77. Groundhog Day

Here we are again, happy as can be, back at Subic Bay Yacht Club. Before I update you on the plans, I forgot to mention the hotel Casino previously. In my mind’s eye there are elegant ladies sipping champagne and good looking lithe men in dinner jackets. The reality is subtly different:

We had a crew briefing a few days ago. The Covid-19 has put paid officially to both Qingdao and South Korea options that were suggested last time. Japan is not feasible due to the need for visas for different nationalities. This is a new Leg, so some people will have left the boats and more importantly new people will have joined. Some of these were on previous Legs but some have only been through the training weeks, so to send the boats straight off to Seattle was deemed too risky with crews that had not bedded in. Conclusion: another Subic Bay to Subic Bay race of around 750 nautical miles, but a different triangular route, due West then North then back to Subic Bay. I’ve not got a decent picture so instead here are OBB arriving. Compare their faces with when they set off for this race (blog post 76a).

There will be no Stealth or Scoring Gates as it’s such a short race, but each side of the triangle is an Ocean Sprint. Boats are allowed to “compete” in two of the three so could get an extra six points if they win both their Sprints. The declarations of who is competing in which will be needed (I think) six hours before this race starts. There will also be the usual race placings of 11 points down to one. No-one has played a Joker this race: they need to get a move on, there are only six races left before the whole Race is over in August!

I need to give you the results of the last Subic Bay to Subic Bay race but I don’t have my notes on me so I can only tell you the three podium positions: Qingdao then Unicef then Imagine Your Korea.

We have a “guest” Dawson here in the form of James Anderson. As he’s from Cullercoats not far from where JD grew up, we decided he’s allowed to join us!

Tomorrow I’ll do another post and let you have the full results. The fleet will be setting off early (JD has to be on board at 0830) so I’ll have plenty of time to sort out my notes. This week has been a bit complicated so we didn’t really do anything except eat in a different place each evening. Refer back to earlier posts for what Filipino restaurants are like. We did manage to find a couple of “European” style places (Urban Deli and Gourmet Garage) but were almost the only ones there both times. The meals come in the order we expect in Europe and portion sizes were more “normal”.

Urban Deli, our private restaurant

We also went to Coco Lime which is local food, great tasting but they did not warn us that the soup we had ordered served at least six each. Luckily two new Leggers on Unicef came along and helped out, although the vegetarian had difficulty as even vegetable dishes tend to have chicken or pork as routine ingredients. Is this where I mention a vegetarian friend we have who eats chicken “because they are too stupid to be animals”? We’ve not seen much of George but he’s yet to tell us of anything exciting to do. I think it’s a great place if you dive or snorkel or just want to sit in the sun and sizzle (temperatures of high 30s).

Coco Lime, two bowls of soup

More soon, TTFN!

67. Another Day of Sun

So here I am in Airlie Beach. As I’ve been too lazy to post for a while, here’s a whistle-stop tour of the rest of our stay in Sydney.

A good thing to do in a new city is to ride the hop-on, hop-off bus. You see the sights, get a feeling for the geography, know how to find the places that sound interesting and end up where you started so you can’t get lost. Unless, of course, the bus is so full that you might as well be on a rush-hour London tube. In which case you cannot hear the commentary and you can’t see the buildings around you. We had planned to get off at the Powerhouse Museum purely because it was the first stop that had a cafe and we had skipped breakfast. We are so glad we did, after sustenance we went into the museum (which is being closed and / or moved to a less convenient location). It was free and full of good design icons, including the first train in Australia (Train Number One).

There was an exhibition of fashion by Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson. I feel embarrassed to confess I’d not heard of them as they had such an influence in the 1970’s and I have a number of knitting patterns that were obviously inspired by them. They had been based in the UK for a while and as well as knitted garments had the most awe-inspiring dresses. We actually went around twice, partly because my camera had decided not to take photos but also because we could. If you are in Sydney before March 22nd (when the exhibition ends) then go.

Back on the bus, we eventually managed to get a seat and plug in our earphones. Despite this being January 2020 and thus after Christmas, the sound track, when we were not being told about stuff (mostly how new luxury apartments were being built in previously run-down areas), was CHRISTMAS MUSIC! AAARGH!

Moving on. We had some great meals, Intermezzo in the GPO building, Cafe Sydney in the Customs House (still in use) and Gowings restaurant in the old Gowings Department store (a lovely old Art Deco place) to name a few. It seems that most of the restaurants are in buildings that previously had another function. Not just the restaurants either: the Conservatoire of Music was originally built as stables. I know this from reading Mrs. M by Luke Slattery, a novel based (loosely) on the life of Elizabeth MacQuarie, the wife of Lachlan MacQuarie, the last Governor of New South Wales. There’s a stone “seat” in the Royal Botanic Garden that she sat on to look at the view. Val is recreating the scene below. A good read if you’re looking for a new book to while away a few hours. It was recommended by Fiona, who will be sailing on Punta del Este.

We met Fiona at the Art Gallery of NSW and saw a small exhibition of paintings by Ben Quilty, a local artist who had been to Afghanistan as a war artist. His art was incredibly powerful, not just the war veterans he painted after they had returned but also his Rorschach paintings depicting local atrocities. Although the inspiration for these was of disturbing episodes in Australia’s past, the artwork itself was stunning.

Ben Quilty

Having been to the Opera on New Year’s Eve, we decided to have a tour of the Opera House. Very interesting even though we did not do the back stage tour. Our guide Peter turned out to have been one of the architects involved in the building when he had just qualified. You can’t get much closer than that, on a par maybe with being shown around Robben Island in Cape Town by one of the former political prisoners. We then walked around The Rocks, which had been an area of ill-repute in the past and saw the Ovation of The Seas, the largest cruise ship that visits Sydney. it can take around 5,000 passengers and looks at first glimpse like a block of flats.

