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

70. Leg 5

I’ve not mentioned much about this Leg, over 6,000 nautical miles (nm), so here’s a brief rundown to keep you up to date (possibly). Contrast this with Unicef’s Leg 3 from Cape Town to Fremantle, with the detour to Durban, of around 7,000nm and five weeks at sea (as their alternative 12 Days of Christmas has it). Yet more Christmas music! I don’t think I’ve given you the link to John’s crew diary with all the words, you can find it in the list below, number 773. If you’re feeling brave you can listen to them “singing” on arrival into Fremantle last month here

Leg 5 (also known as The Asia-Pacific Challenge) consists of three races from Airlie Beach to Zhuhai: first to Sanya (Race 6, about 4100nm or roughly 3 weeks), to Subic Bay (Race 7, a short one of 750 nm taking 4 to 5 days) and then to Zhuhai (Race 7, an even shorter one of 650nm or 3 to 4 days). They (should have) started on 18th January but were delayed (see Post 69) and and have arrival windows of 10 to 15 February for Sanya, 25 to 26 February for Subic Bay and 2 to 3 March for Zhuhai. The first race involves going through The Doldrums (see Post 48 from September). As before, they are allowed to motor for a set amount of time due to the lack of wind, here it’s no more than 36 hours and 4 degrees latitude.

The yachts have between 14 crew (GoToBermuda) and 20 crew (Qingdao and Dare To Lead) on them, with the male:female ratio being close to 50:50 on Seattle and Punta del Este. Zhuhai lost skipper Nick in Airlie Beach and now have the first female Skipper, Wendy Tuck, who won the last Race in 2017/18 and will be with them until Qingdao. This is the fourth boat of the fleet to change skipper, with Seattle, Imagine Your Korea and WTC Logistics all having replacements along the way.

All lined up for Le Mans start

There are a few more crew diaries from OBB so in no particular order here they all are from the beginning in case you missed them, first George then John.

https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/206 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/381 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/545 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/637 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/776 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/955

https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/294 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/759 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/698 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/773 https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/920

In George’s last crew diary he refers to an incident his dad had. I can reveal here that John, aged 70 and 8 months, was refused entry into a bar! He needed ID regardless of his age. The same will happen in the USA.

As you might have picked up by now, there’s not a lot going on. The delay due to the water maker spare parts not turning up was very worthwhile if you read the Skipper Reports and Crew Diaries for this race, with the heat and sweat being mentioned in almost every one. A more recent entry has been the rise of the coronavirus in China, with Clipper letting us know that the Sanya celebrations are going to be very muted this time. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/update-regarding-coronavirus-outbreak-in-china

I feel maybe I’m under a bit of a jinx (or Jonah?). First we had the Unicef diversion, then the bush fires, the Taal volcano in the Philippines on January 12th and the virus, first reported at the end of December and spreading rapidly. Will I get to China? Read on for the next thrilling instalment. OK, maybe thrilling is too strong a word.

69. Slow Boats To China

This race, being race 6 and the start of Leg 5, is certainly off to a slow start. This race was meant to start on Saturday 18th January, the day I left. The plan was to have the Parade of Sail (PoS) then motor beyond the Great Barrier Reef after which there would be a Le Mans start (see below for explanation of this if you are interested). John went off to the Unicef boat to prepare. About an hour later I had a frantic phone call: “can you book me back into our room for another two days? The start has been delayed”. I rushed down to reception where I was told I was the third in as many minutes! Mission accomplished, I proceeded to tell other supporters what was going on. Three or four water makers had broken down on the way into Airlie Beach and the spare parts had not arrived in time but would be there shortly. The PoS would go ahead then the whole fleet would return and go out when they were all ready. The good news was that all crew had a spare day with NO TASKS! The fact that I was not there probably made it even more relaxing. If you read the official announcement on the Clipper website you’ll see that Sir Robin downplays the situation: he “averaged a litre a day for 312 days but… in these days people expect more”. He doesn’t say whether his litre included the beers and brandy he took with him (see his book “A World of My Own” for his epic trip 50 years ago).

