71. The Best Laid Schemes

Well, I’m neither man nor mouse but my plans are ganging aft agley. I’ll be missing out on the promised joy but hope not to have the grief and pain promised in Rabbie Burns’ poem To A Mouse. I had been ambivalent about this trip across the three Chinese ports (Sanya, Zhuhai and Qingdao) with Subic Bay thrown in. As well as a seven week trip and all the preparation that entails, I would be going from temperatures of mid-30s in Subic Bay to just above zero in Qingdao. A normal trip to one zone has required two large bags, what would I need for this?

New (smaller) cabin bag

In preparation I bought a Kindle while flying home as a lot of my weight is books. The day after I arrived home I went to have my fingerprints taken at the Chinese Visa Centre. I found the phrase books I had. I bought a smaller cabin bag so I wouldn’t have to struggle so much (it fits on top of the big case without falling off everywhere). I bought some cotton dresses and trousers that were larger than I needed so that I’d feel cool in the heat of Sanya, having felt way too hot in Australia. I downloaded a VPN and the WeChat app for use in China: for the latter I needed someone who had been using it for over a month to “sponsor” me, luckily I have a Chinese pal who did this. Items that George had ordered arrived so I packed them ready to take. I bought some earrings to compliment my birthday necklace. I ordered Sealskinz socks and a Spinlock bag and Musto gloves that John had asked me to get for him. I received two birthday cards from families for crew members on other boats to take out to Sanya. An email from John and another Unicef crew member asked me to buy more socks so I did that.

Christmas present for John, yet to be seen!

My passport had not come back by the promised date (I paid extra for it to be fast-tracked) so I chased the agents. It was delayed due to Chinese New Year but would be with me the next day. They called me back the next day and said I had been issued with the wrong visa, valid for only 30 days, so I’d need to go back and have my fingerprints taken again. This was arranged for 31st January, still plenty of time before my flight on 7th February.

My birthday necklace plus earrings from London

Then on 28th January the FCO issued advice about travelling to Wuhan and the Hubei province in China. That was OK, I wasn’t going anywhere near the areas highlighted. The following day I woke to the news that BA had suspended flights to China, shortly followed by the FCO saying travel to anywhere in mainland China was not recommended. This was becoming serious. Even if we could get there, would we get out again? I spoke with Sue, who was meant to be travelling with me, and we decided to cancel the whole trip.

I have kept the hotel in Subic Bay for the moment, if the boats land there OBB may need the rooms, even if I don’t manage to get there. We don’t yet know what’s happening with the fleet, they are still on the way to Sanya. With luck by the time I do my next update I’ll be able to tell you. If they don’t go to China, Clipper need to find a port that can take eleven large (ish) yachts at short notice, when cruise ships and other shipping are also trying to divert. They need a port that has sufficient shops to allow the crews to buy enough groceries to take them to Seattle. Zhuhai (close to Hong Kong) is the end of this Leg, so there will be crew members needing to get off and go home, and other crew members wanting to join their boat. If the Hong Kong flights are cancelled then they’ll need an airport that is open and close to wherever the fleet ends up.

If only Unicef had seen this route to Durban!

Meanwhile I’m using the time to empty my in-tray, complete my to-do list and practice the piano. And the Chinese visa? Well, because my passport isn’t British, the visa wouldn’t last for two years so I’ll reapply when I need one. By then I might need to apply for one to live here as well, today is BREXIT DAY! Happy New World everyone and BYE until the next time!

67. Another Day of Sun

So here I am in Airlie Beach. As I’ve been too lazy to post for a while, here’s a whistle-stop tour of the rest of our stay in Sydney.

A good thing to do in a new city is to ride the hop-on, hop-off bus. You see the sights, get a feeling for the geography, know how to find the places that sound interesting and end up where you started so you can’t get lost. Unless, of course, the bus is so full that you might as well be on a rush-hour London tube. In which case you cannot hear the commentary and you can’t see the buildings around you. We had planned to get off at the Powerhouse Museum purely because it was the first stop that had a cafe and we had skipped breakfast. We are so glad we did, after sustenance we went into the museum (which is being closed and / or moved to a less convenient location). It was free and full of good design icons, including the first train in Australia (Train Number One).

