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!

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!

52. Race 2 Results

I’ll keep you in suspense a little longer. What do you mean, you’ve already looked at the Clipper website and know the results? I’ll show you photos not on the website then.

Stuart Skelton singing at The Opera Awards dinner

I left you with Sanya in Stealth Mode trying to pull ahead of Qingdao. I’m sorry to have to tell you that it didn’t work and Qingdao went into the lead. Yes, you’re right, these are crocodile tears. I’m not at all sorry, but the lead between the two kept changing as the winds veered around. Then four others went into Stealth: Seattle, WTC Logistics, Dare to Lead and Zhuhai. Meanwhile, there’s another Crew Diary from George, if you’ve not seen that on the website. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/381

Qingdao in sight!

Whilst all this jiggery-pokery was going on at sea I had a busy couple of days after the weekend, before trying to pack my case for Uruguay. I went to the Opera Awards Gala Dinner at the Great Hall, Lincoln’s Inn. Such an impressive venue. Stuart Skelton was the host for the evening and there was some wonderful singing from recipients of Opera Award bursaries. There was an auction of various opera-related events but as John was not with me I was able to resist bidding for anything. Over the years that we’ve been supporting the Opera Awards we’ve met some new friends, and now that I’m in London I had lunch with one at Lorne near Victoria. A good place to meet and a good lunch. I’m turning into a lady-wot-lunches! I did walk there and back so some exercise before my long flights.

Part of the Great Hall

When it came to the packing, in addition to all the items John had requested I bring (not just shore clothes and his shoes, which weigh a ton, but new stuff too for on the boat), I was asked to bring out other supplies for other crew members.

Over the finish line!

I only had half a case to myself and didn’t want two big cases so I deployed my Clipper bag (see Post 5 from November 16th 2018) for books and squashable items that wouldn’t leak. Even that proved too small so into action came my trusty Musto sailing bag from 2012. Perfect. I’m glad I claimed it back from John as he used it for his training weeks (without asking first!). The extra sleeping bag layer will have its own case to Cape Town.

Taking sails down and putting battle sail up

I had to find a little corner for my clothes. As the weather forecast for Punta del Este was variable (predicted day time temperatures between 23C and 13C, night times 16C to 8C) it was a case of layers. There was also a risk of showers so I needed a raincoat. Then, when I thought I was ready and had zipped up the bags, I realised I’d not put my make-up in. Not something you can risk taking in hand luggage, that mascara can be very dangerous in the wrong hands! Open the cases up again and move things around to make a little more space.

In port

When I checked the forecast I saw that on October 9th there was a waxing gibbous moon. Nothing to do with monkeys’ ears, it means the moon is going towards full (as opposed to a waning moon going towards new) and that it’s more than a semi-circle, less than the full circle, which it will be when full on October 14th. Don’t say this blog isn’t educational!

A welcome beer for George and Donna

Back to the race. Most of the way it was Sanya and Qingdao swapping first and second places, I’m overjoyed to tell you that Qingdao came first, crossing the line in Punta del Este on Friday 11th October at 15:35:46 UTC. Sanya were second almost five hours later, coming in at 20:10:55. Both finished the day before the official arrival window started so I’m glad I travelled a day before I thought I needed to. We then had to wait until Sunday for the rest: Ha Long Bay at 1 pm, Dare to Lead at 3, Unicef fifth at 17.51 quickly followed by Zhuhai, Seattle and then WTC at 19.24. Punta came in just after eleven and the last two were GoToBermuda just before 5 am Monday and Imagine Your Korea just after 6am. I only watched my two boats come in.

Unicef in sight

To the points for this race: Qingdao 11 for first, doubled to 22 as they played their Joker plus 2 for the Scoring Gate = 24. Visit Sanya 10 plus 3 for the Scoring Gate and 1 for the Ocean Sprint =14. Ha Long Bay 9 +1 +2 = 12. Dare to Lead 8. Unicef 7 (one better than the last race). Zhuhai 6, Seattle 5, WTC Logistics 4, Punta del Este 3 doubled to 6 plus 3 for the Scoring Gate, GoToBermuda 2 and Imagine Your Korea 1.

Coming into dock

For the Race so far I calculate: Qingdao 36 points, Sanya and Punta 23 each, Ha Long Bay and Dare to Lead 18 each, Zhuhai 16, Unicef 13, Seattle 7, Korea 6 and WTC and Bermuda both on 5. If I’ve miscalculated then the Clipper website will be updated soon and I’ll correct any I need to.

