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!

65. Race 4 Results

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.

George and Cheryl waiting for Unicef

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.

61. Confused? You Will Be!

Almost as soon as Post 60 went out, the decision on the Sanya / Punta collision was published on the Clipper website. Sanya has been found in clear breach of the rules “On Opposite Tacks”. You’ll have to find an expert sailor to explain it to you, but as a consequence Sanya are disqualified from Race 4 and will have zero points. They can also not gain any points from the Scoring Gate (which they obviously wouldn’t anyway as the first three yachts will be through before Sanya and Punta have even left Cape Town) nor the Ocean Sprint.

The Santa Boat? Unicef leaving Cape Town (CT)

Punta, on the other hand, has been given redress and awarded 9 points in the race, based on their performance to date in the first three races (including Scoring Gate, Ocean Sprint and final Race positions). They could also gain points from the Ocean Sprint if they are one of the three fastest times. We won’t know that for quite a while.

Clipper pennants on our spectator boat in CT

Once all repairs are finished they will race against each other to Fremantle, not against the rest of the fleet. There is an unique Clipper Race match racing trophy which will be presented to the winner of this two-boat race. This does seem odd to me, disqualify someone then say but you might win a special cup. If they require repairs to sails or equipment, the normal penalties will apply. They are expected to leave Cape Town by 29th November, based on the way the repairs are progressing. They had a practice sail on 24th November to get them all back in the swing of things. They should arrive in Fremantle just in time to join Leg 4, Race 5.

Last view of the fleet leaving CT

Back at Unicef, trundling towards Durban to drop off Andrew Toms and his suspect appendix. It had been thought they’d get there on Sunday 24th but it is today, Tuesday 26th, due to the winds not being very helpful. They can’t motor all the way as they’d not have enough fuel and they can’t medevac him until closer to shore. The poor chap only joined for this Leg so “The Race of Your Life” has gone terribly wrong for him. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/unicef/race4-day8-team48

It’s painful looking at Race Viewer this race, what with John headed in the wrong direction, in addition to the two stuck at Cape Town. By the end of this week all three of them should be headed towards Fremantle but they’re not going to have much turn-around time before Race 5. I don’t know what happens to Unicef in terms of points either. Someone said they won’t get any redress, that only happens if they have to divert for the Skipper. That seems very unfair and could in theory encourage a crew member to downplay any illness.

The Race Committee can, “at their discretion”, award points they think are appropriate. The Rules say that time spent on any diversion will normally count as time spent racing and that redress is not awarded for medical evacuations. I guess this means Unicef will have only two or three points for coming near the end: we don”t know if the nine points awarded to Punta means they are in third place or if someone else will be third (that is, two boats receive nine points). All very confusing. Punta will not be in Fremantle in time for the prizegiving so I think they cannot be considered to have third place. We’ll find out on December 14th at the prizegiving.

Donna with the compass (see Post 54)

Dare to Lead have had a freezer failure so all fresh food that they could not eat in time went overboard. Happy sharks! GoToBermuda’s generator broke down. Qingdao’s water maker (gives them fresh water) broke down. Nearly all the boats seem to be having to do major sail repairs. At least two have had problems with their wind instruments, meaning night time sailing is difficult. They are all putting safety before all-out racing. I’ve not heard anything from John, although he’s had a couple of mentions in the Skipper reports and crew diaries, so he’s still on board! George did another crew diary on 25th November which you can find here https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/637

So at the moment this race is doom and gloom, and as London is cold and grey there’s not much cheer here. Well that’s not true, I’m having a busy and fun time. I’ll tell you about it soon.

The Scoring Gate results are in. Here we have good news. Qingdao 1st across (three points so a total of 51), Ha Long Bay (HLB) second (two points, not doubled as the Joker only applies to the main race, giving a total of 31 ) and Imagine Your Korea (IYK) third (one point to bring them up to 13). It was very close between IYK and Zhuhai for the last two days but then Zhuhai hit a wind hole and slowed down. The shot below from Race Viewer shows how close they were, with the blue line being the Scoring Gate. In fact, on Nick’s Skipper report he says Qingdao radio’d and asked if they had a problem as they seemed to have come to a complete stop. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/zhuhai/race4-day9-team45

The race for third position

With the Ocean Sprint offering another three points and the Joker allowing HLB to get 22 if they win, it’s not guaranteed that Qingdao will be top of the pack in Fremantle, although they’ll have to be incredibly unlucky in the next fortnight. Stay tuned!