There was an exhibition of fashion by Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson. I feel embarrassed to confess I’d not heard of them as they had such an influence in the 1970’s and I have a number of knitting patterns that were obviously inspired by them. They had been based in the UK for a while and as well as knitted garments had the most awe-inspiring dresses. We actually went around twice, partly because my camera had decided not to take photos but also because we could. If you are in Sydney before March 22nd (when the exhibition ends) then go.

Back on the bus, we eventually managed to get a seat and plug in our earphones. Despite this being January 2020 and thus after Christmas, the sound track, when we were not being told about stuff (mostly how new luxury apartments were being built in previously run-down areas), was CHRISTMAS MUSIC! AAARGH!

Moving on. We had some great meals, Intermezzo in the GPO building, Cafe Sydney in the Customs House (still in use) and Gowings restaurant in the old Gowings Department store (a lovely old Art Deco place) to name a few. It seems that most of the restaurants are in buildings that previously had another function. Not just the restaurants either: the Conservatoire of Music was originally built as stables. I know this from reading Mrs. M by Luke Slattery, a novel based (loosely) on the life of Elizabeth MacQuarie, the wife of Lachlan MacQuarie, the last Governor of New South Wales. There’s a stone “seat” in the Royal Botanic Garden that she sat on to look at the view. Val is recreating the scene below. A good read if you’re looking for a new book to while away a few hours. It was recommended by Fiona, who will be sailing on Punta del Este.

We met Fiona at the Art Gallery of NSW and saw a small exhibition of paintings by Ben Quilty, a local artist who had been to Afghanistan as a war artist. His art was incredibly powerful, not just the war veterans he painted after they had returned but also his Rorschach paintings depicting local atrocities. Although the inspiration for these was of disturbing episodes in Australia’s past, the artwork itself was stunning.

Ben Quilty

Having been to the Opera on New Year’s Eve, we decided to have a tour of the Opera House. Very interesting even though we did not do the back stage tour. Our guide Peter turned out to have been one of the architects involved in the building when he had just qualified. You can’t get much closer than that, on a par maybe with being shown around Robben Island in Cape Town by one of the former political prisoners. We then walked around The Rocks, which had been an area of ill-repute in the past and saw the Ovation of The Seas, the largest cruise ship that visits Sydney. it can take around 5,000 passengers and looks at first glimpse like a block of flats.

We donated some funds to the NSW Firefighters, all volunteers and working in almost impossible conditions, and felt lucky that we had not suffered any ill effects whilst in Sydney. We are blown away by the number of shops in the CBD, there’s a veritable underground city of them. You go down one escalator, wander around, come up another and have no clue how you ended up where you are. The bookshop where I bought Mrs. M fills a whole floor of one part. On our last night we ventured out of the city to have dinner at Coogee.

Sydney artwork

The next day we said our farewell to the city and flew up to Proserpine for transfer to Airlie Beach. On arrival there was a smattering of raindrops but nothing since. It is such a relaxing place we’ve done very little: walked to the marina to work out where the fleet will come in, done our laundry and bought a few snacks for when John and George arrive, met a few other Clipper people and mooched around generally.

The Opposition: Punta del Este supporters and Fiona

It’s now Friday in Australia, my birthday, and NEITHER of my boats are here, due in Saturday or Sunday. We won’t know the Ocean Sprint results until prize giving (Sunday) so I don’t think I’ve any sailing news. The various boats have gone into Stealth, wallowed in wind holes, turned around and confused us all with their movements.

63. I Am Off To A Land Down Under!

Although I understand there are no certainties in sailing so maybe I should title this I hope I’m off…

A reader in Singapore! Welcome! Well I guess they may have read one entry and decided enough is enough, but who knows. My blog is going around the world.

