66. It Will Be Lonely This Christmas

You wait weeks for a blog post then three come along close together, just like London buses. (Third one close behind if this one is full). Not only that, I got the title of the last one wrong, now corrected. I’m confusing my legs and my races. With luck a lot of you were fast asleep when I posted it and didn’t notice. Blame the never-ending jetlag I’ve probably developed this year.

Christmas wasn’t at all lonely, just different. Before then, though, we had a second prize giving with Punta, Sanya and Unicef. The night Unicef arrived we had our additional own private prize giving for them. The Elves had created certificates, pennants and medals (the last out of chocolate coins that were eaten very soon after being put around necks). We had a short speech for them, which I reproduce here.

“For anyone who has not heard, Unicef had to divert to Durban for a crew member who developed appendicitis. He had an emergency operation a few hours after being taken off CV31 and there is no doubt that the swift action of the crew saved Andy’s life. In addition, Thomas was taken off after suffering a fall on board and it transpired that he had a broken jaw as well as losing five teeth. These two crew members were on this leg only. We, the Unicef crew supporters, feel the need to acknowledge you, the crew’s, actions. You have been at sea for almost five weeks, sailing for two weeks longer than any other boat. I’d like to call you up by name to receive small tokens of recognition of the sacrifice you’ve made in this race. First, the man who has to take the responsibility for these actions, never knowing until afterwards whether he made the right call: Skipper Ian. Second, AQP Mike for being Ian’s right hand man and support during the race. Next, the medical team of Holly, Antonie and JD. The two watch leaders Dan and Alex. Two leggers: Tim and Rob. One person from the start who’s leaving us now: John Dillon. Four circumnavigators: Andrew, Danny, Sandra and Geoff. The youngest member of the team, Seb. The Norwegian representative, Anne Elisabeth, known as Aser. The on-and-off again crew member, Sophie. The three nicknamed crew, Kiwi Keith, Commo Keith and Mikey. And finally, the two crew members who are not here, Andy and Thomas, we hope you both have a full recovery and look forward to following you on Race Viewer in the next Race!”

We had a brief weekend before John and I parted, as I was flying to Sydney early Monday morning. Most of the weekend was taken with boat stuff once again. The morning after they arrived, all crew had to be on the boat for 0815 to see customs about any prohibited foodstuffs etc. We found out that one circumnavigator was leaving, as he was not feeling well, and another was not allowed back as she had hurt her hand in the first week from Cape Town and hadn’t realised how bad it was. The bones had started to heal but there were fragments that needed attention. I’m not sure of the outcome. After the customs, the general crew briefing had to be attended, even though they were sailing 48 hours after the others. There was a Clipper presentation of a match cup to Punta and mention of both Sanya and Unicef at midday. In the evening we had a Unicef dinner at Bathers Beach House. It was the only time that George and John really had to catch up, along with the “sausage sizzle” and drinks when Unicef arrived.

Clean-shaven at last!

On Sunday the first tranche of the fleet set sail. John had to be on the boat so I and my pal Liz went to the Maritime Museum area to see Qingdao sail past with the other seven setting off. We then drove around to North Mole to the start line (where we’d greeted Unicef on Friday night). It was nice and wide to avoid any more collisions. John and I managed to see each other for the afternoon and evening, and watched the first prize giving and other Clipper videos on Facebook Live.

Then goodbye again. Early on Monday 23rd I flew to Sydney. As the time difference is three hours I left Perth at 10.35 and arrived in Sydney at 17.45 after a four hour flight. Our friend and sort of relative (I don’t know, in-law in-law cousins?) Debbie picked me up and we went back to Mosman where she lives, a suburb of Sydney. We had intended to have Christmas in the Blue Mountains but due to the bushfires that was cancelled. However, Debbie had planned and bought all the food etc so we were ready to party! Debbie’s two daughters joined us for Christmas so it was an all girls’ party, unlike my normal life which seems to feature more men than women (starting with John and George of course). I’ve never had barbecued turkey but it worked very well. The actual cut was a bit of a puzzle: it should have been boned and rolled but there was a bone in it (one legged turkey?). The size was also not quite right: Debbie had asked for a joint big enough for four with some leftovers. This would have fed a whole Clipper crew and leftovers!

