Post 136. Follow the Fleet

With one of my favourite songs from that film, Let’s Face the Music (and Dance). Those of you in the U.K. might have come across it as the theme for W1A, that hilarious (to me) documentary about the BBC. What’s that, it wasn’t a documentary but a self-parody? Oh well, I thought it true to life! The song, by Irving Berlin, featured first in the 1936 film ‘Follow The Fleet’ starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I love any films of that era, not just the musicals. Give me an Ealing Comedy any time (although they are a decade younger, being made mostly in the late 1940’s). Kind Hearts and Coronets? The Lavender Hill Mob? I’m not sure which is my favourite, possibly The Ladykillers. I’ll have to spend a weekend watching them all again.

I’m beginning to feel like I’m in a thriller of the scary sort. First our mobile signal went down, which is both the mobile and broadband (and door alarm). Never mind, we kept the landline. Now that’s down. I’m all alone (except for a one-eyed cat, blind and deaf dog and the other dog who’ll do anything for food). Cue creepy violin music and a bloodcurdling scream. Ah, the landline is back and I’ve found our old router so I’m S-L-O-W-L-Y able to do stuff. The 4G signal might be dodgy for a full month as the main mast in the area is ‘undergoing repairs’.

The Banner made it to Seattle

Meanwhile, back to our fleet. Sadly, the individuals on the teams did not get pennants, only the big one for the ship was given out at the Seattle prize giving. Let’s hope they are provided, JD wants his ‘medals’ to outnumber George’s! Once again, Danny on Unicef was awarded the media prize. I can’t find a link but if you’re on Facebook you might see it in the Clipper Live page.

Penalty points were received by Zhuhai and Sanya for crossing some (virtual) line into shallow water and risking safety when leaving Subic Bay. Crew numbers on IYK started with 12 (including the skipper and AQP) then one evacuated due to his shoulder dislocation and then one ill on board and not able to do more than light duties. The Seattle ETAs kept changing. Before leaving Subic Bay, the window was 15 to 19 April (over Easter). The closer this got, the later the arrivals were. Eventually (it felt like), the boats arrived 23-24 April, a full week ‘late’. I’ve already briefly mentioned that Unicef came second so here are the full results and points.

Scoring Gate: Unicef first (3 points), GTB 2nd and WTC 3rd. (Delayed) Ocean Sprint: Qingdao finally lucked out by being so far behind the fleet, as they had better winds on their side. They were fastest with 3 points, IYK second and Sanya third. Race 10 results overall: WTC first (11 points), Unicef second (10 points), Punta third (nine points), HLB fourth (eight points), Seattle fifth (seven points), IYK sixth (six points), GTB seventh (five points), DTL eighth (four points) then one point each for the final three boats Zhuhai and Sanya (who retired due to massive wind holes only feet from the finish line) and Qingdao.

I was hoping to tell you how well Qingdao are doing having set off on 11th to arrive in Seattle in time to leave with the fleet on 30th March. Unfortunately, they were delayed leaving by missing paperwork for a few hours. In that time, a typhoon appeared heading towards Japan, so they had to delay leaving for a few more days until that passed. Then, we heard, two thirds of them developed Covid on board. Extra well done on winning the Ocean Sprint after all that. They are now working their way towards San Francisco, see below for more details.

Overall standings at this stage of the Race, including penalty points: Qingdao in first position (I think they’ve got 106 points after the Ocean Sprint but the official scoreboard is still showing 103), HLB second with 99, Punta third with 83, Unicef fourth with 81, IYK fifth with 68, Sanya sixth with 67, WTC seventh with 59, DTL eighth with 51, GTB ninth with 46, Seattle tenth with 44 and Zhuhai bringing up the rear with 41. With lots of races (well, five) and Ocean Sprints and Scoring Gates, it’s still not a done deal on who will be the overall winner, especially when only the top five have played their Jokers.

Onto Race 11, which due to my broadband issues, started before I had the chance to tell you about Race 10. Ah well. Rumour has it that four people could not get on board Sanya in Seattle as they had positive Covid tests on the morning they should have set sail. No mention in the official website, but if you read Sanya’s Skipper’s diary for 1st May you might read into it.

So, what about Qingdao? As they would not have arrived in Seattle until the others had left, it has been arranged for them to go to San Francsico, further south so they don’t lose too much time in re-joining the fleet. They were expected to arrive between 4th and 6th May but due to a nasty looking wind hole that didn’t happen. They should be in tonight, 6th May. New crew who had planned to join in Seattle are making their way down to San Francisco to meet them there. Departing crew will have to make their way home from San Francisco. Before Qingdao can sail, they will need to re-victual, repair anything that needs repairing and do refresher training for the new crew. We’ve just heard that the AQP Bruce Anderson, previously crew on Unicef, will be leaving the boat at San Francisco and a new AQP, Maisie Bristow, will be replacing him. She was on DTL for the last Leg so she’s just continuing her adventure.