Spot John!

51. Leg 1 Race 2 (c)

First, I’ll try not to post any more shots of Gloomy London, I realise I finished Posts 49 AND 50 with similar views. If there’s snow later in the year I may change this decision (but snow isn’t gloomy). The header is of the view I had when I woke up yesterday.

I forgot to tell you that John won the Equator sweepstake on Unicef. It sounds like he may not have won in everyone’s opinion, due to the application of ship time and/or UTC. When I next see him I’ll find out what he won, probably an extra Haribo or something! https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/unicef/race2-day17-team48

I also forgot to detail my cinematic experiences. At home, we often plan to go and see a film but usually by the time we get around to it the film has moved on. Since Portimao, I have been to see The Farewell (a film well worth seeing, even if the synopsis sounds depressing, a Chinese family getting together for a fake wedding when they hear that Grandma has only a few weeks to live. Based on an actual lie it says). Then Downton Abbey. It possibly helps to have watched the TV series so you know who is who. I mentioned Netflix in an earlier post, well to make up for never having seen Downton Abbey I’ve binge watched the first two series of The Crown. I think I still prefer Matt Smith as Dr Who. I’m now binge watching Sherlock (the one with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, not Basil Rathbone or Peter Cushing!).

In John’s crew diary of 27th September he mentioned needing to buy a bird book in Punta to enable him to identify the birds that are flying around. In Ian’s Skipper report of 4th October he says they have one, ‘Seabirds of Southern Africa and the World’, by Gerald Tuck of the Royal Navy Ornithological Society. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/unicef/race2-day19-team48

I don’t know how old that book is, but I managed to find a different one for John with photos. As it’s over 300 pages I’m not sure how easy it will be to ID a bird flying past at speed though. THE book on ocean birds was, apparently, Peter Harrison’s 1983 “Seabirds: An Identification Guide” but this new one builds on that with the use of DNA and subsequent reclassification.

Reading Nick’s Zhuhai log of 3rd October, I think maybe I should have bought the book for George instead. Nick says that Qingdao seem to think all the birds they see are some sort of gannet. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/zhuhai/race2-day18-team45 . Another skipper seemingly preoccupied with birds is Mike on Imagine Your Korea. I’ve bought him a little present but you’ll have to wait until I hand it over to see it.

As well as managing to see films that otherwise pass me by, and eating foods that have not yet hit rural England, I walk to the shops most days with my little carrier bag to buy food (no filling up the boot once a week or less). This does mean I look more at what I’m buying, and imagine my glee when I found this, a combination of my favourite cocktail (espresso martini) and my favourite brand of yogurt (The Collective).

I needed it before I tried to squeeze the warm sleeping bag layer John wants me to take to Punta or Cape Town into the compression straps I had to order. On its own it takes up my whole suitcase. I was assured by John that the straps would make it small enough that I could pack my clothes (and his) as well… Really? Just take a look and tell me what you think.

Saturday morning the results of the Ocean Sprint were announced by Clipper. Unfortunately neither of our two boats were fast enough. Our arch-nemesis, Punta del Este, came first, gained three points and and so have leapfrogged Qingdao (17 points to 14). Grrr. Ha Long Bay were second so have a total of nine points and Visit Sanya scraped the third place, one point, to give them 10 points overall. Dare to Lead were in fourth place (nul points) only one second slower than Sanya. You have to feel sorry for them.

Skipper Mark of WTC Logistics says in his log of 5th October that they came sixth only nine minutes behind Sanya. He also comments on the fact that the fleet of matched boats but with all amateur crews can be so close. Read the full account from the link below (then click onto the other skipper reports as they are all interesting and you’ve got nothing else to do today, right!). https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/wtc-logistics/race2-day20-team40

This weekend I had two pals visiting, Victoria up from Somerset and Rene. Well, I guess I had three as Clint came too. Victoria and I went to Tate Britain to see the William Blake (again, for me, but I still missed bits of information). First we went to the Members’ Room for some lunch. I’d not been there and it takes some finding. Up the spiral staircase and up and up. It’s pretty much in the dome that you see on top of the Tate. According to my clever phone I climbed three floors. It felt more like six, both of us needing to take a breath when we arrived before I was able to show my membership card. I don’t think it’s as impressive as the V&A Members’ Room, and more of a canteen as it’s self-service, but sitting up in the light-filled dome was an experience. I have said if I do it on a daily basis my fitness will improve, with the incentive of a coffee when I arrive, but I’ve yet to repeat the trip. Knowing what faces me should make it easier. Extinction Rebellion are out in force so I’m not sure I’m brave enough to wander near Parliament.

