79. There and Back Again

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).

Essential supplies for Unicef crew

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.

La Jolla Beach Bar

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:

https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/995

I have discovered a huge advantage of my Kindle: you can enlarge the font size if sleepy and your eyes are tired to the extreme of about six words per page! Takes rather a long time to read a book, though it might come if useful if I have to self-quarantine. Maybe I should have hung onto those cereal bars. Back to crew diaries. Bruce’s crew diary mentions what JD gets up to during the day: (I don’t think it will be a huge surprise to those who know him) https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/unicef/1220 and a new crew diary from George: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/crew-diary/qingdao/1260 but you’ll need to read Chris’s skipper reports of 12th and 13th to find out why their track looked a bit odd on the first side of the race and their reaction. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/team/qingdao/skipper-reports

La Jolla Infinity pool and hot tubs

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.

Crew baggage

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.

Mystery fruit

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

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!

76. Subic BayWatch

Let me rephrase my question from the earlier Post: if it were your husband / wife, would you go back to Subic Bay? Aha, you’re thinking differently now, aren’t you? As far as I can see, coronavirus (CV, like the fleet!) is now widespread across the globe. I was thinking of visiting a pal in Switzerland but they’ve got cases. The hospital across the river from me had all the London cases. Where is safe?

Well, when I look at the Race Viewer, it seems that Qingdao and Unicef both have a good chance of getting on the podium, so I’ve booked to go back in time for the prize giving on March 4th. Not that I wish to jinx them but if neither are on the podium blame me! Of course, the day before booking I’d gone out and bought a load of fresh food, so I’m now creating day bags for myself so that everything is eaten before I go.

Post 75 detailed some of the reasons not to go. I forgot to tell you about the wine. You all know how much I enjoy wine. Well, the choice in Subic Bay was red or white. If you were lucky, there was also premium red or white (although that never actually seemed to be in stock). There were some good times there though: Ha Long Bay (HLB) organised a pub quiz in aid of Unicef (the organisation not the boat, silly. Just because they were last didn’t mean they were a charity case!). Our team was very diverse: one supporter (me), one Qingdao crew (George), two Unicef crew (JD and Bruce) and two Clipper office staff (Sarah and Karla). If I tell you that the only round where we got full marks (thankfully) was “identify the member of the Clipper office from the photo” you’ll know we didn’t come near the top. (I really must have a lesson on how to take selfies, or get a wretched selfie-stick).

Dawson’s Clique team

We went into Olangapo, the main town attached to Subic Bay, to see a bit of SE Asia. They have buses (sort of) called Jeepneys which you’ll be familiar with if you’ve been on holiday there. I hadn’t so found them fun (to look at, I wasn’t going to risk using one). There’s one below somewhere. There were some lovely old buildings but in general the whole place was pretty rundown. In this picture you can see the electricity cables, all tangled up in one big mess.

An American we met in Airlie Beach told us not to go to Subic Bay, saying he’d worked there and it was like the Wild West. We didn’t really believe him, but then I saw this shack. Hmmm, maybe he had a point.

In my last Blog Post I mentioned Manuela, donated to HLB for their Nav Station. Before they set sail Josh very sheepishly confessed she’d not lasted the course: see his skipper blog of 26 February for more details. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/ha-long-bay-viet-nam/race7-day3-team43

Here’s a race update before I forget what this is all about. No-one played their Joker. I forgot to say there is no stealth, so keep watching Race Viewer to see how they are doing. Although it’s not much cop this race, partly because it’s a loop and partly because all the hills and islands interfere with the signal that’s beamed back to the office. Ignore the DTF (distance to finish) and look at the pretty picture at the top of the screen with the colourful counters. Regardless of the table below the picture, it does look as though our two (red Qingdao and mid-blue Unicef) are in the lead. I think the system is not able to distinguish whether they are heading out or back. https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings

As this race is a loop, it does not count towards the circumnavigation so some RTWers have taken the opportunity to have medical issues checked out or to go and visit family where they’ve not seen them since the start of the race. To compete with my Unidao / Qingcef tee shirts, this race we have “Unizhu del Puhai Logistics“: Zhuhai has two crew borrowed from Punta, one from Unicef and one from WTC. GoToBermuda has two from Imagine Your Korea but have not (yet?) rebranded themselves “Imagine You’re Going to Bermuda” or “Go Imagine”. In the Ocean Sprint, Qingdao and WTC Logistics opted for the South sprint (heading south back to Subic Bay) but the other nine are all going for the North sprint (heading away from Subic Bay). Thus both WTC and Qingdao are guaranteed bonus points in this race. The rest will have to battle it out as usual. In contrast to the lean mean machines that are the Clipper yachts, the Philippines has bikes with side attachments that are used to transport the whole family or goods for the market. Here’s one.