Jetty at our hotel

The fleet left Airlie Beach properly on Monday and duly motored beyond the Great Barrier Reef through Hydrographers Passage, a deep-water shipping channel discovered by Lieutenant Commander James Bond (not that one I’m afraid), of the Royal Australian Navy survey ship HMAS Flinders, in the 1980s. H.M.A.S. Flinders was awarded the Royal Geographic Society of Australasia’s J.P. Thomson Foundation Medal as a tribute to its accomplishment — “a valuable and permanent benefit to Australia’s maritime trade.” Commander Bond, on behalf of the officers and men of Flinders, accepted the gold medal from H.R.H. The Duke of Kent in Brisbane in April 1985. (Ref. Through the Barrier — The Hydrographers Passage Story by John C. H. Foley Presented at a meeting of the Society 27th August, 1987). https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/data/UQ_205745/s00855804_1988_13_5_171.pdf?

Washing Day on the boats

Back to the race. The Le Mans start is used when it’s not safe or convenient to have the usual start, and was developed by Clipper. In essence, once it’s safe to do so, all the boats get into a straight line two to three boat lengths apart, (in an order decided by Clipper at the Crew Briefing before they leave port) with the Lead Skipper in the middle. All the crew on every boat are at the back of the boat until the signal is given, then they rush forwards and sort out the sails and start racing. Full details can be found here: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/uploads/annex-a-to-clipper-2019-20-race-sailing-instructions.pdf

Victualling In The Sun

Another useful bit of information comes in Jeronimo’s skipper report of 23rd January on what happens when the fleet come into a stopover. Much as the crew would like to rest, you’ll realise from previous posts in this blog that I don’t get to see MBB much during the day. Here’s why: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/punta-del-este/race6-day4-team42 although I think only two days for victualling is optimistic. And the second part: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/punta-del-este/race6-day5-team42

This sail should be ONE PIECE!

What’s that I hear? An anguished cry around the world? Enough about the bally boats! We didn’t sign up to this blog to hear all this sailing guff. Where’s our intrepid narrator? Last we heard, she was celebrating her birthday all alone and deserted by MBB (OK, am I overdoing this aspect? Too much martyrdom?).

Hotel jetty at night. So romantic!

Fear not gentle reader. I survived the beautiful Whitsundays, neither eaten by a shark nor stung to death by the dreaded “stingers” (don’t you just love the Australians? Why use confusing names when a simple word will do). These are the Irukandji and Chironex fleckeri or Box Jellyfish. A sting can be life-threatening. It’s recommended that if going into the water (even paddling), a full Lycra body suit is worn. By the beach we saw a BIG sign warning people, if stung, to wash the area with two litres of vinegar and call medical help immediately. At the side of this sign was a holster with a bottle of vinegar in it. I should have taken a photo but instead you’re having to put up with the sights of Airlie Beach and the yachts.

Not exactly a racing vessel

But I digress. Airlie Beach was the perfect place to do nothing but sunbathe (for health reasons, to top up vitamin D you understand), eat, drink, read books (More Abell Men, a local book; The Outside by Ada Hoffmann, an interesting SF book about AI; and Sunfall by Jim Al-Khalili, who is at my alma mater of the University of Guildford) and swim. All of which we did. As well as a bit of work for Unicef crew, sail repairing and victualling, as you can see from the photos in this post.

R&R

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.

66. It Will Be Lonely This Christmas

You wait weeks for a blog post then three come along close together, just like London buses. (Third one close behind if this one is full). Not only that, I got the title of the last one wrong, now corrected. I’m confusing my legs and my races. With luck a lot of you were fast asleep when I posted it and didn’t notice. Blame the never-ending jetlag I’ve probably developed this year.

Christmas wasn’t at all lonely, just different. Before then, though, we had a second prize giving with Punta, Sanya and Unicef. The night Unicef arrived we had our additional own private prize giving for them. The Elves had created certificates, pennants and medals (the last out of chocolate coins that were eaten very soon after being put around necks). We had a short speech for them, which I reproduce here.

