82. Race 8 and 9 Results

There was no Race 8, it was combined with Race 7, but I don’t want anyone (including me in months to come) thinking I’ve missed something out. There are some random pictures from Subic Bay here. The header is Romeo calling Juliet, early one morning. I was too asleep to get the zoom to work so JD is tiny! The next few Posts will be rather limited I suspect, make the most of seeing these exotic shots.

Race 9 was Subic Bay to Subic Bay Number 2. As well as the main race, there were three Ocean Sprints along the triangular course with each boat being allowed to enter two of the three. There were no Scoring Gates and no Stealth mode. As you may have read, the race was stopped early due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control. In addition, there was no prize giving or party (except on the boats stranded behind the gate during quarantine). Is it coincidence that this was also the only race where there was not a Dawson on the podium?

The last few Ocean Sprints have been announced during the prize giving ceremony. It has been pointed out by an eagle-eyed reader that I transposed the North and South Ocean Sprints from the last race (Race 7/8). The results stand but Qingdao and WTC entered the South and the rest of the fleet the North Sprint. This is what happens when your husband comes home unexpectedly and actually reads something you wrote. In addition, I have been informed that I need to give better links to my previous Posts when I refer back. As I’m under house arrest for a few weeks or months I might find time to do this. If you get update emails you can ignore them, this is all I’m doing (and possibly correcting typos).

Unicef arriving for the last time

This time, for Race 9, the Ocean Sprint results went out on the Clipper website after we had all flown home. Assuming I don’t get these muddled, the results were as follows. Ocean Sprint 1 was entered by eight boats, namely Seattle, Punta del Este (PdE), Ha Long Bay (HLB), Dare to Lead (DTL), Sanya, Qingdao, Unicef and Zhuhai. The winners were PdE three points for being the fastest, DTL two and Qingdao one.

Qingdao ditto

Ocean Sprint 2 was entered by seven boats: Imagine Your Korea (IYK), GoToBermuda (GTB), Seattle, WTC Logistics, HLB, DTL and Zhuhai. The winners were HLB (three points), GTB (two points) and Seattle (one point).

You should be able to work out who entered Ocean Sprint 3 from the names above but I’ll save you the brain work, we all have enough to ponder these days (where will I find the next toilet roll seeming to be the main issue of the day). Seven entries: IYK, GTB. WTC, PdE, Sanya, Qingdao and Unicef. Winners: IYK three points, Qingdao two points and PdE one point.

Managed to get the zoom working for George!

Adding all of these up we have seven boats gaining bonus points: PdE four, HLB, IYK and Qingdao three each, GTB and DTL two each and Seattle one point.

Now to the overall race: HLB were first over the line and scored eleven points, PdE second with ten, Sanya third with nine, Seattle fourth with eight, Unicef fifth with seven, Zhuhai sixth with six, WTC seventh with five, GTB eighth with four, DTL ninth with three, Qingdao tenth with two and IYK eleventh with one. Interestingly, for the last two races, the last over the line was first the time before. Relaxing too much? Also of interest was Qingdao, who not only missed a Mark and had to go back (see Post 80 dated 16th March 2020), but also misread the new finish line and so cruised over the correct one in the penultimate position.

Final meal in Subic Bay (thankfully)

To the final results for this year. There is a possibility of penalty points being issued for Legs 5 and 6 but what we know is that Qingdao are still at the top of the table with 102 points, HLB second with 91, PdE third with 74, Sanya fourth with 65, Unicef still fifth with 58, then IYK with 54, WTC and DTL both with 47, Zhuhai with 40, GTB with 39 and Seattle with 37.

Seen outside a church!

Next time: who knows? Nothing to do with boats I think but I do need to keep myself occupied. Maybe I’ll start spouting controversial opinions? Sharing my knitting patterns? Become an entertainment critic? Or just carry on as normal.

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

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!

