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!

72. Just Another Manic Monday

Post 71 attracted more readers than ever before. Sorry folks if you thought I had the answer to what’s happening with the fleet. It’s like I’m in a holding pattern, waiting to see where I get diverted to and have I enough fuel or time to get there? I’ve decided to get on with my life until we have firm news from Clipper on where the fleet are going to land up, then I’ll decide whether I’m going there as well (whether it’s possible as much as whether I want to).

What have I being doing, you ask? Apart from emails from the boss asking me to buy yet more socks, I’ve been enjoying London culture. I’m starting to have a routine: piano practice (yes honestly, but I had to start at my Grade 1 book again as I’d forgotten where Middle C was. Oops!) then a 15 minute or so walk in the fresh air. The Garden Museum is about that far and I love it. The latest exhibition is about the Royal Parks. I hadn’t realised that the pelicans have been in St James’ Park since 1664, a present from the Russian ambassador. Nor that there were piggeries in Hyde Park and potato fields in Richmond and Bushy Parks during World War II. It may yet happen again now that we need to be self-reliant and not rely on imported food.

Parade of Sail, Sydney Harbour, New Year’s Eve

After my walk it’s a free day. So far I’ve been to see Touching the Void play and Mitsuko Uchida play (and conduct) Mozart at the Royal Festival Hall. These were both amazing. I’ve had six days where I’ve met up with pals, some pre-existing and some from Clipper. I’ve had a hair cut and done a bit of shopping for JD (oh, have I already mentioned that?). I have had a complete blank in my diary for three days of the first fortnight back. Bliss! The laundry and shopping don’t do themselves (although I’m working on it. Anyone want to be my valet?).

If you’ve read the book or seen the film of Touching the Void you must wonder how on earth they managed to put it on stage. It was visually fascinating, set in a pub with imaginative use of tables and chairs up the theatre sides as climbing walls. On one part, where they were falling into the crevasse, they were lying on tables facing the audience but it looked as though they were falling down into the darkness. It’s soon to finish but if you have time to spare then it’s well worth the trip to London. Very intense though so be prepared.

View from my seat (before the performance)

The other performance, at the Royal Festival Hall, you can’t see, although you might be able to see a similar performance. Mitsuko Uchida, DBE, who will be 71 this year, is a highly talented classical pianist and is currently the Artistic Partner of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Here they played Mozart’s Piano Concertos 17 and 22: she conducted the orchestra from her piano as well as playing. The music was sublime, I bought my seat at the last minute and I’m sure it was one of the best in the hall. It made me realise that my piano playing is like painting-by-numbers versus Manet or Turner. If you think she merely played the score as written, then I found out that Mozart played a lot of his own music and often didn’t leave a proper score to follow. The concert was about two hours but I could have listened all night. It’s not music you hum along to like Abba or Queen (well, I don’t) but you get lost in it when they’re playing. One thing I’ve yet to work out: the drummer (sorry, percussionist) kept resting his nose gently on the drums. Testing for vibrations? Answers on a postcard please (or via the comment section of this blog).

View from my seat (after the performance)

Talking of the comment section, thank you to all who commented either this way or off line to say how relieved you were that I’m not going to China. The trip was preying on my mind so I’m glad the decision was made for me by the FCO.

I guess at some stage I need to mention the Race. They are now through the Doldrums Corridor and have passed over the Equator again so are back in the Northern Hemisphere. Those new leggers who had not crossed the Equator (pollywogs) had a visit from King Neptune and all are now shellbacks. I still don’t know how tadpoles become turtles, must be something to do with evolution. However, the Trade Winds have not yet appeared (Sunday night) so if you look at Race Viewer they seem to be milling around with no obvious line of sail. (If you’ve forgotten where to find this, go to https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings and click on the windsock to see wind speeds (or lack thereof)). Blue is bad and has been there for days. A few boats have been in or are in Stealth mode. The boredom on the boats has been relieved by them playing Assassin, not a game I’d come across but a bit like Cluedo. Each crew member has a weapon, a place and a fellow member to murder. If successful, you get the victim’s “cards” and so have another murder to commit. I guess you need to be in an enclosed space to play it well.

