I thought I’d manage to travel to Subic Bay relatively lightly as I’d not been back in the UK for long. Ha! A request went out for “someone” to bring out gluten-free cereal bars for the long trip across the Pacific. How many “someones” were coming out from the UK? One! I bought a load then sorted them into GF, GF with chocolate (so eat first as they might melt) and not labelled well enough to tell. Plus some lemon and ginger tea bags in case they had run out too. I ended up, as usual, with a heavy case (but only one this time) of 27kg. It will be interesting to see what it weighs going back (assuming that I’m allowed out of The Philippines and into the UK. The coronavirus is keeping us all guessing what the different countries will do next).
As this was a race of only three to four days, it was not worth flying anywhere, so Becca and I (her husband is on WTC Logistics) decided to go and see a beach. About an hour’s drive, almost impossible to find as our local driver found out, is La Jolla at Bagac Bataan. Fairly new and still bedding in (cocktails start March 15th, we left 13th, rats) but so relaxing and perfect for self-isolating (see header photo, on my website page). We were almost the only guests there but it did not feel at all strange or threatening.
I should have mentioned that, in addition to the second place for Unicef in the last race, Danny Lee (one of the RTW crew on Unicef) won the Media Prize Pennant (green, I’m sure you’ll see it in some of my photos from now on if you look carefully). Danny’s prize winning crew diary (I think, all of his are worth reading to bring a smile to your face): https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/1120 oops no, I’ve checked, THIS is the pennant-winning one:
Now we’re back in Subic Bay yacht club. The fleet are all due in tomorrow, I’m happy to say, and not just because I’ll see OBB. As this was such a short race and a hot one (the Pacific will be long, cold and wet), I was asked if I’d mind storing “a few things” that various crew of Qingdao and Unicef didn’t want to take this race but would need for the next. No problem, although as I had to move rooms the chap who moved me must have wondered what on earth I was planning next! It’s also difficult drawing the curtains.
One final photo, this fruit was in our rooms for us on arrival at La Jolla. We hadn’t a clue what it was, I’ll leave you puzzling it out (if you don’t know) and try to remember to reveal the answer to you next time. It was incredibly aromatic and juicy but fibrous so not easy to eat.
We can’t leave Cape Town yet, as you’ll see from the header (not many rhinos in Australia unless they’re in a zoo). I’ll try not to give you any more pictures of Table Mountain but it may appear in the background, you can’t really get away from it.
I did not accompany John on his trip to (probably the same) barber but I think I should have. This is what he brought back, all for my comfort he says. As I have been tasked with carrying it around the world, I guess I’m trusted not to “accidentally” lose it anywhere. I did not notice a scrap of difference, but as The Beard had been trimmed it became like a field of close-cropped stubble once more. To make matters worse, George is now in on the act, along with his Godfather Keith.
The second subject is Kit. The crew have to remove all their kit from the boat so that it can be deep cleaned. The hotel room we stayed at in Punta del Este was quite small so I felt like I was on the boat with having to climb over stuff and the aroma surrounding it all (albeit a level surface). In Cape Town we were able to lay it outside as there was little rain and we had a good sized balcony. A dry suit is a scary object when laid out, like some Thing out of Dr Who. The only issue was it was not an easy walk, especially with all of John’s kit. On the first day going back to the boat, John managed to get lost and was 30 minutes late for his meeting. I’m trying to make sure we have large rooms closer to the marina from now on.
Enough complaining. This time I had an uneventful journey and spent quite a bit of time with other supporters including Anne, Fiona and Keith, featured in Post 57. Plenty of places to eat and drink on the V&A waterfront, which does not stand for Victoria and Albert but Victoria and Alfred, their second son. He was obviously influential around here.
The night that Unicef arrived there were seven of us eating in the Baia fish restaurant, overlooking the jetty. When we saw Unicef arriving we all ran out, to return about half an hour later once the crew had been bussed off to immigration. John found us after the kitchen had closed. Our waiter kindly brought him three bread rolls (plus some wine).
The rest of the time was effectively divided into two, tasks for the boat and sight-seeing. Regarding the first, George’s Godparents Keith and Fiona went along and helped with sail repairs and are now signed up for Seattle was well. I did a bit of flaking (see Post 57) but my main contribution this time was lending a hand with the victualling, as you can see throughout this Post. Having sorted the cans into fruit, vegetables, pulses, meat and fish, we discovered that pineapple is not for pudding but for sweet and sour dishes, so had to go back and re-allocate them in the day bags. Each bag has a bread mix and a cake mix.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned Angie, the Round-The-Worlder on Unicef who is the official Victualler, on the left of the photo above. Unfortunately she fell over in the shower on day 1 in Punta and broke her wrist. Despite this she insisted on supervising the victualling at Punta before flying home to New Zealand. She then flew into Cape Town to oversee it all again. The hope is that she will be able to rejoin the fleet in Fremantle. She has the whole exercise down to a fine art, as long as we listen to her!