76. Subic BayWatch

Let me rephrase my question from the earlier Post: if it were your husband / wife, would you go back to Subic Bay? Aha, you’re thinking differently now, aren’t you? As far as I can see, coronavirus (CV, like the fleet!) is now widespread across the globe. I was thinking of visiting a pal in Switzerland but they’ve got cases. The hospital across the river from me had all the London cases. Where is safe?

Well, when I look at the Race Viewer, it seems that Qingdao and Unicef both have a good chance of getting on the podium, so I’ve booked to go back in time for the prize giving on March 4th. Not that I wish to jinx them but if neither are on the podium blame me! Of course, the day before booking I’d gone out and bought a load of fresh food, so I’m now creating day bags for myself so that everything is eaten before I go.

Post 75 detailed some of the reasons not to go. I forgot to tell you about the wine. You all know how much I enjoy wine. Well, the choice in Subic Bay was red or white. If you were lucky, there was also premium red or white (although that never actually seemed to be in stock). There were some good times there though: Ha Long Bay (HLB) organised a pub quiz in aid of Unicef (the organisation not the boat, silly. Just because they were last didn’t mean they were a charity case!). Our team was very diverse: one supporter (me), one Qingdao crew (George), two Unicef crew (JD and Bruce) and two Clipper office staff (Sarah and Karla). If I tell you that the only round where we got full marks (thankfully) was “identify the member of the Clipper office from the photo” you’ll know we didn’t come near the top. (I really must have a lesson on how to take selfies, or get a wretched selfie-stick).

Dawson’s Clique team

We went into Olangapo, the main town attached to Subic Bay, to see a bit of SE Asia. They have buses (sort of) called Jeepneys which you’ll be familiar with if you’ve been on holiday there. I hadn’t so found them fun (to look at, I wasn’t going to risk using one). There’s one below somewhere. There were some lovely old buildings but in general the whole place was pretty rundown. In this picture you can see the electricity cables, all tangled up in one big mess.

An American we met in Airlie Beach told us not to go to Subic Bay, saying he’d worked there and it was like the Wild West. We didn’t really believe him, but then I saw this shack. Hmmm, maybe he had a point.

In my last Blog Post I mentioned Manuela, donated to HLB for their Nav Station. Before they set sail Josh very sheepishly confessed she’d not lasted the course: see his skipper blog of 26 February for more details. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/ha-long-bay-viet-nam/race7-day3-team43

Here’s a race update before I forget what this is all about. No-one played their Joker. I forgot to say there is no stealth, so keep watching Race Viewer to see how they are doing. Although it’s not much cop this race, partly because it’s a loop and partly because all the hills and islands interfere with the signal that’s beamed back to the office. Ignore the DTF (distance to finish) and look at the pretty picture at the top of the screen with the colourful counters. Regardless of the table below the picture, it does look as though our two (red Qingdao and mid-blue Unicef) are in the lead. I think the system is not able to distinguish whether they are heading out or back. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings

As this race is a loop, it does not count towards the circumnavigation so some RTWers have taken the opportunity to have medical issues checked out or to go and visit family where they’ve not seen them since the start of the race. To compete with my Unidao / Qingcef tee shirts, this race we have “Unizhu del Puhai Logistics“: Zhuhai has two crew borrowed from Punta, one from Unicef and one from WTC. GoToBermuda has two from Imagine Your Korea but have not (yet?) rebranded themselves “Imagine You’re Going to Bermuda” or “Go Imagine”. In the Ocean Sprint, Qingdao and WTC Logistics opted for the South sprint (heading south back to Subic Bay) but the other nine are all going for the North sprint (heading away from Subic Bay). Thus both WTC and Qingdao are guaranteed bonus points in this race. The rest will have to battle it out as usual. In contrast to the lean mean machines that are the Clipper yachts, the Philippines has bikes with side attachments that are used to transport the whole family or goods for the market. Here’s one.

All of this is on the bike!