Which way should we go?

The Scoring Gate has been passed and the results are: Ha Long Bay (HLB) three points, WTC Logistics two points and Dare to Lead (DTL) one point. This is great for DTL as it’s their first bonus point. It’s not so great for Qingdao as HLB is now only two points behind them. It’s getting exciting!

…It’s now the Manic Monday of today’s title. I started off with trying to sort out finances. Having gone to the bank on Friday without some of the documents I needed, I went back today with everything, I thought. All went well until he asked “security” questions like what direct debits had been cancelled in the last year and when did I open the business account (I didn’t even know I had one). After an hour all seemed to be sorted but I now need to investigate this business account, apparently it has money in it!

Are we there yet?

That wasn’t the real manic bit though. At 1300 today, the Clipper office announced that the fleet would not be going into Sanya (think we’d worked that one out) but they WILL be going into Subic Bay early and staying there for “a minimum of nine days”, with the arrival window estimated to start on 13th February. NEXT WEEK! Much liaison between supporters as it’s recommended you don’t stay alone out there. Yes, dear reader, I’m about to be your foreign correspondent again, not from China though. I managed to get the last room in a hotel close to Subic Bay marina. Also, the fleet now have a bit of orange and red to the winds so should speed up. Just not too fast please, I need to be there first. You’ll also see that the race end has been updated to Subic Bay.

If you’ve read enough from me, here’s a crew diary from Angie that mentions JD’s culinary skills. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/1046 and one from the man himself https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/1048

Philippines, here I come!

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.

56. Leg 2 Race 3

A few more photos of Punta del Este to break up the text before the next post, from Cape Town.

Casapueblo, passed on our bus trip

This is the first time crew members will have changed, some getting off at Punta del Este after Leg 1 and others getting on for Leg 2. Looking at the farewell photos on the Clipper website, https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/view-gallery/the-fleet-departs-punta-del-este it would appear that there are 15 crew on Bermuda, 16 on Dare To Lead, 18 on Ha Long Bay, 19 each on Sanya, Unicef, Seattle, Zhuhai and Korea, 20 on Qingdao, 21 on Punta and 22 on WTC Logistics.

Much discussion goes on about weight, whether fewer crew means faster boats (not just the crew themselves but the food requirements as well), or whether fewer crew means more tired crew as they have to do more. I’m not sure, based on the results to date, that it has any meaningful impact.

A local bird that builds nests of mud

For Unicef I think there were four people off and five on. For Qingdao it was four off and three on. Josh, Skipper of Ha Long Bay, told me he had about eleven new people joining. I’m sure that could have a bigger impact on how well they do compared to the overall weight. Although Ha Long Bay, at the time of writing, are up near the front and Bermuda and Dare To Lead further back. It’s not an exact science. Do I hear you ask who’s at the front? Well, let’s hope it’s not a repeat of race 1 as Unicef and Qingdao are leading. Will the famous wind hole caused by Table Mountain be their undoing? I hope they’ve got evasive action planned this time, I’m not sure I could bear the stress of it happening again.

Another local bird

The race started from Punta del Este on Wednesday 23rd October and the arrival window into Cape Town is two and a half weeks later, Thursday 7th to Monday 11th November. I’ve taken a bit of a gamble and am arriving on the morning of 7th so I hope Qingdao don’t repeat themselves and arrive early. It’s not looking likely, current ETAs (1400 UTC 5th November) are from Saturday morning to Monday morning.

The famous “La Mano” sculpture by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal

The results for the Scoring Gate are in Post 55 so I won’t repeat them. Before the Ocean Sprint, Seattle went into Stealth Mode, although it didn’t gain them any places. Imagine Your Korea went into Stealth Mode during the Ocean Sprint and came out in fourth place. As I can’t remember where they were before I don’t know if they’ve improved their position. Unicef and Punta both in Stealth on Tuesday night / Wednesday.

Accordionist at the prize giving

Qingdao have been constantly in Stealth Mode due to the fact that their tracker is playing up, so we’re never sure where they are at any given moment. You can play with the “ruler tool” if you’re looking at Race Viewer on a computer (not on a phone, I don’t know about tablets, in my world they are things you swallow to make you feel better). This will help you guesstimate where the boats are and is fun (well, what passes for fun to me, sad I know).

