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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
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.
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.
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).
The results were already known, even before all the boats had finished. Before I list them, here are a few other exciting things I got up to in Fremantle.
The first was listening to Christmas music. Every time I came into the hotel and every morning when I sat down to breakfast, it was blaring out at me. The first day when I had lunch with George and we sat outside, I honestly though there was a busker on the street. I am rather partial to playing Christmas music from mid-December, but NOT THE SAME TUNES! I think it was on a loop of about half an hour as during breakfast it repeated.
Prize giving was a bit subdued with three boats missing, but once again we had Qingdao on the podium so much cheering.
As we knew Unicef would have a very tight turn-around, the supporters that were in Fremantle formed the Unicef elves group (as mentioned in the previous post) to try and get as much done as we could for them. The main issue was victualling, buying and sorting the food for about 18 people for 20 days. Without the day bags, we had heaps of food all over the house Angie had borrowed from a pal of hers. When Unicef arrived, the new “leggers” were drafted to do as much as possible on the boat to allow the circumnavigators and returning leggers some rest. A good learning experience.
On the “fun” side, I went off to Penguin Island with Cheryl and Lizelle, two other Unicef supporters. The only penguins we saw were ten in the rescue centre, the rest were out at sea, but there were thousands of bridled terns, pelicans and other birds we couldn’t identify. A lovely restful day communing with nature. We then had some lunch at Rockingham on the way back to Freo. The place we stopped at looked better than it actually was. Ketchup and mayonnaise cost extra, and the loos required a key from the bar. The first door was open so we walked through. After about five minutes wandering around back corridors, we found the Ladies locked. The Gents next to it was open, so we took it in turns to guard and use that. Nothing if not resourceful! I also had a couple of beach walks and a stroll in Kings Park in Perth.
There was an ongoing joke at work meetings about the Late John Dawson. Well, he surpassed any of those timings this race. However, looking on the bright side, Unicef crew certainly had their money’s worth since leaving Cape Town. Their deadline kept going backwards and they eventually arrived Friday night 20th December with a leaving date of 24th, together with Sanya and Punta, forty-eight hours after the main fleet. The next race is going to be interesting to calculate who is winning.
Results. I’m sure if you’re really interested you’ll have looked them up by now, but for the record here they are. Scoring Gate: Qingdao 3 points, Ha Long Bay 2, Imagine Your Korea 1. Ocean Sprint: GoToBermuda 3 points, WTC 2, Korea 1 again. Race: Qingdao 11 points, Ha Long Bay 10 with Joker making it 20, Korea 9, Bermuda 8, WTC 7, Zhuhai 6, Dare To Lead 5, Seattle 4. The three late boats: Punta 9 based on past performance, Sanya nil due to being disqualified for crashing into Punta, and Unicef 3 for being last.
The race so far therefore is Qingdao in the lead with 62 points, Ha Long Bay second with 51, Punta third with 36, Sanya fourth with 32, Unicef still fifth with 26, Dare To Lead sixth with 25, Korea seventh with 23, Zhuhai eighth with 21 (if you think my addition is wrong, I forgot to mention they had two penalty points for sail repairs), WTC ninth with 20, Bermuda tenth with 19 and Seattle bringing up the rear with 17.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Should you decide to go to Uruguay, a word of warning. You can use credit cards (and the tax is refunded or knocked off your bill) or you can take US Dollars or Uruguayan Pesos. Well, I’m not sure you can actually take pesos, I only took dollars as the exchange places I tried looked incredulous when I asked for Uruguyan pesos. You can also take money out of an ATM with not too much of a problem. My card worked most of the time but sometimes I had to try it three or four times and I was unable to get any cash. At the ATM you will be dispensed $100 bills only. On spending this, probably to try and get smaller notes, you will be given change in the local currency. Hence the handful of change you see above (if you can’t see it, go onto the website by clicking the email title, blue underlined) which I donated to Unicef on my last day.
In Portimao we bought souvenir mugs and a tea towel (see Post 47). Realising that this could result in 15 tea towels and 30 mugs by the end of the Race, we controlled ourselves this time and bought a beach towel from YCPDE.
Two things that were important in Punta, the UNICEF banner and The Commodore’s Cup. I think you may have had glimpses of them in certain photos and on the Clipper website, but here they are again.
And I think that’s all from Punta. Back in London, I’ve not stopped. On Saturday, my first day back, I met two pals at the Tate Modern. We started with lunch (and I can see why the people in the flats opposite complained about us tourists looking into their rooms) then went around the Takis exhibition before it finished. Even though it’s obvious, it looks like magic. Sadly, he died whilst the exhibition was being created.
The remaining nine days I had in London were taken with pals visiting me, lots of food and wine, buying yet more stuff for MBB (back to Arthur Beale), knitting beanies for Karla from the Clipper Race Office, getting Rands for the next trip and general household tasks. I thought George was asking for a citation book, what on earth is that? See the next picture for what he actually wanted. His diction, NOT my hearing. Honest. I had my first online food delivery which was very exciting for me. What will they send instead of what I ordered? A bit like Christmas. (It’s different in the sticks, I just drive to the nearest shop as it’s quicker). I also had my first experience of Vagabond, a bar in Victoria that dispenses wine by the glass from a lot of cabinets that have different types: robust, smooth, elegant etc. Well, I’m assuming that was meant to describe the wine, not the customers. Hmm, maybe I need to go back and do more research. You put credit onto a card then use that to buy your wine, in volumes of 25 ml (taster) upwards.
And did I mention Race Viewer? Yes, our addiction is back! It’s very exciting as Unicef and Qingdao are both doing well (so far, please no more wind holes). More about the actual race next time but the results of the Scoring Gate are known: Imagine Your Korea three points, Visit Sanya two points and Punta del Este one point. This puts them on nine, 25 and 24 points respectively. The results for the Ocean Sprint won’t be known before I get to Cape Town, when we’ll find out if anyone has collected penalty points for sail repairs etc. A last reminder of Uruguay before I sign off for today.
Continuing from the last post, we spent New Year in Valencia trying the local wines. Not quite yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, but plenty of casks!
We met (surprise, surprise) yet more yachting enthusiasts who will be watching our every move come August on (a) the Clipper round the world yacht viewer and (b) this blog (I hope).
After that we came home for a couple of days to sober up before heading off to Marrakesh for my birthday treat.
It was a wonderful trip, very relaxing although those of you who know John know relaxation doesn’t come easily.
I’m only glad that it wasn’t the sort of hotel where they unpack your bags for you, goodness only knows what they would have thought to see lengths of rope in his case. Even when he did sit down, he was able to find the most uncomfortable chair going!
Not much to find that relates to boats in Marrakesh so to end here’s a shot of me flying the flag for the official sponsors of Clipper clothing this year (I bought it in 2012) and of a boat we saw in Valencia which is not very watertight!