Lambeth Bridge, MIllbank Tower, Tate Britain

On Sunday morning all three of us (with Clint observing) had another go with the compression straps. I don’t know exactly how it was managed, but here we are with a better packed layer. It now doesn’t quite take up all of my case although I still don’t have room for everything I need. I’ve been advised it’s not necessary for the next race so I’ll take it to Cape Town, when I’m not having to change planes.

The other interesting thing that happened this week (if you’re a Clipper Addict) is the appearance of two posters depicting two of the Crew Members, as the recruitment for the next race (2021/22) jumps up a gear. One of these Crew Members you’ve already come across, you shouldn’t be surprised when I tell you it’s Donna. I went to see Victoria off on Sunday, then onto Arthur Beale to collect the head torches I’d ordered (see previous Post) and look who was smiling down on us!

I’ll remind you, Donna is a 48-year-old British chiropractor going around the world on Qingdao. We met her before we knew she was on the same boat as George and she’s doing the same job as John on board of Medical Assistant. Just to be fair, I’ll give you the shot of the other Crew Member, Mark Pollard. He’s a 30-year-old engineer from Australia and he’s sailing Legs 1 and 3 on Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam.

Now I have a new game, seeing how many I can spot and hoping that Clipper will add others for us to hunt down. A bit like Pokemon Go! Although less interactive.

Not to be outdone, you can see John to the left of the last picture on this Clipper news article about the Ocean Sprint. It doesn’t look as though he shaved his head. We’ve not seen George for a while, I wonder if he has? https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/closely-fought-dell-latitude-rugged-ocean-sprint-sees-just-one-second-between-two-teams

Sanya have gone into Stealth mode, 06.10 UTC Monday morning, so we won’t know where they are until Tuesday morning. Meantime, Qingdao are effectively in the lead. Go Qingdao! The weather for the next few days has very deep lows developing, little wind and wind gusting and veering in different directions, so it’s all to play for. Are Sanya trying to get closer to the shore and benefit from the offshore winds that played such a crucial part at the end of race 1?

And on that cliffhanger, I’ll leave you with another picture of London Today.

49. Leg 1 Race 2 (a)

As I’m sure you know, this race started from Portimao on Sunday 15th September and is due to finish at Punta del Este in Uruguay around 12 to 16th October (the arrival window). I am flying out a couple of days before to make sure I wave them both in this time (as long as they don’t come in at some unfashionable hour when I’m fast asleep).

The highlight of this race is crossing the Equator, making Shellbacks out of Pollywogs (those who have never sailed across the Equator before, flying around the world doesn’t count). You should just be able to see a dotted line on this shot, below the Doldrums Corridor End, which shows where the Equator is. A long way off yet.

I know that the youngsters who have signed up as Junior Crew Supporters have been practicing this event for a while, but as I’ve not been sent any photos (I wonder why?) then you’ll have to make do with this, John’s father’s certificate which has pride of place in his childhood home. I doubt the Clipper crew will get anything anywhere near as attractive.

Crossing The Equator

In Post 48a, Qingdao had gone into Stealth Mode. They came out ahead of Ha Long Bay (who had been in Stealth the day before, but unfortunately came across Qingdao so the secrecy was lost). Qingdao were second over the Scoring Gate, with Sanya first and Ha Long Bay third.

Two more points to Qingdao! Now on 14 points at the top of the table with Punta del Este.

It’s now Tuesday 24th and Unicef were the third to go into Stealth Mode last night, we won’t know where they are until tonight. The front runners of the fleet were passing the Cape Verde Islands, with Unicef taking a different route through them. This shows their last known position so you can see where they went offline. They are the mid-blue blob in the middle of the Islands on the left of the shot.

I hope you understood, from Post 48, the horrible place that is the Doldrums and how boring it is with nothing happening for days on end. Well, things do not always follow the expectations. Here’s a shot of the Doldrums now, with Tropical Cyclone Garry showing up in deep orange to purple. The fleet look to be using the outskirts to get some wind to push them into the Doldrums more quickly, especially Punta del Este (the yellow blob). We should know in the next couple of days who was able to benefit from the cyclone.