The “catamaran” from which we saw the fleet leave

I have not spent all my time on the Clipper website and Race Viewer, but one last mention of the Unicef skipper’s report today, read it and shiver! https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/unicef/race3-day14-team48

Part of the packing

I have ended up with two incredibly heavy cases this time, as not only do I have John’s warm fleecy sleeping bag layer but also a sleeping bag from Sophie, another Unicef crew member, who got off at Punta and is getting back on at Cape Town after doing a safari. And also 23 (I think) Qingdao tee shirts for someone so we can save postage! Then there’s the usual bits and pieces for both John and George, John’s “civilian” clothes and somewhere in all this, my stuff. I started to pack on Monday, I thought I’d finished early on Wednesday then realised yet again I’d not got my bathroom cosmetics and toiletries. They are usually what I forget until the last minute, and of course they can’t go in hand luggage. I’m glad I’ve not got contact lenses any more, the stuff for them took up far too much room.

By the time you read this I’ll be on my way, probably sitting at Heathrow waiting for the flight to take off. I’ve checked Race Viewer, read all the Skipper Reports, tidied the flat, checked Race Viewer, read all the Facebook and WhatsApp messages, had an odd meal of all the food that won’t keep during my absence, checked Race Viewer, sorted out what I’m planning to do for Seattle in APRIL and so on. Now to check that I’ve not forgotten anything vital (phone charged? Rands? Passport?) and head off. Not in the vehicle below, it didn’t look like it had moved for ages, judging by the tyres.

Garzon truck outside PdE Yacht Club

Next time, greetings from Cape Town and possibly race 3 results!

55. A Fistful of Pesos

Should you decide to go to Uruguay, a word of warning. You can use credit cards (and the tax is refunded or knocked off your bill) or you can take US Dollars or Uruguayan Pesos. Well, I’m not sure you can actually take pesos, I only took dollars as the exchange places I tried looked incredulous when I asked for Uruguyan pesos. You can also take money out of an ATM with not too much of a problem. My card worked most of the time but sometimes I had to try it three or four times and I was unable to get any cash. At the ATM you will be dispensed $100 bills only. On spending this, probably to try and get smaller notes, you will be given change in the local currency. Hence the handful of change you see above (if you can’t see it, go onto the website by clicking the email title, blue underlined) which I donated to Unicef on my last day.

In Portimao we bought souvenir mugs and a tea towel (see Post 47). Realising that this could result in 15 tea towels and 30 mugs by the end of the Race, we controlled ourselves this time and bought a beach towel from YCPDE.

Having mentioned the live footage last time, there are good shots of MBB on the Clipper website gallery of photos about the beach clean, numbers 13-15/36 (far right of the pictures). https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/view-gallery/punta-del-este–beach-clean

In https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/view-gallery/the-fleet-departs-punta-del-este picture 10/57 shows the Unicef crew, with a good one of John number 18, and 14 the whole the Qingdao crew. I think that’s it until Cape Town, meanwhile it’s Race Viewer, Skippers Reports (I get mentioned in Imagine Your Korea dated 24th October) and Crew Diaries every day.

Two things that were important in Punta, the UNICEF banner and The Commodore’s Cup. I think you may have had glimpses of them in certain photos and on the Clipper website, but here they are again.

A bit wrinkled, where’s the wind?
That’ll never fit on the mantelpiece

And I think that’s all from Punta. Back in London, I’ve not stopped. On Saturday, my first day back, I met two pals at the Tate Modern. We started with lunch (and I can see why the people in the flats opposite complained about us tourists looking into their rooms) then went around the Takis exhibition before it finished. Even though it’s obvious, it looks like magic. Sadly, he died whilst the exhibition was being created.