I fled London on Saturday to go to Macclesfield to celebrate Keith’s birthday. You saw Keith in Cape Town, he’s one of the three bearded musketeers. I was lucky enough to have a window seat on the way up, except they seemed to have forgotten the window. We had a great evening though, 25 of Keith’s family and friends at Plum Kitchen. It looks like a sandwich bar but has a top chef who decided London was not for him. Lucky Macclesfield!

My window seat

On Monday Clipper published the first ETAs for Fremantle. As all eleven feature, the missile practices mentioned in Post 62 must have missed the fleet. I think George is going to beat me, he’s due in on Saturday morning (local Perth time) and I’m not leaving London until Saturday night. So much for my plan to arrive the first day of the arrival window to make sure I don’t miss them, they are likely to be two days before! Unicef, due to their emergency medical dash, are not due in until 18th, three days before the next race start. Before I leave I’ll update you on the situation, at the bottom of this Post.

Keith’s family at Plum Kitchen

If you want to catch up with John, he’s actually had a diary printed, here it is: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/698 which although dated 2nd December did not appear until 4th, so you may have missed it.

Now officially announced, the race finish will be at Royal Albert Dock on August 8th 2020. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/royal-albert-dock-confirmed-as-race-finish-partner-for-unforgettable-finale

This week has been one for Stealth mode. First Qingdao then Ha Long Bay then Imagine Your Korea then WTC Logistics then GoToBermuda. They’ve lost the wind so I guess they are hoping to sneak around the other boats.

Stowaway

The rest of my week in London was taken up with my Chinese visa application, finances and meeting up with pals. I hadn’t realised how much financial stuff John handled until he gave it all to me to sort out. Every time I return there seem to be more bills. To counteract all of this I have walked around London: Pimlico to Parliament to Trafalgar Square to Oxford Circus one day, stopping to have lunch at Thai Square with Stephen, an ex-work colleague. Also to the other end of Pimlico to have dinner at La Poule au Pot (where I used to go when I lived in London in my youth) with one Clipper pal and to Victoria to have lunch at Browns with another Clipper pal (not on the same day). Another day, around the City of London, partly because I turned the wrong way out of the Tube on my way to a meeting and was 15 minutes late instead of (as planned) 15 minutes early. Oops.

This time packing, I remembered my toiletries before I sealed the case. As Australia has very strict import rules I removed the cat you see above from my case and left her in Macclesfield. I also, regrettably, left behind my Earl Grey teabags as they are not allowed either. Will I survive? I can probably buy them there. I hope. If the next blog post is unexpectedly ratty you’ll know they don’t sell them in Oz.

Spot my clothes!

Once again I was asked by Clipper supporters to take things out for the crew. As they will be at sea for both Christmas and New Year, this mostly consisted of Christmas presents and celebratory items. I have a small (artificial) Christmas tree in one case with a few presents and cards as well as Santa hats, beards (like they need THOSE), elf hats etc. In the other are two boxes of New Year fripperies, as you can see above. I have now decided that I am not taking anything else for anybody to any other destinations. For the last two trips I would have managed with one case for myself, more to the point I don’t think there are any other celebrations due. No point taking Easter eggs, they’ll only smash on the way then melt.

At Keith’s party the talk around me was obviously of Clipper. To try to get into the mood we decided to eat leaning at 45 degrees. As we weren’t sure which way to lean we tried both. I prefer my way of travelling thank you very much.

Heeling to Port?
And starboard. Or vice versa,

I think I’m ready for my six-week Australian adventure. I’m leaving London at about 10C and getting to Perth at about 35C. Even though I’m arriving very early at the start of the arrival window, I’ll arrive after the first four or five boats. It changes hour to hour so you’ll need to check the Race Viewer https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings every hour, but the first three (Qingdao, Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam and Imagine Your Korea) could conceivably arrive before I’ve even left the UK. Not only will I miss giving George and pals a big hug as they come in but I’ll then have another ten days before John and Unicef are predicted to arrive. To cheer us up, here’s John’s pennant on display, I see it every time I go to bed.