“For anyone who has not heard, Unicef had to divert to Durban for a crew member who developed appendicitis. He had an emergency operation a few hours after being taken off CV31 and there is no doubt that the swift action of the crew saved Andy’s life. In addition, Thomas was taken off after suffering a fall on board and it transpired that he had a broken jaw as well as losing five teeth. These two crew members were on this leg only. We, the Unicef crew supporters, feel the need to acknowledge you, the crew’s, actions. You have been at sea for almost five weeks, sailing for two weeks longer than any other boat. I’d like to call you up by name to receive small tokens of recognition of the sacrifice you’ve made in this race. First, the man who has to take the responsibility for these actions, never knowing until afterwards whether he made the right call: Skipper Ian. Second, AQP Mike for being Ian’s right hand man and support during the race. Next, the medical team of Holly, Antonie and JD. The two watch leaders Dan and Alex. Two leggers: Tim and Rob. One person from the start who’s leaving us now: John Dillon. Four circumnavigators: Andrew, Danny, Sandra and Geoff. The youngest member of the team, Seb. The Norwegian representative, Anne Elisabeth, known as Aser. The on-and-off again crew member, Sophie. The three nicknamed crew, Kiwi Keith, Commo Keith and Mikey. And finally, the two crew members who are not here, Andy and Thomas, we hope you both have a full recovery and look forward to following you on Race Viewer in the next Race!”

We had a brief weekend before John and I parted, as I was flying to Sydney early Monday morning. Most of the weekend was taken with boat stuff once again. The morning after they arrived, all crew had to be on the boat for 0815 to see customs about any prohibited foodstuffs etc. We found out that one circumnavigator was leaving, as he was not feeling well, and another was not allowed back as she had hurt her hand in the first week from Cape Town and hadn’t realised how bad it was. The bones had started to heal but there were fragments that needed attention. I’m not sure of the outcome. After the customs, the general crew briefing had to be attended, even though they were sailing 48 hours after the others. There was a Clipper presentation of a match cup to Punta and mention of both Sanya and Unicef at midday. In the evening we had a Unicef dinner at Bathers Beach House. It was the only time that George and John really had to catch up, along with the “sausage sizzle” and drinks when Unicef arrived.

Clean-shaven at last!

On Sunday the first tranche of the fleet set sail. John had to be on the boat so I and my pal Liz went to the Maritime Museum area to see Qingdao sail past with the other seven setting off. We then drove around to North Mole to the start line (where we’d greeted Unicef on Friday night). It was nice and wide to avoid any more collisions. John and I managed to see each other for the afternoon and evening, and watched the first prize giving and other Clipper videos on Facebook Live.

Then goodbye again. Early on Monday 23rd I flew to Sydney. As the time difference is three hours I left Perth at 10.35 and arrived in Sydney at 17.45 after a four hour flight. Our friend and sort of relative (I don’t know, in-law in-law cousins?) Debbie picked me up and we went back to Mosman where she lives, a suburb of Sydney. We had intended to have Christmas in the Blue Mountains but due to the bushfires that was cancelled. However, Debbie had planned and bought all the food etc so we were ready to party! Debbie’s two daughters joined us for Christmas so it was an all girls’ party, unlike my normal life which seems to feature more men than women (starting with John and George of course). I’ve never had barbecued turkey but it worked very well. The actual cut was a bit of a puzzle: it should have been boned and rolled but there was a bone in it (one legged turkey?). The size was also not quite right: Debbie had asked for a joint big enough for four with some leftovers. This would have fed a whole Clipper crew and leftovers!

Despite only having two days in Fremantle John managed to buy me a lovely necklace for Christmas, which I am sure will appear in this blog sometime soon. George gave me a couple of bottles of wine from his trip to Margaret River which were much appreciated with Christmas dinner (outside in the sun, there’s different). We played a card game I’d never heard of, 5 Crowns, and I managed to lose twice. After that we went onto jigsaws. Debbie had bought two 1,000 piece jigsaws and we finished both during the holiday. We got the giggles one night when Debbie produced her special Orrefors glasses for the dessert wine and I misheard her, thinking she’d said orifice. A special Australian custom maybe?