I had a trip to Robben Island while waiting for Qingdao to clear immigration, worth going to as it brings back how recently it all happened. The island was reached by a 30 minute ferry ride and with potentially shark-infested waters you can understand why it was impossible to escape. Back on the mainland in the afternoon, we spent the time with Qingdao crew before greeting Punta and Unicef. The breeze had built up by the time they arrived such that they took more than an hour to get to the jetty.
In addition to John being late “to work” the first morning, his phone had reset itself to UTC so his alarm on the second day was two hours late. Luckily I woke up so he made it to the boat on time; another crew member was not so lucky and didn’t arrive until lunchtime.
George, John and I went on a wine trip with a Clipper alumnus and six other crew around Constantia. We visited five very different vineyards (Steenberg, Klein Constantia, Buitenverwachting, High Constantia and Constantia Glen) and voted the “Vin de Constance” from Klein Constantia the best, although the next vineyard we tried, Buitenverwachting, told us their’s had recently been voted the best. Having whetted our appetites and shown us the certificate as proof, they then told us that there was none available!
George also went shark diving one day which he says he enjoyed. The pictures did not make it look appealing to me. OBB were also interviewed by BBC Radio Somerset, the second interview they’ve made (the first being in London before they left).
There were some stunning chandeliers in Cape Town, as well as the one above, which looks like slices of red and green grapes, the one below was in an artisanal shopping area called The Watershed, where John bought me two dresses (Geoff, a fellow Unicef circumnavigator, has been buying one at each port for Cheryl). You can see one in the photo above of me with Cheryl and Fiona and a glass of fizz.
Next time, I really do promise, the full results of the Race so far.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
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.
Last Saturday John and I were on a VHF course (details to follow but don’t hold your breath, it may be a few days). There were another five attendees who were nothing to do with Clipper, all on the course because they either had boats or wanted to buy one. We were chatting about why we were doing the course, Clipper and which boats MBB were on: one of the guys said “Oh, Qingdao, my friend Donna is on that one, going round the world, don’t know if you know her?”. Well, I think the WHOLE WORLD knows her! If you go onto the Clipper website and look in the gallery you’ll see her modelling the Musto clothing, getting wet and making tea: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/view-gallery/musto-technical-clothing-partner-launch
Then, that evening, after a stroll around Hamble and a pint in The Bugle, we ended up in La Dolce Vita, an Italian restaurant (what else could it be?) for a meal. As we were sitting there a couple walked in and John said “I know them, remind me who they are”. I looked round and saw Harry and Anna, sailing friends of George who had been staying at our house (with another eighteen or so) the weekend before for George’s farewell bash! Had it been a week earlier we would not have known each other. They had been racing J class boats (single masted racing yachts) and came third. Harry is a very useful chap to know, he and his cousins make Pig Beer in Brockenhurst. https://www.pigbeer.com/
Good stuff, he brought supplies to George’s party and we all enjoyed a bottle or two whilst watching the cricket, tennis or F1 from Silverstone. If you’re anywhere near Brockenhurst next week you could go to the New Forest & Hampshire County Show and try it for yourself.
We now know the last three ports of call. If you’ve been following the Clipper website you’ll already be aware of them, but just in case there are other things going on in your life, here they are.
The “South East Asia” stop is now confirmed as Subic Bay, The Philippines. Not an area I know anything about so some basic research tells me that it was a former US Naval base but is now a holiday destination. (I’m sure for some people that “but” is unnecessary). The temperature is likely to be in the low 30’s during the day when we’re there in late February, cooling to 20’s at night with a 1% chance of rain. Won’t be needing my flannelette nightie or Pac-A-Mac then! It specialises in beaches, good for the Clipper boats if they run aground. The fleet are due to arrive 25th-26th February and leave on 28th so a whistle-stop only. Not even worth unpacking the bikini.
The “China” part of leg 5/6 thus starts with arrival in Sanya February 10th-15th, moving onto Subic Bay on 21st February, a quick beer there then off to Zhuhai for arrival around 2nd-3rd March, a crew change for those who are not doing leg 6 and departure on 9th March to George’s “home” port of Qingdao. They should arrive there around 17-19th March and depart for Seattle on 26th March.