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

59. Pineapples are not the only fruit

We can’t leave Cape Town yet, as you’ll see from the header (not many rhinos in Australia unless they’re in a zoo). I’ll try not to give you any more pictures of Table Mountain but it may appear in the background, you can’t really get away from it.

Pineapple!

The first subject I have to address is The Beard. I see that Commo Keith has also got into the act, see his blog Pretty Much All At Sea. His wife Ruth is in full agreement with me. https://keithsclipperadventure.com/2019/11/21/here-they-go-again/

Beard unguents

I did not accompany John on his trip to (probably the same) barber but I think I should have. This is what he brought back, all for my comfort he says. As I have been tasked with carrying it around the world, I guess I’m trusted not to “accidentally” lose it anywhere. I did not notice a scrap of difference, but as The Beard had been trimmed it became like a field of close-cropped stubble once more. To make matters worse, George is now in on the act, along with his Godfather Keith.

George, Keith and John

The second subject is Kit. The crew have to remove all their kit from the boat so that it can be deep cleaned. The hotel room we stayed at in Punta del Este was quite small so I felt like I was on the boat with having to climb over stuff and the aroma surrounding it all (albeit a level surface). In Cape Town we were able to lay it outside as there was little rain and we had a good sized balcony. A dry suit is a scary object when laid out, like some Thing out of Dr Who. The only issue was it was not an easy walk, especially with all of John’s kit. On the first day going back to the boat, John managed to get lost and was 30 minutes late for his meeting. I’m trying to make sure we have large rooms closer to the marina from now on.

Empty dry suit airing

Enough complaining. This time I had an uneventful journey and spent quite a bit of time with other supporters including Anne, Fiona and Keith, featured in Post 57. Plenty of places to eat and drink on the V&A waterfront, which does not stand for Victoria and Albert but Victoria and Alfred, their second son. He was obviously influential around here.

The night that Unicef arrived there were seven of us eating in the Baia fish restaurant, overlooking the jetty. When we saw Unicef arriving we all ran out, to return about half an hour later once the crew had been bussed off to immigration. John found us after the kitchen had closed. Our waiter kindly brought him three bread rolls (plus some wine).

Cheryl with a heap of cans to label.

The rest of the time was effectively divided into two, tasks for the boat and sight-seeing. Regarding the first, George’s Godparents Keith and Fiona went along and helped with sail repairs and are now signed up for Seattle was well. I did a bit of flaking (see Post 57) but my main contribution this time was lending a hand with the victualling, as you can see throughout this Post. Having sorted the cans into fruit, vegetables, pulses, meat and fish, we discovered that pineapple is not for pudding but for sweet and sour dishes, so had to go back and re-allocate them in the day bags. Each bag has a bread mix and a cake mix.

Day bags laid out for each day’s food

I don’t think I’ve mentioned Angie, the Round-The-Worlder on Unicef who is the official Victualler, on the left of the photo above. Unfortunately she fell over in the shower on day 1 in Punta and broke her wrist. Despite this she insisted on supervising the victualling at Punta before flying home to New Zealand. She then flew into Cape Town to oversee it all again. The hope is that she will be able to rejoin the fleet in Fremantle. She has the whole exercise down to a fine art, as long as we listen to her!

Fiona, Cheryl and me waiting patiently

I had a trip to Robben Island while waiting for Qingdao to clear immigration, worth going to as it brings back how recently it all happened. The island was reached by a 30 minute ferry ride and with potentially shark-infested waters you can understand why it was impossible to escape. Back on the mainland in the afternoon, we spent the time with Qingdao crew before greeting Punta and Unicef. The breeze had built up by the time they arrived such that they took more than an hour to get to the jetty.

Anne, me and Fiona at the roof top of The Silo. Breezy!

In addition to John being late “to work” the first morning, his phone had reset itself to UTC so his alarm on the second day was two hours late. Luckily I woke up so he made it to the boat on time; another crew member was not so lucky and didn’t arrive until lunchtime.

How’s that for a bottle of Champagne?

