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

48. Don’t Bring Me Down

I finally found the picture of me bandaged up (refer back to Post 45) and it’s this header. To be in the Doldrums can mean to be low or depressed. As both MBB are away for the best part of a year many people expect me to be in this flat place. I’m actually enjoying the novelty of eating when I feel the need and popping out to a museum or random cafe when I fancy it and seeing lots of friends as London is easier to get to than Somerset (or so they tell me). I’m treating the year as a series of business trips. I’ll probably be seeing George more often than when we’re all in the UK. Possibly I’m just a hermit or recluse by nature, although (unlike some people we could name) I’m not neglecting my personal hygiene nor stockpiling my waste or throwing it over the side of the flat.

Before I get to the meat of this post, I forgot to tell you that, if you’re eagle-eyed, you can find Jane and me at the Portimao wine tasting on the Clipper website, well spotted Julia! Note that Jane is not holding a wine glass (but she did have one). https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/crew-explore-the-sights-and-tastes-of-the-beautiful-algarve

Shot from Clipper website

…and on Facebook Live, in the 18 minute video showing the fleet leaving Portimao on 15th September, a brief interview with George. https://www.facebook.com/ClipperRaceLIVE/videos/516330142456305/

Enough frivolity. Today is a technical blog post. Another definition of being in the Doldrums is to make no progress. This could be happening to the fleet in the next day or two.

Race Viewer

They are just out of the picture here at about 08.10 Thursday 19th. The screenshot of the Race Viewer shows the Scoring Gate that they are all racing towards, the Ocean Sprint and, in the middle, the Doldrums Corridor. In case you’ve forgotten (or I forgot to tell you), the white line is the shortest distance between start and finish, known as the rhumb line. The dark blue wavy bit in the centre is (are?) the actual Doldrums. The darker the blue, the less likelihood of wind so VERY calm. The area is also referred to as the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone or ITCZ (pronounced itch).

As you can see, this band goes all around the world either side of the equator, but for this race we’re only interested in the bit between Africa and South America. Put simply, the northern (red in the slide above) and southern (blue) trade winds clash and effectively cancel each other out. Remembering the last day or two of race 1, where the leaders (Qingdao and Unicef) ended up third and sixth due to lack of wind, we may be waiting a long time for them to cross this part of the world. In a past Clipper race some boats were stuck for four days. We may even get fed up with checking Race Viewer!

The race has a reasonably tight arrival window so we can’t just leave them to wallow around on their own without cleaning their teeth or showering or changing their underwear. They cannot avoid the Doldrums. Clipper have therefore defined an area over which the fleet can elect to use their motors.

There are strict rules though. The Skipper has to tell HQ he’s going to do this at least three hours beforehand. They can only motor for a maximum 6 degrees of latitude (roughly 400 miles) and must stop motoring at 03 degrees North (just above the Equator). They have to send a photo of their position when the motor was started and when stopped to show that they’ve gone the 6 degrees. If it takes less than 60 hours they have to hang around and cannot start racing again until the 60 hours are up, possibly having to go back to where they stopped the motor. Thus, if the wind picks up, they may have been better off sailing. They can’t change their mind once they’ve said they’re going to use the motor.

Here endeth today’s lesson. If you’re looking at the Race Viewer (and who isn’t?) you may be confused as to who is in the lead. You need to take into account how far away from the rhumb line they are as they’ll need to get back there at the end. If you’re reading the Skipper and Crew Diaries on the Clipper website you’ll see how they are getting on. It’s interesting reading them all, not just “ours” as they are all having different experiences. Some are interested in wildlife, some (most) in the food on board, some give details of the issues they’ve encountered. Talking of food, here’s what I had for my first “proper” meal in Portimao (after the room service sandwich on arrival).

Ooh, Friday morning and Ha Long Bay Viet Nam has deployed Stealth Mode. This means that for the next 24 hours we won’t know where exactly she is and neither will the rest of the fleet (she hopes). They must have a plan to beat the others to the Scoring Gate. Once through the Scoring Gate her position will become public. Stay tuned!

44. Leg 1 Race 1

Picking up from Post 43, I headed off to Southend to make sure the boats really did leave with MBB aboard on Monday morning. Forgetting that the nights were drawing in, I arrived in darkness and exited at the end of the platform. I asked the ticket collector where the pier was and was greeted by a blank stare. As I walked down the street, hoping to find some helpful landmark, I contrasted the Dickens Inn at SKD with the one I was walking past, not favourably I regret to say.

St Katherine’s Docks

Maybe it was the lack of sunshine or maybe the lack of people around. I kept going and found myself in a deserted high street. Well, it was a Sunday night, I’m sure the place is packed on a Saturday.

Southend

I continued under the railway bridge and suddenly all was revealed: very clear signposts at every corner so I knew which way to go. As I marched down to the hotel I came across two other Clipper bods, Jo who will be on Unicef for Leg 7 (I think, I’m sure I’ll be corrected if not) and her partner Vicks. A welcome sight, they turned round and escorted me back to the hotel. At check-in the receptionist noted I’d not booked breakfast, for a mere £9.50 I could add it in. Without thinking I agreed and paid there and then. Vicks, Jo and I then headed off to the best restaurant in town or possibly the only one that was still open at 9.30 on a Sunday night: Nando’s. Can I confess that, in addition to this being my first time in Southend, I was also a Nando virgin? True. It was fascinating to learn that you ordered and paid before sitting down, a bit like an old fashioned fish and chip shop.

