyone.

The ETAs are up on the Clipper website, the first one on 8th February, it’s possible I’ll miss not only Qingdao and George (Thursday morning) but also Unicef and John arriving (Friday morning). Wouldn’t that be a turn up for the books? On the positive side, they’ll both have time for a shower before I see them. No news yet on the next stop so keep reading, I hope we’ll know before this is posted live.

The welcome beers they get on arrival

ETAs keep getting updated, it’s now Wednesday 12th and after all the excitement of the first boats possibly coming in today, the wind holes have appeared and currently the first ones (Visit Sanya China and WTC Logistics, sneaking along a different line and leaving Ha Long Bay and Qingdao standing) are due in on Friday morning. In all, six of the fleet are possibly arriving Friday morning, including Qingdao. Unicef, at current estimates, are due in on Saturday morning, so I should see them arrive. However, all is up for grabs so keep checking whilst I’m in the air and unable to update you. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/subic-bay-etas

I’ve had a few more get-togethers with pals whilst I’ve been in London and had two dogs to cuddle on different occasions. I received yet another email from JD. He’s so pleased to hear that I’ll be going to Subic Bay, could I just pop out and buy him…What did his last slave die of I ask! Despite this constant need (has he not heard of travelling lightly?) I have managed to get everything into one big case and one smaller one this time. I just hope that, wherever I travel to next, I won’t be needing warm clothes as they have all been left behind. I’ve emptied the fridge, paid all the bills, washed all the laundry and dishes so I’m ready to roll!

P.S. The change in plans referred to? Well all the above was written a few days ago so it’s already out of date and meaningless if you try to look at the fleet’s progress. They are all in port now. You’ll have to wait for blog post 74 for more details.

Glastonbury Tor? Or on the way to Subic Bay?

72. Just Another Manic Monday

Post 71 attracted more readers than ever before. Sorry folks if you thought I had the answer to what’s happening with the fleet. It’s like I’m in a holding pattern, waiting to see where I get diverted to and have I enough fuel or time to get there? I’ve decided to get on with my life until we have firm news from Clipper on where the fleet are going to land up, then I’ll decide whether I’m going there as well (whether it’s possible as much as whether I want to).

What have I being doing, you ask? Apart from emails from the boss asking me to buy yet more socks, I’ve been enjoying London culture. I’m starting to have a routine: piano practice (yes honestly, but I had to start at my Grade 1 book again as I’d forgotten where Middle C was. Oops!) then a 15 minute or so walk in the fresh air. The Garden Museum is about that far and I love it. The latest exhibition is about the Royal Parks. I hadn’t realised that the pelicans have been in St James’ Park since 1664, a present from the Russian ambassador. Nor that there were piggeries in Hyde Park and potato fields in Richmond and Bushy Parks during World War II. It may yet happen again now that we need to be self-reliant and not rely on imported food.

Parade of Sail, Sydney Harbour, New Year’s Eve

After my walk it’s a free day. So far I’ve been to see Touching the Void play and Mitsuko Uchida play (and conduct) Mozart at the Royal Festival Hall. These were both amazing. I’ve had six days where I’ve met up with pals, some pre-existing and some from Clipper. I’ve had a hair cut and done a bit of shopping for JD (oh, have I already mentioned that?). I have had a complete blank in my diary for three days of the first fortnight back. Bliss! The laundry and shopping don’t do themselves (although I’m working on it. Anyone want to be my valet?).

If you’ve read the book or seen the film of Touching the Void you must wonder how on earth they managed to put it on stage. It was visually fascinating, set in a pub with imaginative use of tables and chairs up the theatre sides as climbing walls. On one part, where they were falling into the crevasse, they were lying on tables facing the audience but it looked as though they were falling down into the darkness. It’s soon to finish but if you have time to spare then it’s well worth the trip to London. Very intense though so be prepared.

View from my seat (before the performance)

The other performance, at the Royal Festival Hall, you can’t see, although you might be able to see a similar performance. Mitsuko Uchida, DBE, who will be 71 this year, is a highly talented classical pianist and is currently the Artistic Partner of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Here they played Mozart’s Piano Concertos 17 and 22: she conducted the orchestra from her piano as well as playing. The music was sublime, I bought my seat at the last minute and I’m sure it was one of the best in the hall. It made me realise that my piano playing is like painting-by-numbers versus Manet or Turner. If you think she merely played the score as written, then I found out that Mozart played a lot of his own music and often didn’t leave a proper score to follow. The concert was about two hours but I could have listened all night. It’s not music you hum along to like Abba or Queen (well, I don’t) but you get lost in it when they’re playing. One thing I’ve yet to work out: the drummer (sorry, percussionist) kept resting his nose gently on the drums. Testing for vibrations? Answers on a postcard please (or via the comment section of this blog).

View from my seat (after the performance)

Talking of the comment section, thank you to all who commented either this way or off line to say how relieved you were that I’m not going to China. The trip was preying on my mind so I’m glad the decision was made for me by the FCO.

I guess at some stage I need to mention the Race. They are now through the Doldrums Corridor and have passed over the Equator again so are back in the Northern Hemisphere. Those new leggers who had not crossed the Equator (pollywogs) had a visit from King Neptune and all are now shellbacks. I still don’t know how tadpoles become turtles, must be something to do with evolution. However, the Trade Winds have not yet appeared (Sunday night) so if you look at Race Viewer they seem to be milling around with no obvious line of sail. (If you’ve forgotten where to find this, go to https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings and click on the windsock to see wind speeds (or lack thereof)). Blue is bad and has been there for days. A few boats have been in or are in Stealth mode. The boredom on the boats has been relieved by them playing Assassin, not a game I’d come across but a bit like Cluedo. Each crew member has a weapon, a place and a fellow member to murder. If successful, you get the victim’s “cards” and so have another murder to commit. I guess you need to be in an enclosed space to play it well.

Which way should we go?

The Scoring Gate has been passed and the results are: Ha Long Bay (HLB) three points, WTC Logistics two points and Dare to Lead (DTL) one point. This is great for DTL as it’s their first bonus point. It’s not so great for Qingdao as HLB is now only two points behind them. It’s getting exciting!

…It’s now the Manic Monday of today’s title. I started off with trying to sort out finances. Having gone to the bank on Friday without some of the documents I needed, I went back today with everything, I thought. All went well until he asked “security” questions like what direct debits had been cancelled in the last year and when did I open the business account (I didn’t even know I had one). After an hour all seemed to be sorted but I now need to investigate this business account, apparently it has money in it!

Are we there yet?

That wasn’t the real manic bit though. At 1300 today, the Clipper office announced that the fleet would not be going into Sanya (think we’d worked that one out) but they WILL be going into Subic Bay early and staying there for “a minimum of nine days”, with the arrival window estimated to start on 13th February. NEXT WEEK! Much liaison between supporters as it’s recommended you don’t stay alone out there. Yes, dear reader, I’m about to be your foreign correspondent again, not from China though. I managed to get the last room in a hotel close to Subic Bay marina. Also, the fleet now have a bit of orange and red to the winds so should speed up. Just not too fast please, I need to be there first. You’ll also see that the race end has been updated to Subic Bay.

If you’ve read enough from me, here’s a crew diary from Angie that mentions JD’s culinary skills. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/1046 and one from the man himself https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/1048

Philippines, here I come!