George, John and I went on a wine trip with a Clipper alumnus and six other crew around Constantia. We visited five very different vineyards (Steenberg, Klein Constantia, Buitenverwachting, High Constantia and Constantia Glen) and voted the “Vin de Constance” from Klein Constantia the best, although the next vineyard we tried, Buitenverwachting, told us their’s had recently been voted the best. Having whetted our appetites and shown us the certificate as proof, they then told us that there was none available!

Nicky, George and John at Klein Constantia

George also went shark diving one day which he says he enjoyed. The pictures did not make it look appealing to me. OBB were also interviewed by BBC Radio Somerset, the second interview they’ve made (the first being in London before they left).

Chandelier at Steenberg. See the grape pips?

There were some stunning chandeliers in Cape Town, as well as the one above, which looks like slices of red and green grapes, the one below was in an artisanal shopping area called The Watershed, where John bought me two dresses (Geoff, a fellow Unicef circumnavigator, has been buying one at each port for Cheryl). You can see one in the photo above of me with Cheryl and Fiona and a glass of fizz.

The Watershed

Next time, I really do promise, the full results of the Race so far.

53. South of Rio

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.

Spot Qingdao on the horizon

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.

The Canepa family

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).

Spot the Joker

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.

G&T at the Asado

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:

Mike’s Penguin keyring

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.

51. Leg 1 Race 2 (c)

First, I’ll try not to post any more shots of Gloomy London, I realise I finished Posts 49 AND 50 with similar views. If there’s snow later in the year I may change this decision (but snow isn’t gloomy). The header is of the view I had when I woke up yesterday.

I forgot to tell you that John won the Equator sweepstake on Unicef. It sounds like he may not have won in everyone’s opinion, due to the application of ship time and/or UTC. When I next see him I’ll find out what he won, probably an extra Haribo or something! https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/unicef/race2-day17-team48

I also forgot to detail my cinematic experiences. At home, we often plan to go and see a film but usually by the time we get around to it the film has moved on. Since Portimao, I have been to see The Farewell (a film well worth seeing, even if the synopsis sounds depressing, a Chinese family getting together for a fake wedding when they hear that Grandma has only a few weeks to live. Based on an actual lie it says). Then Downton Abbey. It possibly helps to have watched the TV series so you know who is who. I mentioned Netflix in an earlier post, well to make up for never having seen Downton Abbey I’ve binge watched the first two series of The Crown. I think I still prefer Matt Smith as Dr Who. I’m now binge watching Sherlock (the one with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, not Basil Rathbone or Peter Cushing!).

In John’s crew diary of 27th September he mentioned needing to buy a bird book in Punta to enable him to identify the birds that are flying around. In Ian’s Skipper report of 4th October he says they have one, ‘Seabirds of Southern Africa and the World’, by Gerald Tuck of the Royal Navy Ornithological Society. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/unicef/race2-day19-team48

I don’t know how old that book is, but I managed to find a different one for John with photos. As it’s over 300 pages I’m not sure how easy it will be to ID a bird flying past at speed though. THE book on ocean birds was, apparently, Peter Harrison’s 1983 “Seabirds: An Identification Guide” but this new one builds on that with the use of DNA and subsequent reclassification.

Reading Nick’s Zhuhai log of 3rd October, I think maybe I should have bought the book for George instead. Nick says that Qingdao seem to think all the birds they see are some sort of gannet. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/zhuhai/race2-day18-team45 . Another skipper seemingly preoccupied with birds is Mike on Imagine Your Korea. I’ve bought him a little present but you’ll have to wait until I hand it over to see it.

As well as managing to see films that otherwise pass me by, and eating foods that have not yet hit rural England, I walk to the shops most days with my little carrier bag to buy food (no filling up the boot once a week or less). This does mean I look more at what I’m buying, and imagine my glee when I found this, a combination of my favourite cocktail (espresso martini) and my favourite brand of yogurt (The Collective).