The wonders of magnetism

The remaining nine days I had in London were taken with pals visiting me, lots of food and wine, buying yet more stuff for MBB (back to Arthur Beale), knitting beanies for Karla from the Clipper Race Office, getting Rands for the next trip and general household tasks. I thought George was asking for a citation book, what on earth is that? See the next picture for what he actually wanted. His diction, NOT my hearing. Honest. I had my first online food delivery which was very exciting for me. What will they send instead of what I ordered? A bit like Christmas. (It’s different in the sticks, I just drive to the nearest shop as it’s quicker). I also had my first experience of Vagabond, a bar in Victoria that dispenses wine by the glass from a lot of cabinets that have different types: robust, smooth, elegant etc. Well, I’m assuming that was meant to describe the wine, not the customers. Hmm, maybe I need to go back and do more research. You put credit onto a card then use that to buy your wine, in volumes of 25 ml (taster) upwards.

An early Christmas present for George

And did I mention Race Viewer? Yes, our addiction is back! It’s very exciting as Unicef and Qingdao are both doing well (so far, please no more wind holes). More about the actual race next time but the results of the Scoring Gate are known: Imagine Your Korea three points, Visit Sanya two points and Punta del Este one point. This puts them on nine, 25 and 24 points respectively. The results for the Ocean Sprint won’t be known before I get to Cape Town, when we’ll find out if anyone has collected penalty points for sail repairs etc. A last reminder of Uruguay before I sign off for today.

53. South of Rio

Back to my trip. I set off from London on Wednesday 9th October for a ten pm flight to Sao Paulo. I had to change here for a flight to Punta del Este: it was meant to be a five hour layover but the flight was delayed so I arrived in Punta at half four on Thursday 10th, with an hour’s taxi drive to the hotel close to the port. Thankfully not cancelled like Portimao! I didn’t know it at the time but there were at least another four Clipper people on the same flight. As I walked to the gate, I noticed this, with two of the five destinations being places I’ll be visiting. A long way round though, via Brazil!

Punta del Este airport is tiny, even thought International it’s not got any amenities at all. A shed is the customs and passport area. I had a walk around Punta in the evening and ended up having an early meal with a crew member from GoToBermuda at a self-service fast fish restaurant. Although he is a circumnavigator, he had to get off at Portimao and fly home for his daughter’s wedding in the USA. He’s not the only one, another circumnavigator had to do the same for his daughter’s wedding in Australia. These children are so thoughtless, interfering with their dads’ plans! Punta is a typical seaside town out of season, the view out of my hotel window seems to be a burnt out cinema. The summer starts in December and finishes in February so very short. Most of the tourists are from Brazil or Argentina, they have weekend apartments which are shut up most of the time. The Uruguayans are very friendly, nothing is too much trouble and the crime rate is one of the lowest in the world. A new chap joining Unicef left his phone and cards on the bus: it turned up safely (but not, unfortunately, until he’d cancelled all his credit cards).

On Friday there was the excitement of waiting for the first two boats. There was a thunderstorm in the morning which blew over so I didn’t need my raincoat. I called into the Race Office to confirm that I was on the list for prize giving and other events, of which more later. Those of us who had arrived in time walked along the coastal path to see if we could spot the first yacht: as you’ll have read in Post 52 it was Qingdao. We waited to see them in, so we supporters had our lunch at about 3 pm. (They’d eaten before they came in, whilst preparing the boat and themselves for port). That evening we went to Moby Dick’s, a pub that seems to be the unofficial headquarters for Clipper. I also managed to book George into our hotel as he’d only booked an airbnb place from the 16th.

Spot Qingdao on the horizon

On Saturday there was an even bigger and noisier thunderstorm with fork lightening which lasted all day. George and I went out only as far as the next corner, where the Cuatro Mare restaurant was. Great food, a buffet with lots of salad which was just what George wanted after a month of tinned and dried food on board. As one of the first supporters into Punta I had been tasked with finding somewhere for us supporters to eat on Saturday night. Even though no boats were scheduled to arrive, I found us Le Marea, on the seafront just in case any sped up and arrived before they were expected. After that we had a post dinner drink at Moby Dicks.