BUT, I hear you cry, this is all about the fleet. What is our favourite landlubber up to all this time? Fear not, gentle reader, I have been busy and not just with washing and injections (ref Post 47). OK, so some of the time has been taken up with getting stuff to take out to John, although the compression straps are proving elusive. I don’t think I’ve mentioned the painting by Mark Wiggin, father to the Unicef Skipper Ian. He was asked by Ian to create a picture to commemorate this race. At the time only three boats had been branded, Unicef, the yellow one (Punta del Este) and the red one (Qingdao), and Mark chose to include the red one. Well, my two boats, it was written in the stars! It was in the Unicef tent at the Fanzone at St Katherine’s Dock and anyone could put in a bid, but not many people did so I managed to outbid them. Last week I popped over to Unicef UK to collect it and it’s now got pride of place in my home! I can follow the Race Viewer and look at the boats at the same time.

I have been doing other things as well: walking in Battersea Park with Rene (friend) and Clint (Welshie), going out to dinner at Moo, an Argentinian restaurant up the road and meeting neighbours in the block. In the next few days I’ll be getting some culture at the V&A and Tate Britain, possibly the Tate Modern too. I finally got around to turning the television on, the first time since July, and seeing what Netflix has to offer. Most of all I’ve been practicing the piano (Grade 4 scales and simple classical) and looking at the view in gloomy London. Portimao seems a long time ago already.

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!

18. Rules of Engagement

A little more on the actual race itself. The first pic below gives some detail which I shall attempt to flesh out. Before I do, I was asked if the last (proper) post should have been “kinky boats”, a pun I missed, so here at the top is a kinky boat from Liverpool!

The Race is divided into different legs, each having a race or two within it. Each race has three placings but every boat gets points in each race, so the overall winner has the most points over the whole Round The World. Clear? I’m sure there’s an easier way to describe it.

Once the race is underway it’ll be easy to see how the individual yachts are getting on by signing up to the Race Viewer on the Clipper website (link to follow once it’s active).

In addition to the details above, there are Scoring Gates, an imaginary “gate” in the sea through which the first three yachts get bonus points. There are also Ocean Sprints between two lines of latitude or longitude which again give points to the fastest. Some Skippers may ignore these if they think they can win an overall individual race by taking a different route, although there are also limits to how far South they can go (for safety).

Which is the quickest route?

AND THEN there is stealth mode, when you can “hide” from the other yachts (and us the supporters) for 24 hours if you think you might have an advantage in taking a particular route. The office will still be tracking the boat in case of difficulties so no need to panic if they disappear off the screen. Oh, and each team also has a Joker which they play once in the whole Race, scoring double points. This cannot be used on the Scoring Gates or Ocean Sprints: realistically you’d want to use it when you hope to double your first place of eleven points.

This all sounds very complicated but once they’re underway it’s pretty easy to follow, honestly. You may wonder why they don’t all follow the same “path”. Weather, my dear! Although all the boats are identical, the Skipper may think that there’s a better breeze (wind? tempest? whatever the weather throws up) coming along and try to take advantage of this by trimming the sails differently or taking a different more Northerly or Southerly route. Once you start watching them on the Race Viewer you’ll see that sometimes one goes way off course. He’s not lost, just trying to pick up a different sea current.

You’re now asking me what you win. Well, each race has a pennant for first, second and third:

Race winner Derry / Londonderry to Liverpool

As well as the first, second and third for each race, the sponsors may give a pennant. Here is last year’s Liverpool Team getting one for being good eggs (can’t remember exactly what they did, most sponsorship or something? Saving other people when their boat was sinking?) Just looked on the Clipper website, it doesn’t say exactly why they received it only that they would have been nominated by lots of people.

I’m not sure how much of this stuff is for the individuals but on the final race Team Seattle all had individual pennants for their second place win. Here’s a delighted recipient. I need to clear a space on the office walls for all the ones John is planning to bring home.

Finally, the winning yacht gets a big trophy. Here’s Wendy Tuck and Sanya Serenity Coast winning last year, with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston on the right.

Clipper Round The World victors

All of this takes a massive amount of organising and they have a lot of coverage once they are out there. Last year there were about 30,000 stories in the various media that we have these days. Each boat has someone responsible for media; they’re given a waterproof camera, filming diaries and a daily blog on the team pages. At the end of the Race all the crew get the diaries, photos etc. You’ll be glad you’ve got me summarising it all for you once they set off this summer!