The next morning I woke up to see the sea and the fleet. As it is now officially winter the door to my sea view balcony was locked to prevent me going out and slipping on the ice. I opened it as far as possible, slid my hand out and took the best picture I could. Another confession, we did not go on the fairground rides after Nando’s, which I’m sure we should have done.

As it is difficult to tell who is who I have another shot for you, of Race Viewer from the Clipper website. You’ll probably be seeing a lot of this, either via me or because you too can become addicted. Here you can see Adventure World marked, in the foreground of the shot above, and the pier stretching out to sea. The eleven Clippers are there, we are interested in the red one (Qingdao) and the mid-blue one to the very left (Unicef). You can also see the race start marked and the line they would take in an ideal world (the rhumb line). OK, if you are a sailor and reading this I know I’ve simplified but if totally incorrect please post a comment so that everyone else can see what it really is.

Having greeted the day I strolled down to breakfast with eager anticipation. Let me give you a hint: if they make you pay upfront for a meal then don’t let your hopes get too high. (That’s a bit harsh as Nando’s was perfectly acceptable). Breakfast consisted of coffee from a machine that sang a little ditty as it dispensed the brown fluid, a choice of three sugary cereals, sliced white bread with a toaster, pain au chocolate and an empty croissant basket. NO Earl Grey. Jo and Vicks, having arrived a bit earlier the night before and therefore more alert at checking in, had decided against the indoor feast and gone down to the local Costa. Probably cheaper and definitely a wider choice. We could also have chosen from two Greggs or two McDonalds, all within a ten minute waddle of the hotel. Here we have Clipper supporters arriving for the race, not waddling I’m happy to say.

Southend Pier is the longest in the UK or maybe the world, depending upon the source you consult. It’s over a mile anyway, and there is a train that runs from the shore to the end. We understood that the train would not be running so early but we could walk along and arrive in time to see the fleet setting their sails. The first hint of trouble came in the form of various WhatsApp messages from supporters who’d caught the early train from London and were now queuing by the pier waiting for it to open at 8.45. We arrived about 8.50 and saw a few people going up the stairs to the walkway so followed them, only to be stopped by the ticket lady telling us there was a barrier there (to be honest, there was a bit of cord across half the stairway) and we weren’t allowed up. We’d have to catch the train at 9.00. After a mild altercation we did so, paying £5.35 for the privilege. I could have saved myself 50p by deciding to walk back but not knowing how long we’d be standing I decided to splash out. It looked a long way.

Finally we arrived at our destination. It was fantastic, the boats were incredibly close and milling around practicing with their sails and stuff. Here are our two boats, I think you may just be able to make out MBB if you squint.

They were close enough to wave to us and were also getting very close to each other, although I don’t think they were as close as they look in the next two shots. Maybe they were practicing ship-to-ship transfers.

Qingdao and Zhuhai
Unicef and Ha Long Bay

In Post 43 I mentioned my special beanie that had been knitted for me by Sue. It’s reversible so you can be a supporter of either boat. Here I decided to wear it low so it appears that I’m supporting Columbia, although it should be red/blue/yellow rather than blue/yellow/red. It was nice and warm in the early morning breeze. I know George spotted it and I think John did too, I’ll have to check.

With the boats jockeying for position it was all a bit frantic. There was a ten minute gun that made us all jump, one at four minutes then the last at one minute. You want to be at the line not over it or you’ll incur penalty points. For this race there was a “leader” but we were unable to work out who it was as they were all so close. Prior to the race you can see here that it was a melee with them facing every which way.

But all became organised and here they are with their spinnakers flying heading towards the open sea.

Except for poor Seattle, who got their spinnaker in a muddle (technical term?)

We jumped up and down and whooped and generally made as much noise as we could, then calmed down and most of us walked back along the pier enjoying the sun. A surprising number of spectators had come along knowing nothing about Clipper, they just knew there was a load of yachts going off for a race, but one chap had raced in CV26 in a previous iteration and was planning a round the world cruise in a 62 footer next year. I found a Waterstones on my way back to the station so I was happy, I bought a Portuguese phrase book to remind me of some basics for next week and a couple of Science Fiction books as I’m getting a bit low, only 20 or so in my diminished library here in London. Now that I’ve finished knitting en masse I can get back to piano and reading (not at the same time silly). I enjoyed myself so much in Southend I even ended up buying a return train ticket! To put it another way, the sun was shining on the screen of the ticket machine and I didn’t realise I was buying a return until it was spat out. Still, if I do go again in the next year I’ll be able to travel back to London “for free”.

I’ll leave you with my final view of the fleet as I walked back along the pier, heading off towards a tanker and into the sun. NO, I can’t stop here, the race viewer is addictive and as I write (Thursday morning) both OBB are thinking of a podium finish. There are some days left before they reach port and plans can go wrong but they’re showing that they can do it! I’m out for the day with no internet access, how will I cope?