Race 11 (to Panama) thus has a very different feel to it. The ten who set off from Seattle will mark their progress at a virtual gate close to San Francisco (some are already across this). The average time will be calculated by Clipper and this will be deemed to be how long Qingdao would have taken to get there. This is Section 1: if you look at the Race Viewer you can see a Blue Line just south of San Francisco which is the end of Section 1 and beginning of Section 2.

Section 2 will be from this imaginary line in the Pacific to Panama and will be on real (elapsed) time for each boat. Depending upon the departure date for Qingdao, this could be like Airlie Beach all over again, with the first three boats not necessarily being the three winners.

This race is further complicated by the fact that the fleet pass through the Panama Canal to the Atlantic. Only three at a time can pass and (I think) that they have their passage booked on certain dates. I could be wrong, we’ll find out. I also have heard that commercial traffic gets bumped up the waiting list. Thus, the first of the fleet will get to the other side possibly days before the last. They are expected to arrive between 25th to 30th May. Race 12 starts on 2nd June (2022) from the Atlantic side.

In order to stick as far as possible to the schedule, it might be that they have to motor the last few miles (depending on the winds). If you look at the Race Viewer again but zoom into the Panama part, you’ll see five possible finish lines. (Green lines marked ‘mandatory finish gate’ 1 to 5). At each gate, the Skipper has to record the time and position and send it to the Clipper Office. If the race is finished early due to adverse winds, they will know when every boat passed the relevant gate and can work out the winners. Then of course we have a Scoring Gate and Ocean Sprint and a 24-hour period of Stealth. Plenty of excitement this month.

No one has played a Joker this time. Can we blame them? I think you should go and get a cup of tea or whatever restorative you drink and read this all again (more) slowly and see if it’s any more intelligible the second time.

Viking longboat cake

My Easter. I had visitors, my brother Miles, his wife Maz and their Labradoodle Frank. Plus, for one night only, the two E’s and three F’s from Spain. Plus, from Easter Saturday to Monday, George and Yangtze. I had a spreadsheet for food and beds! Did you know that if you forget you’ve put croissants in the bottom of an Aga and leave them overnight, you have created biscuits? (I guess the name tells it all, meaning twice cooked). This obviously did not happen when the youngsters were here, they’d not have let me get away with it. The following weekend, unbelievably, I attended the 30th birthday of my son! I’m sure it wasn’t that long ago he was asking me to make him a Viking boat for his sixth birthday.

Anyway, to mark this special occasion, I made a GEORGE cocktail, which necessitated me making orgeat syrup. Grind almonds and soak them in water for a few hours then filter and add some vodka as a preservative. For the cocktail, take quantities of (King’s) Ginger, Elderflower cordial, Orgeat syrup, Rum, Gin and Eau-de-Vie then top up with fizz. Initially I tried equal quantities of each but the ginger overwhelmed all other taste so we ended up with 1:2:1:2:2:1 quantities. The bottles were left on the side for anyone to add extra flavour if wished.

Reaction to first iteration

Having made the syrup, I decided to find other cocktails that use it: how about a Fog Cutter, Greenham’s Grotto or Japanese After Dinner. We tried the last one: 60 ml brandy, 15 ml orgeat and two dashes of bitters. Unfortunately, I used the cooking brandy so it tasted of raw spirit and was not that enjoyable. I’ll use a decent cognac next time. (What was left of it was used as a sink cleaner).

Mix as you wish. Other brands work too!

I read a book recently that makes me seem normal. It’s called White Spines: Confessions of a Book Collector. It started as a blog and it’s basically about a chap collecting Picador fiction books. There were about 1,000 printed in the 1970’s to 1990’s and they all have white spines, hence the book title. I hear you all saying he sounds JUST like me (or vice versa).

Here’s some we made earlier (not!)

Up to a Point, Lord Copper, I reply. (To quote Evelyn Waugh’s 1938 book Scoop). I do not collect different versions of the same Penguin. For example, the ones that were published for The Troops in WW2. I might have the odd one but that doesn’t mean I try to find the alternative that was not for the Troops, nor all the other books with Troop versions. Nor do I worry about new artwork on the cover. He does give some good hints on bookshops to try (assuming they still exist) for my missing books. I found myself looking up details I didn’t know, such as A and B format sizes. I just assumed that publishers chose a size at random. It certainly feels like that when I’m trying to organise my bookshelves. I suppose I should have applied a bit more thought, after all, we do have paper sizes that we all recognize. There are (at least) eleven book sizes from A6 (148 mm x 105 mm) to A4 (297 x 210). Most have better names: Demy, American Royal (surely a contradiction?), Crown Quarto and Pinched Crown Quarto, which is ‘up to’ a certain size.

I thought I had a lovely quote to use sometime, attributed to CS Lewis (of Narnia fame, who hasn’t read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe?). ‘You can’t go back and make a new start, but you can start right now and make a brand new ending’. On checking it out I found a whole website dedicated to debunking quotations that people say were from CS Lewis but aren’t. This website has 75 misquotes and there’s a book. The chap who wrote it (William O’Flaherty) has read all the books and screened all the quotes he can find. Another obsessive, I think. The book is on my list!

As today is JD’s birthday, here’s a shot of him enjoying a Chinese meal after he’d been to the Barber of Seattle.