Despite only having two days in Fremantle John managed to buy me a lovely necklace for Christmas, which I am sure will appear in this blog sometime soon. George gave me a couple of bottles of wine from his trip to Margaret River which were much appreciated with Christmas dinner (outside in the sun, there’s different). We played a card game I’d never heard of, 5 Crowns, and I managed to lose twice. After that we went onto jigsaws. Debbie had bought two 1,000 piece jigsaws and we finished both during the holiday. We got the giggles one night when Debbie produced her special Orrefors glasses for the dessert wine and I misheard her, thinking she’d said orifice. A special Australian custom maybe?

On the evening of Christmas Day we had a stroll up a local street where all the houses seemed to have gone overboard with festive lights. As well as the pedestrians admiring them, there was a non-stop stream of cars cruising up and down.

Boxing Day (December 26th for those of you who don’t celebrate it) is traditionally the start of the Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht race of 628 nautical miles. Hobart is the capital of Tasmania and the race takes a few days (exact number depending upon size of yacht and of course the wind). This was the 75th race and the first time for a few years that the Clipper fleet was not taking part. Debbie and I, with a couple of her pals, went to Georges Heights with a picnic to watch the start. As well as the actual 157 yachts taking part, from 30 foot up to 100 foot “super-maxi” yachts, it seems that anyone in Sydney with a boat takes to the water to see them off. For more information see this link: it makes Clipper rules seem very simple. https://www.rolexsydneyhobart.com/about-the-race/yachts/

Sydney-Hobart race start

Eventually I had to move on from this wonderful relaxing atmosphere and Debbie drove me to the Sheraton Grand in Sydney CBD. With my background, this acronym means cannabis oil, but well before that became fashionable it meant Central Business District. A great spot, not as boring as it sounds, with my hotel room overlooking Hyde Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens. It really is confusing here, so many places names relating back to the UK.

Sydney’s hazy sun

Val (George’s other Godmother) joined me on Sunday 29th for Sydney and Airlie Beach. We met two Unicef crew members, Sophie and the other John D, for dinner one night at The Butler, a great restaurant that should only be 15 minutes walk from the hotel if you can read your phone properly, and was actually nearer 30 minutes as I think I must have had it upside down. We got there eventually and grabbed a cab back to the hotel.

Me, Sophie and John Dillon

The highlight of my world trip so far came on New Year’s Eve at Sydney Opera House. First was a slap-up Gala Dinner with free-flowing wine, then the first two acts of La Boheme before the “family” fireworks off the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Darling Harbour. Back to the opera then a post-production party with copious champagne and canapes and a live band. Before the world-famous New Year Fireworks we were treated to a “parade of sail” where the boats had lights on them which changed colour as they progressed around the harbour. As if that were not spectacular enough, the firework display was amazing. It lasted about ten minutes and lit up the water as well as the sky. After it was all over we walked back to our hotel (the nearest taxi rank operating being beyond the hotel and the nearest open train station opposite the hotel).

Happy New 2020 everyone!

Sydney fireworks (looking away from the bridge!)

62. I Think Its Gonna Be A Long Long Time

Not long after I published Post 61, John called me from Durban, where they’d diverted when Andrew developed suspected appendicitis. As well as Andrew, crew member Thomas left Unicef as he’d fallen earlier in the Leg and damaged some teeth. CV31 stayed in port long enough for the two of them to be medevac’d by the NSRI (equivalent to the UK’s RNLI), the crew to have showers and for the boat to be refuelled and re-victualled. They were back on the water within about three hours. They should get back to where they “stopped” and then their race time starts again, but I think in view of the time lost they are just racing to get to Fremantle. Depending upon the winds, I guess that will take another two to three days and that they’ll be about a week late. I’ve not changed my flights as George will be there and I have pals in Perth. We’ll all be getting as much victualling etc ready as we can for the three late boats, Unicef, Punta del Este and Visit Sanya. These latter two set off on Thursday 28th with a race start for them on Friday 29th. Here’s the path to Fremantle with all in sight (just).