On the evening of Christmas Day we had a stroll up a local street where all the houses seemed to have gone overboard with festive lights. As well as the pedestrians admiring them, there was a non-stop stream of cars cruising up and down.

Boxing Day (December 26th for those of you who don’t celebrate it) is traditionally the start of the Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht race of 628 nautical miles. Hobart is the capital of Tasmania and the race takes a few days (exact number depending upon size of yacht and of course the wind). This was the 75th race and the first time for a few years that the Clipper fleet was not taking part. Debbie and I, with a couple of her pals, went to Georges Heights with a picnic to watch the start. As well as the actual 157 yachts taking part, from 30 foot up to 100 foot “super-maxi” yachts, it seems that anyone in Sydney with a boat takes to the water to see them off. For more information see this link: it makes Clipper rules seem very simple. https://www.rolexsydneyhobart.com/about-the-race/yachts/

Sydney-Hobart race start

Eventually I had to move on from this wonderful relaxing atmosphere and Debbie drove me to the Sheraton Grand in Sydney CBD. With my background, this acronym means cannabis oil, but well before that became fashionable it meant Central Business District. A great spot, not as boring as it sounds, with my hotel room overlooking Hyde Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens. It really is confusing here, so many places names relating back to the UK.

Sydney’s hazy sun

Val (George’s other Godmother) joined me on Sunday 29th for Sydney and Airlie Beach. We met two Unicef crew members, Sophie and the other John D, for dinner one night at The Butler, a great restaurant that should only be 15 minutes walk from the hotel if you can read your phone properly, and was actually nearer 30 minutes as I think I must have had it upside down. We got there eventually and grabbed a cab back to the hotel.

Me, Sophie and John Dillon

The highlight of my world trip so far came on New Year’s Eve at Sydney Opera House. First was a slap-up Gala Dinner with free-flowing wine, then the first two acts of La Boheme before the “family” fireworks off the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Darling Harbour. Back to the opera then a post-production party with copious champagne and canapes and a live band. Before the world-famous New Year Fireworks we were treated to a “parade of sail” where the boats had lights on them which changed colour as they progressed around the harbour. As if that were not spectacular enough, the firework display was amazing. It lasted about ten minutes and lit up the water as well as the sky. After it was all over we walked back to our hotel (the nearest taxi rank operating being beyond the hotel and the nearest open train station opposite the hotel).

Happy New 2020 everyone!

Sydney fireworks (looking away from the bridge!)

64. I’m Still Waiting…

I forgot to mention finding clear plastic recycling bags in Pimlico. You’d think it would be easy in these times of Extinction Rebellion to do your bit for the planet. Not here seemingly: no local shops sell them, the council won’t send them to blocks of flats, eventually I found out I could pick them up at the library. Having found out where the local one was, I strolled in and asked at the desk. “Downstairs” I was told, so headed off and found a chap at the desk there. When asked he pointed wordlessly to a heap in a bin. It felt a bit like the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy where the plans for the bypass are hidden in the basement protected by a leopard. (I may have this slightly wrong, I’ve not read the book or listened to the excellent production on the BBC for a long time. Feel free to correct me).

I’m missing not making a Christmas cake this year (go all the way back to Post 10 for last year’s effort). Also, do they have mince pies in Australia? I’ll know by the time this goes out so a pointless question, but for the last few years we’ve had a tasting of all the commercial ones we can find. It’s not so easy when there’s only one of you as they often come in packs of six. I’ve been told that Starbucks do a good one but not yet tried it. I did try a mincemeat croissant from Paul, interesting, good mincemeat but I don’t think it’s the right combination. I did bring my Christmas tree to add a bit of festivity to my room.

I’m now in Australia and so far have not had a mince pie. I have had espresso martinis but a bit disappointing, no lovely shaking sound in the bar to make you salivate before they bring it to you. Yes, they are READY MADE out of a packet! They do have Earl Grey tea but I’ve not found this very appropriate brand (thank you Julia for the picture).

You were left checking Race Viewer to see whether Qingdao arrived before I flew out of the UK. The answer is yes they did, I was checking into my flight at Heathrow when they crossed the line. By the time I arrived in Fremantle on Monday morning, the first four had arrived (Qingdao followed by Ha Long Bay an hour later and Imagine Your Korea an hour after that, then GoToBermuda as I was flying into Perth) with WTC Logistics a few hours after I got in.