All of this is on the bike!

74. Race 6 Results

I arrived on St Valentine’s Day in the late afternoon. Six boats had beaten me here: in order, WTC Logistics, Qingdao, Ha Long Bay Viet Nam (HLB), Sanya, Imagine Your Korea (IYK) and Punta del Este (PdE). So once again I was unable to wave George in. Once again, after Christmas, New Year and my birthday, JD missed a special day! The race was an odd one with lots of wind holes and great difficulty predicting timings.

The hotel I had booked into was on the coast. It was adequate, the room was small with a tiny balcony that overlooked the sea if you could see through the bamboos growing outside. The aircon was so noisy you could not sleep, but if you turned it off it was too hot to sleep (and the disco next door was suddenly very noisy). However, a night there revealed ants in the room by the bedhead. Well, some very small insects which I think were ants but I’d left my pocket microscope behind. Then I went down to breakfast. We were given a scrap of paper with various options to tick. As the waitress spoke English I guess it was to make life easy for the chef. Being unadventurous I chose ham, scrambled eggs, toast and hot chocolate. The toast was that sweet bread that clings to your teeth, the ham was like no ham I have ever seen and the hot chocolate was more water than anything else.

Unicef arriving

Unicef were due in (last estimate) between midnight and three am Sunday so I repaired to the Yacht Club about ten on Saturday night for a late supper and a wait. If you’re reading this on the website you’ll see my manic face at about three in the morning. They sailed into view about 2.30 am, unfortunately eleventh as GoToBermuda (GTB) had overtaken them in the last few hours. We went for the obligatory beer and managed to find a burger at about 3.30 am then took a taxi back to the hotel and crashed at about 6 am for three hours’ sleep before JD had to be back on the boat at 9 am. There was a team briefing for everyone, including we happy few, we band of 15 supporters, telling us the plan for after they leave here. I’ll give that in the next blog post. By lunchtime, when I next had the chance to talk with JD, he’d decided that he could not stay in that hotel and had found a room at the Yacht Club. A huge suite with decent aircon, two double beds and a sofa, a table to work at and a little balcony. No WiFi in the first room so they moved us next door where the router was and the WiFI works. No view of the sea but a small objection against the two minute walk to the boat. George also moved out of the original hotel to an apartment where other crew were staying.

Yacht Club room with JD in the far distance!

BUT the title of this post is Race 6 results so that’s what I’ll tell you about. The prize giving was on Monday 17th at the yacht club outside in the sun. There was a great reggae band which consisted of local high school kids. The results of the Ocean Sprint were announced: Dare To Lead (DTL) fastest with three points, PdE second with two points and Qingdao third with one point. In terms of the race, WTC have eleven points for coming first, Qingdao ten, HLB nine, Sanya eight, IYK seven, PdE six, DTL five, Seattle four, Zhuhai three, GTB two and our own Unicef one. Add in the Scoring Gate (HLB first, WTC second and DTL third) and we get overall positions of Qingdao first with 78 points (eleven this race), HLB second with 74 points (12 this race), PdE third 49 (eight), Sanya fourth 46 (also eight), IYK up to fifth with 41 (seven), joint sixth with 38 points are WTC (thirteen this race), DTL (nine) and Unicef (one), ninth GTB with 29 (two), tenth Zhuhai (three) and eleventh Seattle 26 (three). Still very close and all to play for in the remaining races.

Reggae band

Tomorrow (possibly) I’ll let you into the new plans made by Clipper and how it affects me and MBB. I’m still unsure what I will be doing but I guess if I give you my options we could put it to the popular vote (no London McLondonfaces or China McChinafaces though please!).

Prize giving