Sanya and Punta far left, Unicef under “art”, Qingdao just in front

There’s possibly a bit more excitement on Friday, as Zhuhai discovered that their planned route takes them through an area where the US Navy will be doing some rocket missile practice, whatever that means. I’ve not had the chance to read today’s Skipper reports to see if Zhuhai still exists. Let’s hope they don’t use our yachts as target practice!

On a more personal note, I had another family phone call, one of John’s grand-daughters auditioned for a film and got through. I’ll tell you more about it when shooting starts. So it’s not just OBB who are stars! Talking of stars, you should remember that I took out a sleeping bag for one of the Unicef crew. She sent me a bouquet of flowers as thanks:

Thanks from Sophie

Enough about everyone else. Since I returned to London, in addition to being glued to the Clipper website with all the shenanigans going on, I’ve had a busy time. The first thing I did was reduce my resemblance to Boris Johnson’s unruly mop of hair. Then John’s brother and wife came over for the weekend so we celebrated whatever needs celebrating.

Me, Claire and Alan

On Friday night we went to About Thyme, a local restaurant which would have been even more local if we’d not walked past it first time! A couple more pals came over on Saturday and we had a late afternoon tea starting at seven, as you do. Then Monday night I went out for supper with yet more friends and had my first experience of using Uber. The day it was announced their licence has not been renewed in London. Better late than never?

Wednesday evening Rene and I went to the National Osteoporosis Society Gala Dinner with a fashion show by Julian Macdonald. Here we are enjoying the evening.

Rene and me

It was held at Banqueting House in Whitehall, so I experienced another travel first when we caught the bus there. Easy! Not so easy the next morning when we caught the bus back to Rene’s place and caught the right bus but going in the wrong direction. One stop on we got off and walked back to where we’d started.

A bit of history here, Banqueting House was where Charles I was beheaded in 1649. While he was still on the throne he commissioned Rubens to paint the ceiling which is magnificent. This is not the best picture of it you’ll ever see but you’ll get the picture (sorry!).

Rubens’ ceiling, Banqueting House

I thought that there had been a Christmas tree installed outside Tate Britain as there were a lot of bright lights. I walked down to have a gander and was rather thrown by the fact that it is an art installation of what initially looks like toilet paper. On closer inspection it is cut-out material. I have to confess I think it looks better from a distance.

Tate Britain

On Friday I went to the Royal Academy in Piccadilly with Val to see “Eco-visionaries”, to “Discover how architects, artists and designers are responding today to some of the most urgent ecological issues of our times”. It was interesting but I’m not sure I discovered much. I missed the message of what to do to help avoid future problems and took home the message that jellyfish are going to take over the world. Maybe I should go again and concentrate harder. After that Val and I went to Fortnum and Masons to have a snack. I can recommend it, you get a tiny ice-cream with your coffee!

Val and coffee

As we were sitting there we heard a commotion outside and saw a dozen or more police vehicles and ambulances trying to get down Piccadilly. It was only later that we found out there’d been another London Bridge attack with two victims dead and one critical in hospital. I can’t let the terrorists rule our lives and stop there, on such a sad note, so I’ll show you the bracelet I’ve been building.

Go back to Post 42 in August and I mentioned a Pandora bracelet I’d been given to add mementos of my journey. I’ve not found trinkets I thought special enough so I’ve been having some made by Jo who is @work just up the road from me. Here’s the work-in-progress:

Bracelet with charms

You’ll see numbers for the podium positions, a Portuguese rooster and a sun from Uruguay. I think it may get pretty crowded by the time next August comes along.

Before then, however, I’ll be in Australia for Christmas. Knowing I’d not be home, Anne very kindly bought me a tree to take with me. It’s here together with the souvenir I brought back for myself from Cape Town, a rather stylish red wine glass (so you get an idea how big the tree is!).