74. Race 6 Results

I arrived on St Valentine’s Day in the late afternoon. Six boats had beaten me here: in order, WTC Logistics, Qingdao, Ha Long Bay Viet Nam (HLB), Sanya, Imagine Your Korea (IYK) and Punta del Este (PdE). So once again I was unable to wave George in. Once again, after Christmas, New Year and my birthday, JD missed a special day! The race was an odd one with lots of wind holes and great difficulty predicting timings.

The hotel I had booked into was on the coast. It was adequate, the room was small with a tiny balcony that overlooked the sea if you could see through the bamboos growing outside. The aircon was so noisy you could not sleep, but if you turned it off it was too hot to sleep (and the disco next door was suddenly very noisy). However, a night there revealed ants in the room by the bedhead. Well, some very small insects which I think were ants but I’d left my pocket microscope behind. Then I went down to breakfast. We were given a scrap of paper with various options to tick. As the waitress spoke English I guess it was to make life easy for the chef. Being unadventurous I chose ham, scrambled eggs, toast and hot chocolate. The toast was that sweet bread that clings to your teeth, the ham was like no ham I have ever seen and the hot chocolate was more water than anything else.

Unicef arriving

Unicef were due in (last estimate) between midnight and three am Sunday so I repaired to the Yacht Club about ten on Saturday night for a late supper and a wait. If you’re reading this on the website you’ll see my manic face at about three in the morning. They sailed into view about 2.30 am, unfortunately eleventh as GoToBermuda (GTB) had overtaken them in the last few hours. We went for the obligatory beer and managed to find a burger at about 3.30 am then took a taxi back to the hotel and crashed at about 6 am for three hours’ sleep before JD had to be back on the boat at 9 am. There was a team briefing for everyone, including we happy few, we band of 15 supporters, telling us the plan for after they leave here. I’ll give that in the next blog post. By lunchtime, when I next had the chance to talk with JD, he’d decided that he could not stay in that hotel and had found a room at the Yacht Club. A huge suite with decent aircon, two double beds and a sofa, a table to work at and a little balcony. No WiFi in the first room so they moved us next door where the router was and the WiFI works. No view of the sea but a small objection against the two minute walk to the boat. George also moved out of the original hotel to an apartment where other crew were staying.

Yacht Club room with JD in the far distance!

BUT the title of this post is Race 6 results so that’s what I’ll tell you about. The prize giving was on Monday 17th at the yacht club outside in the sun. There was a great reggae band which consisted of local high school kids. The results of the Ocean Sprint were announced: Dare To Lead (DTL) fastest with three points, PdE second with two points and Qingdao third with one point. In terms of the race, WTC have eleven points for coming first, Qingdao ten, HLB nine, Sanya eight, IYK seven, PdE six, DTL five, Seattle four, Zhuhai three, GTB two and our own Unicef one. Add in the Scoring Gate (HLB first, WTC second and DTL third) and we get overall positions of Qingdao first with 78 points (eleven this race), HLB second with 74 points (12 this race), PdE third 49 (eight), Sanya fourth 46 (also eight), IYK up to fifth with 41 (seven), joint sixth with 38 points are WTC (thirteen this race), DTL (nine) and Unicef (one), ninth GTB with 29 (two), tenth Zhuhai (three) and eleventh Seattle 26 (three). Still very close and all to play for in the remaining races.

Reggae band

Tomorrow (possibly) I’ll let you into the new plans made by Clipper and how it affects me and MBB. I’m still unsure what I will be doing but I guess if I give you my options we could put it to the popular vote (no London McLondonfaces or China McChinafaces though please!).

Prize giving

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.

67. Another Day of Sun

So here I am in Airlie Beach. As I’ve been too lazy to post for a while, here’s a whistle-stop tour of the rest of our stay in Sydney.