Sunday was taken up with watching boats arrive and the celebratory beers in the Yacht Club. We waited at the Punta del Este Yacht Club and had lunch there. Each boat in the fleet has local “ambassadors”. We at Unicef are incredibly lucky with the Canepa family: Gabby, Norberto and their children Tito and Flopi! They are really looking after everyone and helping out with supplies, hospital visits etc. The hospital was for Angie, a RTW’er who managed to slip and break her wrist in the shower the first morning. She obviously hadn’t regained her land legs. Flopi is a photographer and a lot of the shots you’ll see on the official website were taken by her.

The Canepa family

John has a real beard, as you should have noticed in the last picture in Post 52. If not, here’s a close up. Whilst everyone agrees he looks like a real sailor now, they don’t have to kiss him! It’s very rough, like having a bristle brush thrust in your face. He’s allowed to keep it till next August then we’ll have another discussion. If he buys himself Crocs as well then I’m definitely not having him back!

Every day John had some task either on the boat (deep cleaning, sorting sails, showing local school children around) or near by (manning the spinnaker for signing at the Dome, sorting out the medical records and supplies for the boat). We managed to meet most days for lunch, sometimes with George, and had dinner together every evening. Tuesday night there was a tango demonstration which we felt was too short. Wednesday was the prize giving which of course was very exciting for Qingdao. Before that, in fact the first award of the night, was to Holly Williams on Unicef. She’s a paediatric surgeon from the USA who had raised the most money of all crew across the fleet. A great start! It was in the Yacht Club so not easy to get a good view. Here are the winning team with their pennant and Commodore’s Cup (which has to stay behind, I’m sure they’d not want that weight on board).

Spot the Joker

On Friday everyone had the afternoon off to go to an Asado hosted by the city. This is basically a meat feast. WHOLE cows, sheep etc are cooked on massive grills. I have some photos but thought you might be put off your chickpea stew. It was in a sculpture park around a lake and the weather, for once, was warm so no need for raincoats.

G&T at the Asado

Cast your minds back to Post 51. I mentioned that John had won the sweepstake for guessing the time they crossed the Equator. I think he won a Chupa Chup (he said “a lollipop”). That post was also where I said I’d bought something for Skipper Mike on Imagine Your Korea. I found him at the Asado and handed it over:

Mike’s Penguin keyring

If you’ve read his early blogs you’ll have seen he was desperate to see penguins. Now he’s got one to look at whenever he wants! Although I understand that some of the fleet saw Magellan penguins close to Uruguay.

On Saturday there was a beach clean which John and George took part in. I decided I didn’t have the energy to walk along the sand slowly digging things out so I went to help Holly in her new day job, as sail repairer.

I know it looks as though we’re all in bed, but we were doing a very important job. You can’t see the sewing machine behind the sail but we had to wrap the surplus material very tightly so it could pass behind the needle then feed it through whilst Holly sewed it up. You can just see Thom sitting behind us, he made sure the tension was kept steady. As the sewing machine only goes one way we had to thread it backwards and forwards. Prior to sewing, strips of material are cut and stuck to the tear. There are four to six lines of sewing per tear, so it’s a lot of work for each one. Then the sail is the size of a tennis court so it’s not easy to lay out and find all the damage. There were crew there every day for four days, on Saturday there were four of us supporters helping out to make sure it was finished. If you cannot mend it then it’s sent to professional sail repairers elsewhere. For ALL damage to the boat, any costs incurred are added up and if it exceeds £500 (across the whole race, not per leg) then penalty points are “awarded”. If you go into Race Viewer on a computer, under “overall race” you’ll see the penalty points in the final column before the total points. There aren’t any yet but keep an eye on it. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings.

That evening we had a birthday party for Alex, one of the Unicef crew. He and a few others had rented a “crew house” which was along the coast. We could not believe we weren’t back in the UK when we saw it. Maybe the colour of the sky is a giveaway.

This is in sharp contrast to George’s airbnb, which was a converted retail unit. The first hint of trouble was the railing he had to climb over to enter the block. There was then what looked like the ramp of a multi-storey car park to negotiate before he got to the unit, all glass so nice and airy. There was hot water, a bed, a shower with the toilet integral (I guess it was probably there first and the shower added when it became somewhere to sleep). However, there was no insulation and no heating so after one night he moved out to a place where other crewmates were, which was heated.

I’ve got lots more to write but other things to do so no more for now.