Onto the final leg, leaving Panama around 5th June next year. Due to the way the Panama Canal scheduling works this date is vague. I suppose it’s possible I may not even see them transit. Once all the fleet is through the Canal, the last section of Leg 7 will start. They race to New York / New Jersey, planning to arrive around 16th-19th June. As this is the end of Leg 7 there’s a crew change-over and they set off on 27th June for Bermuda.
The arrival window at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club is 1st-2nd July, leaving on the 9th so not much time there to relax. Bermuda is an archipelago of seven coral islands with around 170 other rocks and islands that are important enough to have been named. Possibly because ships have hit them? The large islands are connected by bridges. It is nowhere near other islands I’ve been to, if you look it up on a map all you’ll see is sea.
From there we’re on our way home. Foyle Marina at Derry-Londonderry around 23rd -27th July. Actually, that gives me some time to spend in Bermuda if I feel the need to stay in one place for a week or more. Bring out the bikini.
Once we’ve left Ireland on 2nd August it’s back to St Katherine’s Dock in London for 8th August, unless they sneak in a late stop. Then we pick up our normal lives?
Next time: probably disappointing for the sailors, back to my plans. Unless something more exciting occurs beforehand.
This post is a gallimaufry. No, nothing to do with Doctor Who’s home planet but a confused jumble of stuff. There, you can impress people with a new word today!
I’ve not managed to update the blog for a while, partly due to waiting for news to come in from the Clipper office and partly due to having a house full of different people at different times, including the three F’s who appear at the top of Post 2 way back in November last year. You can see them on the header here, if you go onto the website (not on the email). They have grown quite a bit in the interim!
So what’s been happening? Referring back to Post 30, we went and had our jabs, thankfully not as drastic as we thought. The very informative nurse we saw talked common sense into us: as we weren’t likely to be doing anything foolish (!) we could avoid having rabies, yellow fever etc etc. We came out having had just the normal boosters. The one proviso was if we were going to Brazil we would need yellow fever.
We found out last week that the first stop, on the way to Punta del Este in Uruguay, will be Portimao in Portugal. A nice short introduction to the race for MBB across the Bay of Biscay! It has affected the timings a little but as I’ve not got around to booking any flights or hotels that’s fine. The fleet arrival window here is 8 to 10 September, leaving for Uruguay on 15 September and they are now due into Punta del Este between 12 to 16 October. All other timings are (as yet) unchanged. I’ll do a review when we have more dates (we are expecting more announcements later this week).
The Level 4 week training started recently, where the actual 70 footers race against each other, in a small version of what they will be doing in September. George has yet to do his (due to the holiday in Japan and Vietnam) but John had his in early June, on the second week of Level 4. He clocked up 626 hours, with 46 hours night sailing. His attempt to grow a beard this week was not too successful, but maybe a year at sea will help.
The results are very unofficial and do not get published, BUT we know that Qingdao beat Unicef in the first week. I was using VesselFinder to track them which means little else gets done. It’s great fun to see them racing when they are all in a line. You can track any boat, not just the Clippers, here’s the link: https://www.vesselfinder.com/
Soon after that we had the Isle of Wight Round-The-Island race. Maybe not quite as tough as round the world. The Clipper yachts had been chartered out, they were in their own class, only three finished (due to lack of wind) but we had Unicef (CV31) first and Qingdao (CV30) second! Even though our teams were not crewing, the Skippers and AQPs were on board so it’s a real coup for the two boats we’ll be supporting. Once again we were all tracking them. Other systems are available and all are pretty similar, but here CV31 (Unicef) is the orange track, I think I need this system instead of the one above, much prettier! Once we start to race the official Clipper one will be the one to watch though, no other vessels interfering with the view.
Also in the last few weeks John has officially left Alliance altogether, resigning from his post of Non-Executive Director. He had (yet another) farewell party and a few sailing-related presents.
Back to Clipper. Another two sponsors have been announced, WTC Logistics and ChartCo. World Trade Connections (WTC) Logistics are also a team partner, sponsoring a boat (Team Mark, CV23) as well as providing the shipping for all the equipment that needs to be taken to each port for the fleet. Important things like the pennants they win for coming first, second and third for example. As soon as I have a picture of their wrap I’ll post it. ChartCo is an official supplier, so they don’t have a boat. They are supplying the charts, piloting books and any other technical navigation documents needed.
Finally, you’re not getting away without me mentioning the HATS! Having knitted lots for Unicef I felt I’d best pay some attention to Qingdao supporters. All the boats have a target of £33,000 to raise for Unicef (the official Clipper charity). John’s team are doing very well and are likely to reach that before they sail. Qingdao are a bit slower off the blocks, languishing in last place.
