77. Groundhog Day

Here we are again, happy as can be, back at Subic Bay Yacht Club. Before I update you on the plans, I forgot to mention the hotel Casino previously. In my mind’s eye there are elegant ladies sipping champagne and good looking lithe men in dinner jackets. The reality is subtly different:

We had a crew briefing a few days ago. The Covid-19 has put paid officially to both Qingdao and South Korea options that were suggested last time. Japan is not feasible due to the need for visas for different nationalities. This is a new Leg, so some people will have left the boats and more importantly new people will have joined. Some of these were on previous Legs but some have only been through the training weeks, so to send the boats straight off to Seattle was deemed too risky with crews that had not bedded in. Conclusion: another Subic Bay to Subic Bay race of around 750 nautical miles, but a different triangular route, due West then North then back to Subic Bay. I’ve not got a decent picture so instead here are OBB arriving. Compare their faces with when they set off for this race (blog post 76a).

There will be no Stealth or Scoring Gates as it’s such a short race, but each side of the triangle is an Ocean Sprint. Boats are allowed to “compete” in two of the three so could get an extra six points if they win both their Sprints. The declarations of who is competing in which will be needed (I think) six hours before this race starts. There will also be the usual race placings of 11 points down to one. No-one has played a Joker this race: they need to get a move on, there are only six races left before the whole Race is over in August!

I need to give you the results of the last Subic Bay to Subic Bay race but I don’t have my notes on me so I can only tell you the three podium positions: Qingdao then Unicef then Imagine Your Korea.

We have a “guest” Dawson here in the form of James Anderson. As he’s from Cullercoats not far from where JD grew up, we decided he’s allowed to join us!

Tomorrow I’ll do another post and let you have the full results. The fleet will be setting off early (JD has to be on board at 0830) so I’ll have plenty of time to sort out my notes. This week has been a bit complicated so we didn’t really do anything except eat in a different place each evening. Refer back to earlier posts for what Filipino restaurants are like. We did manage to find a couple of “European” style places (Urban Deli and Gourmet Garage) but were almost the only ones there both times. The meals come in the order we expect in Europe and portion sizes were more “normal”.

Urban Deli, our private restaurant

We also went to Coco Lime which is local food, great tasting but they did not warn us that the soup we had ordered served at least six each. Luckily two new Leggers on Unicef came along and helped out, although the vegetarian had difficulty as even vegetable dishes tend to have chicken or pork as routine ingredients. Is this where I mention a vegetarian friend we have who eats chicken “because they are too stupid to be animals”? We’ve not seen much of George but he’s yet to tell us of anything exciting to do. I think it’s a great place if you dive or snorkel or just want to sit in the sun and sizzle (temperatures of high 30s).

Coco Lime, two bowls of soup

More soon, TTFN!

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.

32. Sea Interludes

This post is a gallimaufry. No, nothing to do with Doctor Who’s home planet but a confused jumble of stuff. There, you can impress people with a new word today!

I’ve not managed to update the blog for a while, partly due to waiting for news to come in from the Clipper office and partly due to having a house full of different people at different times, including the three F’s who appear at the top of Post 2 way back in November last year. You can see them on the header here, if you go onto the website (not on the email). They have grown quite a bit in the interim!

So what’s been happening? Referring back to Post 30, we went and had our jabs, thankfully not as drastic as we thought. The very informative nurse we saw talked common sense into us: as we weren’t likely to be doing anything foolish (!) we could avoid having rabies, yellow fever etc etc. We came out having had just the normal boosters. The one proviso was if we were going to Brazil we would need yellow fever.

My new passport!

We found out last week that the first stop, on the way to Punta del Este in Uruguay, will be Portimao in Portugal. A nice short introduction to the race for MBB across the Bay of Biscay! It has affected the timings a little but as I’ve not got around to booking any flights or hotels that’s fine. The fleet arrival window here is 8 to 10 September, leaving for Uruguay on 15 September and they are now due into Punta del Este between 12 to 16 October. All other timings are (as yet) unchanged. I’ll do a review when we have more dates (we are expecting more announcements later this week).

The Level 4 week training started recently, where the actual 70 footers race against each other, in a small version of what they will be doing in September. George has yet to do his (due to the holiday in Japan and Vietnam) but John had his in early June, on the second week of Level 4. He clocked up 626 hours, with 46 hours night sailing. His attempt to grow a beard this week was not too successful, but maybe a year at sea will help.

A grizzled sea dog!

The results are very unofficial and do not get published, BUT we know that Qingdao beat Unicef in the first week. I was using VesselFinder to track them which means little else gets done. It’s great fun to see them racing when they are all in a line. You can track any boat, not just the Clippers, here’s the link: https://www.vesselfinder.com/

VesselFinder screen

Soon after that we had the Isle of Wight Round-The-Island race. Maybe not quite as tough as round the world. The Clipper yachts had been chartered out, they were in their own class, only three finished (due to lack of wind) but we had Unicef (CV31) first and Qingdao (CV30) second! Even though our teams were not crewing, the Skippers and AQPs were on board so it’s a real coup for the two boats we’ll be supporting. Once again we were all tracking them. Other systems are available and all are pretty similar, but here CV31 (Unicef) is the orange track, I think I need this system instead of the one above, much prettier! Once we start to race the official Clipper one will be the one to watch though, no other vessels interfering with the view.