A good thing to do in a new city is to ride the hop-on, hop-off bus. You see the sights, get a feeling for the geography, know how to find the places that sound interesting and end up where you started so you can’t get lost. Unless, of course, the bus is so full that you might as well be on a rush-hour London tube. In which case you cannot hear the commentary and you can’t see the buildings around you. We had planned to get off at the Powerhouse Museum purely because it was the first stop that had a cafe and we had skipped breakfast. We are so glad we did, after sustenance we went into the museum (which is being closed and / or moved to a less convenient location). It was free and full of good design icons, including the first train in Australia (Train Number One).

There was an exhibition of fashion by Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson. I feel embarrassed to confess I’d not heard of them as they had such an influence in the 1970’s and I have a number of knitting patterns that were obviously inspired by them. They had been based in the UK for a while and as well as knitted garments had the most awe-inspiring dresses. We actually went around twice, partly because my camera had decided not to take photos but also because we could. If you are in Sydney before March 22nd (when the exhibition ends) then go.

Back on the bus, we eventually managed to get a seat and plug in our earphones. Despite this being January 2020 and thus after Christmas, the sound track, when we were not being told about stuff (mostly how new luxury apartments were being built in previously run-down areas), was CHRISTMAS MUSIC! AAARGH!

Moving on. We had some great meals, Intermezzo in the GPO building, Cafe Sydney in the Customs House (still in use) and Gowings restaurant in the old Gowings Department store (a lovely old Art Deco place) to name a few. It seems that most of the restaurants are in buildings that previously had another function. Not just the restaurants either: the Conservatoire of Music was originally built as stables. I know this from reading Mrs. M by Luke Slattery, a novel based (loosely) on the life of Elizabeth MacQuarie, the wife of Lachlan MacQuarie, the last Governor of New South Wales. There’s a stone “seat” in the Royal Botanic Garden that she sat on to look at the view. Val is recreating the scene below. A good read if you’re looking for a new book to while away a few hours. It was recommended by Fiona, who will be sailing on Punta del Este.

We met Fiona at the Art Gallery of NSW and saw a small exhibition of paintings by Ben Quilty, a local artist who had been to Afghanistan as a war artist. His art was incredibly powerful, not just the war veterans he painted after they had returned but also his Rorschach paintings depicting local atrocities. Although the inspiration for these was of disturbing episodes in Australia’s past, the artwork itself was stunning.

Ben Quilty

Having been to the Opera on New Year’s Eve, we decided to have a tour of the Opera House. Very interesting even though we did not do the back stage tour. Our guide Peter turned out to have been one of the architects involved in the building when he had just qualified. You can’t get much closer than that, on a par maybe with being shown around Robben Island in Cape Town by one of the former political prisoners. We then walked around The Rocks, which had been an area of ill-repute in the past and saw the Ovation of The Seas, the largest cruise ship that visits Sydney. it can take around 5,000 passengers and looks at first glimpse like a block of flats.

We donated some funds to the NSW Firefighters, all volunteers and working in almost impossible conditions, and felt lucky that we had not suffered any ill effects whilst in Sydney. We are blown away by the number of shops in the CBD, there’s a veritable underground city of them. You go down one escalator, wander around, come up another and have no clue how you ended up where you are. The bookshop where I bought Mrs. M fills a whole floor of one part. On our last night we ventured out of the city to have dinner at Coogee.

Sydney artwork

The next day we said our farewell to the city and flew up to Proserpine for transfer to Airlie Beach. On arrival there was a smattering of raindrops but nothing since. It is such a relaxing place we’ve done very little: walked to the marina to work out where the fleet will come in, done our laundry and bought a few snacks for when John and George arrive, met a few other Clipper people and mooched around generally.

The Opposition: Punta del Este supporters and Fiona

It’s now Friday in Australia, my birthday, and NEITHER of my boats are here, due in Saturday or Sunday. We won’t know the Ocean Sprint results until prize giving (Sunday) so I don’t think I’ve any sailing news. The various boats have gone into Stealth, wallowed in wind holes, turned around and confused us all with their movements.