I needed it before I tried to squeeze the warm sleeping bag layer John wants me to take to Punta or Cape Town into the compression straps I had to order. On its own it takes up my whole suitcase. I was assured by John that the straps would make it small enough that I could pack my clothes (and his) as well… Really? Just take a look and tell me what you think.

Saturday morning the results of the Ocean Sprint were announced by Clipper. Unfortunately neither of our two boats were fast enough. Our arch-nemesis, Punta del Este, came first, gained three points and and so have leapfrogged Qingdao (17 points to 14). Grrr. Ha Long Bay were second so have a total of nine points and Visit Sanya scraped the third place, one point, to give them 10 points overall. Dare to Lead were in fourth place (nul points) only one second slower than Sanya. You have to feel sorry for them.

Skipper Mark of WTC Logistics says in his log of 5th October that they came sixth only nine minutes behind Sanya. He also comments on the fact that the fleet of matched boats but with all amateur crews can be so close. Read the full account from the link below (then click onto the other skipper reports as they are all interesting and you’ve got nothing else to do today, right!). https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/wtc-logistics/race2-day20-team40

This weekend I had two pals visiting, Victoria up from Somerset and Rene. Well, I guess I had three as Clint came too. Victoria and I went to Tate Britain to see the William Blake (again, for me, but I still missed bits of information). First we went to the Members’ Room for some lunch. I’d not been there and it takes some finding. Up the spiral staircase and up and up. It’s pretty much in the dome that you see on top of the Tate. According to my clever phone I climbed three floors. It felt more like six, both of us needing to take a breath when we arrived before I was able to show my membership card. I don’t think it’s as impressive as the V&A Members’ Room, and more of a canteen as it’s self-service, but sitting up in the light-filled dome was an experience. I have said if I do it on a daily basis my fitness will improve, with the incentive of a coffee when I arrive, but I’ve yet to repeat the trip. Knowing what faces me should make it easier. Extinction Rebellion are out in force so I’m not sure I’m brave enough to wander near Parliament.

Lambeth Bridge, MIllbank Tower, Tate Britain

On Sunday morning all three of us (with Clint observing) had another go with the compression straps. I don’t know exactly how it was managed, but here we are with a better packed layer. It now doesn’t quite take up all of my case although I still don’t have room for everything I need. I’ve been advised it’s not necessary for the next race so I’ll take it to Cape Town, when I’m not having to change planes.

The other interesting thing that happened this week (if you’re a Clipper Addict) is the appearance of two posters depicting two of the Crew Members, as the recruitment for the next race (2021/22) jumps up a gear. One of these Crew Members you’ve already come across, you shouldn’t be surprised when I tell you it’s Donna. I went to see Victoria off on Sunday, then onto Arthur Beale to collect the head torches I’d ordered (see previous Post) and look who was smiling down on us!

I’ll remind you, Donna is a 48-year-old British chiropractor going around the world on Qingdao. We met her before we knew she was on the same boat as George and she’s doing the same job as John on board of Medical Assistant. Just to be fair, I’ll give you the shot of the other Crew Member, Mark Pollard. He’s a 30-year-old engineer from Australia and he’s sailing Legs 1 and 3 on Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam.

Now I have a new game, seeing how many I can spot and hoping that Clipper will add others for us to hunt down. A bit like Pokemon Go! Although less interactive.

Not to be outdone, you can see John to the left of the last picture on this Clipper news article about the Ocean Sprint. It doesn’t look as though he shaved his head. We’ve not seen George for a while, I wonder if he has? https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/closely-fought-dell-latitude-rugged-ocean-sprint-sees-just-one-second-between-two-teams

Sanya have gone into Stealth mode, 06.10 UTC Monday morning, so we won’t know where they are until Tuesday morning. Meantime, Qingdao are effectively in the lead. Go Qingdao! The weather for the next few days has very deep lows developing, little wind and wind gusting and veering in different directions, so it’s all to play for. Are Sanya trying to get closer to the shore and benefit from the offshore winds that played such a crucial part at the end of race 1?

And on that cliffhanger, I’ll leave you with another picture of London Today.