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.

3 thoughts on “75. The China Syndrome

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