George donated £10 for the hat then took it to his team building event last weekend where it attracted much admiration. The upshot was it became an auction item and raised a further £60! Following on from that, there’s a raffle for a second one and other supporters are knitting. When we get to any port we’ll recognise each other (assuming the crew let us supporters wear them as well). Back to my needles…
Meanwhile, in 54 days and 5 hours they will be off!
Now to John’s boat. Before I start though, I thought you might be interested in a book John was given for his birthday, not by me!
This is a gripping book, addressing the original voyage that Sir Robin took. Although it was not intended as a race, it became known as the Golden Globe Race and nine men set off in various types of boats with varying degrees of experience. One man continued beyond the start as he would not consider racing and ended up living in Tahiti. One was Donald Crowhurst, who faked his position and looked as though he were winning until he disappeared. (There were two films made about him in 2017). I’ll not tell you the rest, it’s well worth a read.
John is on the Unicef boat, commonly referred to as the Big Blue Boat. They came sixth last year with 108 points. The Unicef boat is the official charity of Clipper and is the only one that does not have a sponsor. I may have said this previously, but I hadn’t realised that Unicef relies entirely on donations. This is the third time they’ve been the Clipper charity and are hoping to get above £1 million this time. As the last race raised over £374,000 and all three raised a total of more than £700,000 this sounds achievable. As well as John raising funds I’ve now joined in with my Clipper Supporter Unicef hats. That’ll add a few more pounds! I’ll not bore you with another picture, just go back to my last post. I have now knitted two decent ones. OK, here’s the proof. The next time you see them it should be at the race start on Supporter heads.
On the Unicef boat there are 63 crew listed, 42 male and 21 female, aged from 18 to 70 years old. John is not the only 70 year old so may not even been the oldest on this boat (and on George’s there’s a 72 year old). He may be the oldest Round-The-Worlder though, I need to research the other boats before being able to say this with confidence (see a future post?). On the Unicef boat there are eight circumnavigators. Fourteen nationalities are reported to be sailing, so far I’ve found eleven: British, Australian, Canadian, American, Irish, Swedish, South African, Swiss, Spanish, Norwegian and Italian.
The Skipper is Ian Wiggin, a 30 year old Brit who has been working towards skippering a Clipper boat for the last ten years. The AQP is Mike Miller, a 50 year old Brit who was a crew circumnavigator last time on Sanya, the winning boat. I’m sure he’ll want to keep that position! I have a photo of Ian, courtesy of the Clipper website. (I couldn’t get the others to download for some reason. Need more skills).
As I said last time, the RTW’ers are given a specific job, and John will be the Medical Assistant. This should not be too demanding as there are at least five doctors on board as well as a renal nurse, but not all going for the whole trip. The Skipper is responsible for medical care on the boat but John will be responsible for keeping the medical kit and log safe and up-to-date. We’ve been told by a crew member from a previous trip that everyone will have an injury at some stage, the vast majority being minor, so sticking plasters at the ready! He’ll be going on a two day course in July for all the Medical Assistants and we have both signed up for a four day course in August to learn about first aid on board. You never know when you’ll need it. You know the official colour by now, BLUE!
Every boat has a kitty which the crew can decide to spend on a luxury or two. George’s crew are busy discussing whether to have a freezer. Whilst they think of their stomachs, the Unicef team are much more cerebral. All John’s correspondence (?) on WhatsApp seems to have been about the Team Song. Even though there are only 63 crew it felt that about 150 songs were suggested. I have spent many a happy hour listening to them. Last weekend there was a vote (a bit like Eurovision but not so camp. I think). One crew member one vote. I won’t tell you which one John voted for but the winner with 17 votes was Here We Go by Wild. They are from Los Angeles so maybe they’ll come and cheer us into Seattle? The runner up had 6 votes and I’m Happy to say that no-one went home with nul points. If you don’t know the winning song here’s the YouTube link to it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08beVMVWfnI&feature=youtu.be
The words are up there so no excuse, I expect you all to be singing along on 1st September. Rather apt, in view of the fact that on the Golden Globe Sir Robin was considered to be lost, are the words “We’ll get lost until we’re found”. Let’s hope not. (He insisted he wasn’t lost as he knew exactly where he was, it was just that the communications had failed).
One last item of interest. John is sailing this week (level 1 helping the newbies) and next (level 4 on His boat). He sent me a picture of a proper BOB, not to be confused with the HOB we had in post 27. Personally I think it looks like one of the Dr Who monsters but that’s just me. Isn’t it?
Next time, for a bit of light relief from all this sailing stuff, I’ll let you know how my preparations are coming along.