We donated some funds to the NSW Firefighters, all volunteers and working in almost impossible conditions, and felt lucky that we had not suffered any ill effects whilst in Sydney. We are blown away by the number of shops in the CBD, there’s a veritable underground city of them. You go down one escalator, wander around, come up another and have no clue how you ended up where you are. The bookshop where I bought Mrs. M fills a whole floor of one part. On our last night we ventured out of the city to have dinner at Coogee.

Sydney artwork

The next day we said our farewell to the city and flew up to Proserpine for transfer to Airlie Beach. On arrival there was a smattering of raindrops but nothing since. It is such a relaxing place we’ve done very little: walked to the marina to work out where the fleet will come in, done our laundry and bought a few snacks for when John and George arrive, met a few other Clipper people and mooched around generally.

The Opposition: Punta del Este supporters and Fiona

It’s now Friday in Australia, my birthday, and NEITHER of my boats are here, due in Saturday or Sunday. We won’t know the Ocean Sprint results until prize giving (Sunday) so I don’t think I’ve any sailing news. The various boats have gone into Stealth, wallowed in wind holes, turned around and confused us all with their movements.

63. I Am Off To A Land Down Under!

Although I understand there are no certainties in sailing so maybe I should title this I hope I’m off…

A reader in Singapore! Welcome! Well I guess they may have read one entry and decided enough is enough, but who knows. My blog is going around the world.

I fled London on Saturday to go to Macclesfield to celebrate Keith’s birthday. You saw Keith in Cape Town, he’s one of the three bearded musketeers. I was lucky enough to have a window seat on the way up, except they seemed to have forgotten the window. We had a great evening though, 25 of Keith’s family and friends at Plum Kitchen. It looks like a sandwich bar but has a top chef who decided London was not for him. Lucky Macclesfield!

My window seat

On Monday Clipper published the first ETAs for Fremantle. As all eleven feature, the missile practices mentioned in Post 62 must have missed the fleet. I think George is going to beat me, he’s due in on Saturday morning (local Perth time) and I’m not leaving London until Saturday night. So much for my plan to arrive the first day of the arrival window to make sure I don’t miss them, they are likely to be two days before! Unicef, due to their emergency medical dash, are not due in until 18th, three days before the next race start. Before I leave I’ll update you on the situation, at the bottom of this Post.

Keith’s family at Plum Kitchen

If you want to catch up with John, he’s actually had a diary printed, here it is: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/698 which although dated 2nd December did not appear until 4th, so you may have missed it.

Now officially announced, the race finish will be at Royal Albert Dock on August 8th 2020. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/royal-albert-dock-confirmed-as-race-finish-partner-for-unforgettable-finale

This week has been one for Stealth mode. First Qingdao then Ha Long Bay then Imagine Your Korea then WTC Logistics then GoToBermuda. They’ve lost the wind so I guess they are hoping to sneak around the other boats.

Stowaway

The rest of my week in London was taken up with my Chinese visa application, finances and meeting up with pals. I hadn’t realised how much financial stuff John handled until he gave it all to me to sort out. Every time I return there seem to be more bills. To counteract all of this I have walked around London: Pimlico to Parliament to Trafalgar Square to Oxford Circus one day, stopping to have lunch at Thai Square with Stephen, an ex-work colleague. Also to the other end of Pimlico to have dinner at La Poule au Pot (where I used to go when I lived in London in my youth) with one Clipper pal and to Victoria to have lunch at Browns with another Clipper pal (not on the same day). Another day, around the City of London, partly because I turned the wrong way out of the Tube on my way to a meeting and was 15 minutes late instead of (as planned) 15 minutes early. Oops.

This time packing, I remembered my toiletries before I sealed the case. As Australia has very strict import rules I removed the cat you see above from my case and left her in Macclesfield. I also, regrettably, left behind my Earl Grey teabags as they are not allowed either. Will I survive? I can probably buy them there. I hope. If the next blog post is unexpectedly ratty you’ll know they don’t sell them in Oz.

Spot my clothes!

Once again I was asked by Clipper supporters to take things out for the crew. As they will be at sea for both Christmas and New Year, this mostly consisted of Christmas presents and celebratory items. I have a small (artificial) Christmas tree in one case with a few presents and cards as well as Santa hats, beards (like they need THOSE), elf hats etc. In the other are two boxes of New Year fripperies, as you can see above. I have now decided that I am not taking anything else for anybody to any other destinations. For the last two trips I would have managed with one case for myself, more to the point I don’t think there are any other celebrations due. No point taking Easter eggs, they’ll only smash on the way then melt.

At Keith’s party the talk around me was obviously of Clipper. To try to get into the mood we decided to eat leaning at 45 degrees. As we weren’t sure which way to lean we tried both. I prefer my way of travelling thank you very much.

Heeling to Port?
And starboard. Or vice versa,

I think I’m ready for my six-week Australian adventure. I’m leaving London at about 10C and getting to Perth at about 35C. Even though I’m arriving very early at the start of the arrival window, I’ll arrive after the first four or five boats. It changes hour to hour so you’ll need to check the Race Viewer https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings every hour, but the first three (Qingdao, Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam and Imagine Your Korea) could conceivably arrive before I’ve even left the UK. Not only will I miss giving George and pals a big hug as they come in but I’ll then have another ten days before John and Unicef are predicted to arrive. To cheer us up, here’s John’s pennant on display, I see it every time I go to bed.