79. There and Back Again

I thought I’d manage to travel to Subic Bay relatively lightly as I’d not been back in the UK for long. Ha! A request went out for “someone” to bring out gluten-free cereal bars for the long trip across the Pacific. How many “someones” were coming out from the UK? One! I bought a load then sorted them into GF, GF with chocolate (so eat first as they might melt) and not labelled well enough to tell. Plus some lemon and ginger tea bags in case they had run out too. I ended up, as usual, with a heavy case (but only one this time) of 27kg. It will be interesting to see what it weighs going back (assuming that I’m allowed out of The Philippines and into the UK. The coronavirus is keeping us all guessing what the different countries will do next).

Essential supplies for Unicef crew

As this was a race of only three to four days, it was not worth flying anywhere, so Becca and I (her husband is on WTC Logistics) decided to go and see a beach. About an hour’s drive, almost impossible to find as our local driver found out, is La Jolla at Bagac Bataan. Fairly new and still bedding in (cocktails start March 15th, we left 13th, rats) but so relaxing and perfect for self-isolating (see header photo, on my website page). We were almost the only guests there but it did not feel at all strange or threatening.

La Jolla Beach Bar

I should have mentioned that, in addition to the second place for Unicef in the last race, Danny Lee (one of the RTW crew on Unicef) won the Media Prize Pennant (green, I’m sure you’ll see it in some of my photos from now on if you look carefully). Danny’s prize winning crew diary (I think, all of his are worth reading to bring a smile to your face): https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/1120 oops no, I’ve checked, THIS is the pennant-winning one:

https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/995

I have discovered a huge advantage of my Kindle: you can enlarge the font size if sleepy and your eyes are tired to the extreme of about six words per page! Takes rather a long time to read a book, though it might come if useful if I have to self-quarantine. Maybe I should have hung onto those cereal bars. Back to crew diaries. Bruce’s crew diary mentions what JD gets up to during the day: (I don’t think it will be a huge surprise to those who know him) https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/1220 and a new crew diary from George: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/1260 but you’ll need to read Chris’s skipper reports of 12th and 13th to find out why their track looked a bit odd on the first side of the race and their reaction. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/team/qingdao/skipper-reports

La Jolla Infinity pool and hot tubs

Now we’re back in Subic Bay yacht club. The fleet are all due in tomorrow, I’m happy to say, and not just because I’ll see OBB. As this was such a short race and a hot one (the Pacific will be long, cold and wet), I was asked if I’d mind storing “a few things” that various crew of Qingdao and Unicef didn’t want to take this race but would need for the next. No problem, although as I had to move rooms the chap who moved me must have wondered what on earth I was planning next! It’s also difficult drawing the curtains.

Crew baggage

One final photo, this fruit was in our rooms for us on arrival at La Jolla. We hadn’t a clue what it was, I’ll leave you puzzling it out (if you don’t know) and try to remember to reveal the answer to you next time. It was incredibly aromatic and juicy but fibrous so not easy to eat.

Mystery fruit

78. Race 7 Results

Today the fleet set off on the second Subic Bay circular race (Race 8? The Clipper website is calling it Race 9, I must have fallen asleep) so you really do need the results of Race 7. Before we get to that, I thought I’d give you my cultural hits for this month. On my flights over I watched the whole of Gemini Man (about clones with Will Smith, young and old, which I’d started on the way home last time), Judy (about Judy Garland on her last UK tour in 1968, the year before she died, starring Renee Zellweger) and Blinded By the Light (featuring the music of Bruce Springsteen). All easy to watch so maybe not too cultural. I am finding that reading on a Kindle is not as enjoyable as a real book, so I’m not devouring books the way I normally do. I had been looking forward to some real culture during my seven weeks in China but thanks to the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak the nearest we made to it was drinking Tsingtao beer in the Chinese restaurant in the yacht club. In case you didn’t know, Qingdao is an alternative spelling for Tsingtao, China’s second largest brewery set up by German settlers in 1903. (I may have told you this earlier, my memory is not so good with all this time travel I’m doing).

At the Prize giving we all had great fun, beer balancing, swimming in the pool and dancing, both before and after swimming. I have lots of photos but I’m planning on using them as blackmail material when I fall down on my uppers (a saying which has something to do with being so poor that your shoes are worn out?) so I’ll only share this one. Very impressive when you consider they probably haven’t even lost their sea legs yet.

The next morning, we saw that someone had climbed the mast of Qingdao and placed an unusual item up there! If it’s not too clear in this photo: it’s a chair.

Before I tell you the results, I don’t think I mentioned the penalty points incurred on Leg 4, which were announced last week. IYK had two for sail damage, Unicef one for a lost sail and DTL one for winch damage.

Remember that this race had two Ocean Sprints (North and South) and boats had to opt for one of them. Qingdao and WTC Logistics were lucky in that they were the only two to opt for North. WTC scored three points and Qingdao two. The rest of the fleet opted for the South Sprint: PdE came first with three points, IYK second with two and Sanya third with one.

The pool where we had the prize giving

The race itself was cut short due to lack of wind. Two alternative finish lines were set before the official one and at some stage, when it looked as though few would get back in a reasonable time, one was chosen as the finish line and everyone could then motor in. The results were decided by where the boats were at a certain time (based on a photo they had to take of their Nav Station). Qingdao, Unicef and IYK had already passed the line so they were first, second and third. Sanya was very unlucky in that both IYK and PdE overtook them, so PdE was fourth, Sanya fifth, Zhuhai sixth, followed by DTL, GTB, HLB and Seattle.

There were two Scoring Gates, either side of the rhumb line. To my amazement, as already mentioned earlier in Post 76a, the first three boats went through one then the other, resulting in Qingdao getting six points, Unicef four and Sanya two. Great work from them.

Bye bye Unicef

Final total points: Qingdao 97, HLB 77, PdE 60, Sanya 56, Unicef 51, IYK 50, WTC and DTL both 42, Zhuhai 34, GTB 33 and Seattle 28. Qingdao have increased their lead but there are still seven races left (ah, this is Race 9 so that the numbers of the remaining ones stay as they were originally). Unicef have gone up from sixth to fifth but IYK are very close.

When they set off this morning, I noticed something else that had happened to Qingdao. In case you can’t spot it, compare the back of the boat (stern?) with that of Unicef above.

Bye bye Qingdao

The majority of the supporters and Clipper staff have left The Philippines to go back to normal life. There are three of us (that we know of) still here. Two of us (Becca and me) are going off to sit on a beach for a couple of days while this race is on. This is the view from my hotel room now.

Eleven empty berths

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!