Round The Island Race 2019

Also in the last few weeks John has officially left Alliance altogether, resigning from his post of Non-Executive Director. He had (yet another) farewell party and a few sailing-related presents.

Says it all!

Back to Clipper. Another two sponsors have been announced, WTC Logistics and ChartCo. World Trade Connections (WTC) Logistics are also a team partner, sponsoring a boat (Team Mark, CV23) as well as providing the shipping for all the equipment that needs to be taken to each port for the fleet. Important things like the pennants they win for coming first, second and third for example. As soon as I have a picture of their wrap I’ll post it. ChartCo is an official supplier, so they don’t have a boat. They are supplying the charts, piloting books and any other technical navigation documents needed.

Seattle (CV22, Team Ben) has been wrapped and she is quite different from the last race. She has an “ocean health” theme with Orca whales leaping around. You can see her being wrapped here: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/seattle-ocean-health-themed-branding-revealed

Finally, you’re not getting away without me mentioning the HATS! Having knitted lots for Unicef I felt I’d best pay some attention to Qingdao supporters. All the boats have a target of £33,000 to raise for Unicef (the official Clipper charity). John’s team are doing very well and are likely to reach that before they sail. Qingdao are a bit slower off the blocks, languishing in last place.

Qingdao colours

George donated £10 for the hat then took it to his team building event last weekend where it attracted much admiration. The upshot was it became an auction item and raised a further £60! Following on from that, there’s a raffle for a second one and other supporters are knitting. When we get to any port we’ll recognise each other (assuming the crew let us supporters wear them as well). Back to my needles…

Meanwhile, in 54 days and 5 hours they will be off!

28. China In Your Hand

George is on the Qingdao boat. Here they are coming into Liverpool last year, when they were placed third overall with 135 points (the winner, Sanya Serenity Coast, had 143).

Liverpool 2018

I have to start with George as he signed up before John, so I’m not showing favouritism. George was also the fourth name to be called out on Crew Allocation Day so he’s first there too. Do we already have competition? I know his boat would like to improve on their podium position of last time so there’s only one way John’s Unicef boat can beat them!

George is on one of the three Chinese boats (Qingdao, Zhihai and Sanya, more on the other two and on the destinations in future posts). Hence the comment about learning Mandarin last time. See post 05, we’ve already got two Mandarin phrase books so I need to start too. The crew of each of these three boats will include 16 Chinese members, chosen by the host ports after their training weeks. Qingdao has been involved with Clipper for 16 years and Zhuhai is making its debut this year. The current Clipper yachts were all built at Qingdao.

I am a bit concerned that George may do a Jeremy Hunt as he (George) is holidaying in Japan at the moment.

Mount Fuji from the Shinkansen bullet train

For those of you who’ve not heard of him, Jeremy Hunt is a British politician who is currently one of the 12 people (at time of typing) hoping to be the next UK Prime Minister. In 2018, when Foreign Secretary, when visiting Beijing, he said his wife was Japanese. She’s actually Chinese! His excuse was that he’d been speaking Japanese at the time. See the BBC link if you’re really interested: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-45004765

On the Qingdao boat there are 63 crew listed, 45 male and 18 female, aged from 23 to 72 years old. There are nine circumnavigators. They represent ten nations but I can only find British, Australian, Canadian, American, Irish (our George), Swedish and of course Chinese. They flew over for the Crew Allocation Day and are spending four weeks over here doing their Clipper training back-to-back. George tells me that not all will be sailing (this time) as there aren’t enough places on the yacht. Here some of them they are on May 11th at the end of allocation.

Qingdao hopeful crew members

The skipper on Qingdao is Chris Brooks, a 33 year old Brit with 26 years’ experience racing yachts. He’s been sailing since he was seven years old. The AQP (First Mate) is Rhiannon Massey, a 23 year old Brit who also started sailing when she was seven and has represented GB at the International Olympic class level. Doesn’t sound like it will be too competitive a boat then!

The RTW’ers all have a job to do and George seems to have picked up the Social Secretary role. As well as organising the Team Building weekend in July this seems to entail making sure everyone is entertained when they are in port. I’m looking forward to trying beers from every country we visit. Or wine, as I think nearly all the places are wine-producing regions. Good planning by someone at Clipper.

Their official colours are red and gold, as you can see from the first picture above. As it’s not too clear in the picture, here’s another one of the lovely looking dragon on the hull. Or is it meant to be looking very fierce and frightening the opposition?

Qingdao 2019-20

I’m busy knitting hats for the Unicef supporters at the moment so I hope at least one supporter for the Qingdao boat is a keen knitter, or else you’ll get no more updates from me for a while. When I started it was a bit like Goldilocks, the first hat was too dull, the second one too green and the third just right!

Too dull, too green, just right?

However, it may be apparent from the photo that the bright blue one is rather small. I made a mistake on the length so it was only the fourth one that was suitable for the supporters.

The plan is that we have matching hats so that we can recognise each other at each port, and also the crew coming in can see us and feel cheered that someone has come to see them arrive! So we all need the same colour more-or-less. On last year’s Qingdao a different type of hat altogether was worn, as you can see on the right-hand-side here.

I’m not knitting one of those!

If you want more in-depth details of the Qingdao crew then here’s the link to the Clipper website page. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/team/qingdao/race-skipper If you do check the website, you’ll see a red line at the bottom which is counting down the days, hours, minutes and SECONDS to the race start. Only just over 93 days to go!

Next time, John’s crew mates. And maybe more hats!!