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!

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!

70. Leg 5

I’ve not mentioned much about this Leg, over 6,000 nautical miles (nm), so here’s a brief rundown to keep you up to date (possibly). Contrast this with Unicef’s Leg 3 from Cape Town to Fremantle, with the detour to Durban, of around 7,000nm and five weeks at sea (as their alternative 12 Days of Christmas has it). Yet more Christmas music! I don’t think I’ve given you the link to John’s crew diary with all the words, you can find it in the list below, number 773. If you’re feeling brave you can listen to them “singing” on arrival into Fremantle last month here

Leg 5 (also known as The Asia-Pacific Challenge) consists of three races from Airlie Beach to Zhuhai: first to Sanya (Race 6, about 4100nm or roughly 3 weeks), to Subic Bay (Race 7, a short one of 750 nm taking 4 to 5 days) and then to Zhuhai (Race 7, an even shorter one of 650nm or 3 to 4 days). They (should have) started on 18th January but were delayed (see Post 69) and and have arrival windows of 10 to 15 February for Sanya, 25 to 26 February for Subic Bay and 2 to 3 March for Zhuhai. The first race involves going through The Doldrums (see Post 48 from September). As before, they are allowed to motor for a set amount of time due to the lack of wind, here it’s no more than 36 hours and 4 degrees latitude.

The yachts have between 14 crew (GoToBermuda) and 20 crew (Qingdao and Dare To Lead) on them, with the male:female ratio being close to 50:50 on Seattle and Punta del Este. Zhuhai lost skipper Nick in Airlie Beach and now have the first female Skipper, Wendy Tuck, who won the last Race in 2017/18 and will be with them until Qingdao. This is the fourth boat of the fleet to change skipper, with Seattle, Imagine Your Korea and WTC Logistics all having replacements along the way.

All lined up for Le Mans start

There are a few more crew diaries from OBB so in no particular order here they all are from the beginning in case you missed them, first George then John.

https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/206 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/381 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/545 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/637 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/776 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/955

https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/294 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/759 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/698 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/773 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/920

In George’s last crew diary he refers to an incident his dad had. I can reveal here that John, aged 70 and 8 months, was refused entry into a bar! He needed ID regardless of his age. The same will happen in the USA.

As you might have picked up by now, there’s not a lot going on. The delay due to the water maker spare parts not turning up was very worthwhile if you read the Skipper Reports and Crew Diaries for this race, with the heat and sweat being mentioned in almost every one. A more recent entry has been the rise of the coronavirus in China, with Clipper letting us know that the Sanya celebrations are going to be very muted this time. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/update-regarding-coronavirus-outbreak-in-china

I feel maybe I’m under a bit of a jinx (or Jonah?). First we had the Unicef diversion, then the bush fires, the Taal volcano in the Philippines on January 12th and the virus, first reported at the end of December and spreading rapidly. Will I get to China? Read on for the next thrilling instalment. OK, maybe thrilling is too strong a word.

69. Slow Boats To China

This race, being race 6 and the start of Leg 5, is certainly off to a slow start. This race was meant to start on Saturday 18th January, the day I left. The plan was to have the Parade of Sail (PoS) then motor beyond the Great Barrier Reef after which there would be a Le Mans start (see below for explanation of this if you are interested). John went off to the Unicef boat to prepare. About an hour later I had a frantic phone call: “can you book me back into our room for another two days? The start has been delayed”. I rushed down to reception where I was told I was the third in as many minutes! Mission accomplished, I proceeded to tell other supporters what was going on. Three or four water makers had broken down on the way into Airlie Beach and the spare parts had not arrived in time but would be there shortly. The PoS would go ahead then the whole fleet would return and go out when they were all ready. The good news was that all crew had a spare day with NO TASKS! The fact that I was not there probably made it even more relaxing. If you read the official announcement on the Clipper website you’ll see that Sir Robin downplays the situation: he “averaged a litre a day for 312 days but… in these days people expect more”. He doesn’t say whether his litre included the beers and brandy he took with him (see his book “A World of My Own” for his epic trip 50 years ago).

Jetty at our hotel

The fleet left Airlie Beach properly on Monday and duly motored beyond the Great Barrier Reef through Hydrographers Passage, a deep-water shipping channel discovered by Lieutenant Commander James Bond (not that one I’m afraid), of the Royal Australian Navy survey ship HMAS Flinders, in the 1980s. H.M.A.S. Flinders was awarded the Royal Geographic Society of Australasia’s J.P. Thomson Foundation Medal as a tribute to its accomplishment — “a valuable and permanent benefit to Australia’s maritime trade.” Commander Bond, on behalf of the officers and men of Flinders, accepted the gold medal from H.R.H. The Duke of Kent in Brisbane in April 1985. (Ref. Through the Barrier — The Hydrographers Passage Story by John C. H. Foley Presented at a meeting of the Society 27th August, 1987). https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/data/UQ_205745/s00855804_1988_13_5_171.pdf?

Washing Day on the boats

Back to the race. The Le Mans start is used when it’s not safe or convenient to have the usual start, and was developed by Clipper. In essence, once it’s safe to do so, all the boats get into a straight line two to three boat lengths apart, (in an order decided by Clipper at the Crew Briefing before they leave port) with the Lead Skipper in the middle. All the crew on every boat are at the back of the boat until the signal is given, then they rush forwards and sort out the sails and start racing. Full details can be found here: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/uploads/annex-a-to-clipper-2019-20-race-sailing-instructions.pdf

Victualling In The Sun

Another useful bit of information comes in Jeronimo’s skipper report of 23rd January on what happens when the fleet come into a stopover. Much as the crew would like to rest, you’ll realise from previous posts in this blog that I don’t get to see MBB much during the day. Here’s why: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/punta-del-este/race6-day4-team42 although I think only two days for victualling is optimistic. And the second part: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/punta-del-este/race6-day5-team42

This sail should be ONE PIECE!

What’s that I hear? An anguished cry around the world? Enough about the bally boats! We didn’t sign up to this blog to hear all this sailing guff. Where’s our intrepid narrator? Last we heard, she was celebrating her birthday all alone and deserted by MBB (OK, am I overdoing this aspect? Too much martyrdom?).

Hotel jetty at night. So romantic!

Fear not gentle reader. I survived the beautiful Whitsundays, neither eaten by a shark nor stung to death by the dreaded “stingers” (don’t you just love the Australians? Why use confusing names when a simple word will do). These are the Irukandji and Chironex fleckeri or Box Jellyfish. A sting can be life-threatening. It’s recommended that if going into the water (even paddling), a full Lycra body suit is worn. By the beach we saw a BIG sign warning people, if stung, to wash the area with two litres of vinegar and call medical help immediately. At the side of this sign was a holster with a bottle of vinegar in it. I should have taken a photo but instead you’re having to put up with the sights of Airlie Beach and the yachts.

Not exactly a racing vessel

But I digress. Airlie Beach was the perfect place to do nothing but sunbathe (for health reasons, to top up vitamin D you understand), eat, drink, read books (More Abell Men, a local book; The Outside by Ada Hoffmann, an interesting SF book about AI; and Sunfall by Jim Al-Khalili, who is at my alma mater of the University of Guildford) and swim. All of which we did. As well as a bit of work for Unicef crew, sail repairing and victualling, as you can see from the photos in this post.

R&R

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.