Waiting to check in

We now (Saturday 14th) have all but the last three in. Punta del Este is due on the afternoon of Thursday 19th, Unicef on Friday morning and Sanya Friday afternoon. All three are now allowed to motor in order to arrive on time (large areas of little or no wind threaten) although Punta is racing under sail to see if they can be placed in the Ocean Sprint.We should know the results of that by Monday. As these three are arriving so close to the race start, it has been decided that they will have an extra two days and leave on 24th December (yes, Christmas Eve) exactly 48 hours after the others. All will race on elapsed time so the first three into the Whitsundays may not be on the podium if these three are faster. Here we go Unicef!

So far this stop has been one of anticlimax. First I missed George coming in and now I’ll miss John leaving. Let’s hope this does not happen again. So what have I been up to, other than kicking my heels? Not a lot, in this heat. The day I arrived George popped over and had some lunch with me at my hotel, the Esplanade, a rather splendid Victorian building on the site of a former prison (this is Australia, after all). Later in the day my pal Liz who now lives in Perth came over and we had an early supper at Bathers Beach House (oddly enough, on the beach. This is Australia, after all).

My sleeping pattern is thrown at the moment. I am waking up around 3-4 am local time, mid evening UK time. I can only guess it’s because my body thinks it’s time for supper. (Shades of being a dog owner here?). The Code 3 (sail) for Qingdao is severely damaged and due to the heat they have been starting work on it at 5 am. Despite my new sleeping pattern I’ve not been able to get there before 9.30 but I have spent two days trying to help, cutting out sticky tape to hold it together before it’s stitched.

Sail repairs

The Fremantle Sailing Club, where the yachts are berthed, is about 20 minutes’ walk from my hotel but not a walk I fancy in this heat. Instead, there’s a free bus on a circular route, every ten minutes, which I’ve been catching. On the first day I managed to lose my Musto cap and it’s not turned up in lost property. Cheryl bought me a lovely Perth cap which is almost as good. We shared a steak sandwich at the sailing club to celebrate the hat replacement: it was so big we still couldn’t eat it all. After that we walked it off by going to see the boats. Due to their draft (draught?) we’ve been told they cannot moor close to the sailing club, so it’s a good 15 minute walk through the boat yard (easy to get lost amongst all the boats), ironically towards the hotel. Unfortunately there’s a big fence in the way so we can’t take a short cut.

On Wednesday night we went for a sail at the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club with one of the Clipper crew who lives in Perth and is joining Unicef to head off to the Whitsundays on (now) 24th December. What we were not told was that Wednesday is traditionally “Twilighting” when they race against other boats in the club. It’s not serious racing like Clipper, we had alcohol on board, but it was pretty cramped with (I think) 19 of us crammed in. I didn’t see much as I was down in the bilges! Later in the week we found out that we’d won so here we go Unicef!

At the risk of tempting fate I went to the Shipwreck Museum one afternoon. It’s air conditioned, a definite plus here. It was mostly about the early shipwrecks in the 1600s when the Dutch East India Company was seeing if there were any natural resources to exploit. After that I strolled along to Joe’s Fish Shack then Bathers, as one of the Qingdao crew had a birthday.

The following day I abandoned Qingdao in favour of Unicef. You’ll remember the Christmas stuff stuffed in my case? Well a crowd of us supporters got together, pretending to be Santa’s elves, to make up Christmas stockings for the crew. There are a number of things they need for the boat so we bought these and made up “Secret Santa” presents for everyone. They may be disappointed when they realise they’ve been given such things as measuring jugs and scissors.

Santa stockings!

In other worlds, I am VERY disappointed that Labour did not get in, I was promised my missing four years of pension by Jeremy Corbyn. How am I expected to fund this year long jaunt? The British public just did not think of me, did they?

Well, must stop now and go and get some sun and Vitamin D. Prize giving is later today at the sailing club, Qingdao getting the gold pennant again. I’m running out of space on George’s wall.