I think this applies to all of us!

46. Race 1 Results

Back in Post 18, as long ago as March, I tried to explain the rules to you and probably caused great confusion. Now that we’re off, let me do it again with results. If you want more technical details, the Clipper website has Course Instructions for each race which gives reasons for infringements (things they must not do), exact start and finish, times and positions etc. I don’t know if it’s there throughout the year for all the races or gets taken down once a race has finished. The photos here are from my phone as I forgot the connector for the SD card to my computer. Better ones later I hope. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/course-instructions

Race 1 set off from Southend, Essex, UK at 10.00 on Monday 2nd September 2019. The race went to Portimao on the Algarve in Portugal. The arrival window was estimated to be 8th to 10th September, that is the time between the fastest and slowest was possibly up to two days. Every team has one Joker that they can play once in the whole year and it will double their points. The first team to finish the race gets 11 points, the next 10, down to the last boat in getting 1 point. You can see that they’ll play the Joker when they think they have a good chance of winning. No one played their Joker this time, not surprisingly as they’re still learning about the boat and each other.

To add more excitement to what is an already exciting event, there are two other possibilities to score points. The first is the Scoring Gate, an imaginary line in the ocean through which they may pass. The first three (and only the first three) collect three, two and one point respectively. It means a diversion from the straight route they should be taking to come in first at the end of the race so is often used either by boats lagging a bit behind wanting to pick up three extra points or by the leaders if they are so far ahead they think they can do this and still come in on the podium (1st, 2nd or 3rd).

The very first Scoring Gate was into the Bay of Biscay on 5th September and caused a great deal of angst for us Watchers. If you go onto Race Viewer (assuming this is before the next race starts on 15th September) you can replay the course the yachts took by pressing the back button (an arrow going anticlockwise) just below the map. This shows Zhuhai, lying in 6th, be the first to make a break for it. We then see quite a few of the others, including Unicef and Qingdao, do the same before Unicef turns back on course. This could be because they realised they were not going to be in the first three, or because they wanted to steal a march on the rest of the fleet by getting a greater lead. This proved to be the correct decision as they went into the lead with a good margin. Those of us addicts watching the Scoring Gate saw Qingdao (George) go for it but it looked as though they had missed it and scored nul points and also lost their place in the main race. Thankfully, the Race Viewer is not accurate enough to allow exact positioning and they were first through. The Skipper has to record the time and email it to the Clipper Office and also take a photo of their GPS which can be checked at the next port if there’s a dispute.

The very first points of the race to Qingdao!! Three points in the lead!

The next excitement is the Ocean Sprint. This is (again) two imaginary lines in the ocean, for Race 1 roughly from Finisterre in Spain to Coimbra in Portugal (43N to 40N for those who are techies). This is the fastest boat of all eleven so we’re never absolutely sure who wins the three, two or one point until they’re all through. For this race it was Punta del Este in 15 hours, 2 minutes and 26 seconds, then Ha Long Bay in 15 hours, 51 minutes and 54 seconds followed by Zhuhai in 15 hours and 53 minutes. A long sprint! This is all very precise; the skipper takes a photo of their position and time at both ends and sends it to the Clipper office. George says they were four minutes slower than Zhuhai so next time…The first few boats were slower than the ones at the back as the winds changed and improved, so there’s luck as well as skill involved. As we saw at the end of the race.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston greets every boat as they come in

For much of the last two days it was Qindao and Unicef at the front with GoToBermuda third and all the other boats a long way behind. Once around the corner towards the Algarve, the wind dropped and the rest of the fleet caught up with them. We waited and waited, their estimated arrival times going back and back from mid afternoon to early evening to late evening. We’d planned to walk to the end of the breakwater and wave them in but not in the dark! Six of us got together and had a meal then went back to one of the apartments and polished off the Cava bought to celebrate a safe arrival of one of the boats. At midnight we decided to call it a night, they could be another 24 hours for all we could tell. About half an hour later Punta del Este was the first boat in with Dare to Lead second and Qingdao third at about half three. Unicef was sixth just after 6 am and GoToBermuda ninth. Seattle came in mid morning and WTC Logistics the last boat at about 3 pm Monday afternoon. I missed Qingdao as I was asleep (as was George, I found out later,waking up for the actual arrival then going back to bed!) and we didn’t get an alert from the Live Facebook page. We were on the dock in time to see Unicef arrive. They had a celebratory beer then moved the boat to the marina mooring they’d been allocated. Each boat has a different regimen. Qingdao left their deep clean for the next day but Unicef did it immediately. Thus I was able to have lunch with George but John wasn’t free until after two o’clock, by which time he was falling asleep on his feet. He did shave the beard off though!