I snapped the message in the header at a local coffee shop and I think it could be applicable for today. If you can’t read it, here it is again. With luck and a fair wind, the next post should be more optimistic.

60. Bound for South Australia

Not the most encouraging of songs, with the lyric “and as we wallop round Cape Horn (heave away, haul away) you’ll wish to God you’ve never been born”, although it does refer to going the other way around the globe via Cape Horn, not the Cape of Good Hope as OBB are doing. This was originally called the Cape of Storms due to the unpredictable weather, so maybe another sea shanty, Roll The Old Chariot Along, would be better: “we’d be alright if the wind was in our sails “.

A lot happened in Cape Town. As well as Punta being penalised six hours and ending up fourth, Imagine Your Korea (IYK) skipper Mike Surridge (see blog post 53) resigned during the stop-over. He’s been replaced for this race by Dan Smith, who was in the 2015/16 Race. At Fremantle Rob Graham will take over, who was a Skipper on the 2017/18 Race, so both have plenty of experience. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/imagine-your-korea-update

Then at the start of Race 4 out of Cape Town, Punta del Este (PdE) and Visit Sanya collided, badly enough to have to return to the dock for repairs. I was out in a spectator boat and got a shot of them tangled together but I can’t put it here, it’s too painful. However, out of a disaster comes some good, Punta donated all their fresh food to a local Captonian charity rather than have it go to waste. Both boats are being repaired and should be able to get to Fremantle in time to join Race 5 to Airlie Beach in The Whitsundays.

The fleet from the roof top bar of The Silo

If you are watching Race Viewer you’ll have been wondering what Unicef are up to. This morning I received a phone call from the Clipper office to tell me they were diverting back to Durban (on the South African coast) as one of the crew members, Andrew Toms, has suspected appendicitis. The poor chap only joined at Cape Town. I’ll keep you updated.

Unicef preparing for the off

Now that I have all the results I can summarise them for you. First the Scoring Gate: IYK three points, Visit Sanya two and PdE one. Next the Ocean Sprint: Seattle three points, Ha Long Bay (HLB) two and Qingdao one.

Unicef on their way

Penalty points for Leg 1 of the Race: PdE had five penalty points for a replacement Code 2 sail, I think a Yankee, or maybe a Spinnaker. I’m sure someone out there can let me know. Two others had penalty points for damage to equipment, IYK two points for damage costing over £1000, to the inner forestay, steaming light cage and pulpit repairs. Then Seattle one point for damage costing over £500 for pulpit repairs.

Unicef’s pennant

The Race 3 results were: 1st Qingdao (11 points), 2nd Unicef (10 points), 3rd HLB (9 points), 4th PdE (8 points), 5th Sanya (7 points), 6th WTC Logistics (6 points), 7th IYK (5 points), 8th Seattle (4 points), 9th GoToBermuda (GTB) (3 points), 10th Dare To Lead (DTL) (2 points) and 11th Zhuhai (1 point). Zhuhai had an injured crew member and had chosen to motor to Cape Town for the last few days for his comfort.

Qingdao’s pennants

Pulling all of this together, the current board reads Qingdao 48, Sanya 32, HLB 29, PdE 27, Unicef 23, DTL 20, Zhuhai 17, Seattle 13, IYK 12, WTC 11 and GTB 8. As there are still 12 races left plus Scoring Gates and Ocean Sprints, nothing is sure. HLB are playing their Joker for Race 4, so if they win this plus some bonus points they will be up there with Qingdao. In the 2017/18 Race the final winner was not decided until the very last race, with Sanya, Seattle and Qingdao all in the running. Who will need a full manicure by the end? Or will it be too late for our nails?

Me and Charlotte on the spectator boat

I hadn’t intended to write two blog posts so close together so you may have to wait for the next one, as long as no other news comes along. We should have the Scoring Gate result by Monday so let’s hope that nothing newsworthy happens this weekend. I’m sure there’s no news in the outside world that’s as interesting as life at this angle!

GoToBermuda heeling over