Beer and a smile

Enough verbiage, what are the results? In first we have Punta del Este with a total of 14 points (eleven from winning the race plus three for the Ocean Sprint), second Qingdao (ten points plus three for the Scoring Gate), joint third Dare to Lead and Zhuhai with ten points, fifth Sanya with nine, joint sixth Unicef and Ha Long Bay with six, eighth Imagine Your Korea with three, ninth GoToBermuda with three, tenth Seattle with two and last WTC Logistics with one. All can change though in the next race to Punta del Este in Uruguay!

The reception area with beer and chorizo hot dogs

18. Rules of Engagement

A little more on the actual race itself. The first pic below gives some detail which I shall attempt to flesh out. Before I do, I was asked if the last (proper) post should have been “kinky boats”, a pun I missed, so here at the top is a kinky boat from Liverpool!

The Race is divided into different legs, each having a race or two within it. Each race has three placings but every boat gets points in each race, so the overall winner has the most points over the whole Round The World. Clear? I’m sure there’s an easier way to describe it.

Once the race is underway it’ll be easy to see how the individual yachts are getting on by signing up to the Race Viewer on the Clipper website (link to follow once it’s active).

In addition to the details above, there are Scoring Gates, an imaginary “gate” in the sea through which the first three yachts get bonus points. There are also Ocean Sprints between two lines of latitude or longitude which again give points to the fastest. Some Skippers may ignore these if they think they can win an overall individual race by taking a different route, although there are also limits to how far South they can go (for safety).

Which is the quickest route?

AND THEN there is stealth mode, when you can “hide” from the other yachts (and us the supporters) for 24 hours if you think you might have an advantage in taking a particular route. The office will still be tracking the boat in case of difficulties so no need to panic if they disappear off the screen. Oh, and each team also has a Joker which they play once in the whole Race, scoring double points. This cannot be used on the Scoring Gates or Ocean Sprints: realistically you’d want to use it when you hope to double your first place of eleven points.

This all sounds very complicated but once they’re underway it’s pretty easy to follow, honestly. You may wonder why they don’t all follow the same “path”. Weather, my dear! Although all the boats are identical, the Skipper may think that there’s a better breeze (wind? tempest? whatever the weather throws up) coming along and try to take advantage of this by trimming the sails differently or taking a different more Northerly or Southerly route. Once you start watching them on the Race Viewer you’ll see that sometimes one goes way off course. He’s not lost, just trying to pick up a different sea current.

You’re now asking me what you win. Well, each race has a pennant for first, second and third:

Race winner Derry / Londonderry to Liverpool

As well as the first, second and third for each race, the sponsors may give a pennant. Here is last year’s Liverpool Team getting one for being good eggs (can’t remember exactly what they did, most sponsorship or something? Saving other people when their boat was sinking?) Just looked on the Clipper website, it doesn’t say exactly why they received it only that they would have been nominated by lots of people.

I’m not sure how much of this stuff is for the individuals but on the final race Team Seattle all had individual pennants for their second place win. Here’s a delighted recipient. I need to clear a space on the office walls for all the ones John is planning to bring home.

Finally, the winning yacht gets a big trophy. Here’s Wendy Tuck and Sanya Serenity Coast winning last year, with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston on the right.

Clipper Round The World victors

All of this takes a massive amount of organising and they have a lot of coverage once they are out there. Last year there were about 30,000 stories in the various media that we have these days. Each boat has someone responsible for media; they’re given a waterproof camera, filming diaries and a daily blog on the team pages. At the end of the Race all the crew get the diaries, photos etc. You’ll be glad you’ve got me summarising it all for you once they set off this summer!