69. Slow Boats To China

This race, being race 6 and the start of Leg 5, is certainly off to a slow start. This race was meant to start on Saturday 18th January, the day I left. The plan was to have the Parade of Sail (PoS) then motor beyond the Great Barrier Reef after which there would be a Le Mans start (see below for explanation of this if you are interested). John went off to the Unicef boat to prepare. About an hour later I had a frantic phone call: “can you book me back into our room for another two days? The start has been delayed”. I rushed down to reception where I was told I was the third in as many minutes! Mission accomplished, I proceeded to tell other supporters what was going on. Three or four water makers had broken down on the way into Airlie Beach and the spare parts had not arrived in time but would be there shortly. The PoS would go ahead then the whole fleet would return and go out when they were all ready. The good news was that all crew had a spare day with NO TASKS! The fact that I was not there probably made it even more relaxing. If you read the official announcement on the Clipper website you’ll see that Sir Robin downplays the situation: he “averaged a litre a day for 312 days but… in these days people expect more”. He doesn’t say whether his litre included the beers and brandy he took with him (see his book “A World of My Own” for his epic trip 50 years ago).

Jetty at our hotel

The fleet left Airlie Beach properly on Monday and duly motored beyond the Great Barrier Reef through Hydrographers Passage, a deep-water shipping channel discovered by Lieutenant Commander James Bond (not that one I’m afraid), of the Royal Australian Navy survey ship HMAS Flinders, in the 1980s. H.M.A.S. Flinders was awarded the Royal Geographic Society of Australasia’s J.P. Thomson Foundation Medal as a tribute to its accomplishment — “a valuable and permanent benefit to Australia’s maritime trade.” Commander Bond, on behalf of the officers and men of Flinders, accepted the gold medal from H.R.H. The Duke of Kent in Brisbane in April 1985. (Ref. Through the Barrier — The Hydrographers Passage Story by John C. H. Foley Presented at a meeting of the Society 27th August, 1987). https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/data/UQ_205745/s00855804_1988_13_5_171.pdf?

Washing Day on the boats

Back to the race. The Le Mans start is used when it’s not safe or convenient to have the usual start, and was developed by Clipper. In essence, once it’s safe to do so, all the boats get into a straight line two to three boat lengths apart, (in an order decided by Clipper at the Crew Briefing before they leave port) with the Lead Skipper in the middle. All the crew on every boat are at the back of the boat until the signal is given, then they rush forwards and sort out the sails and start racing. Full details can be found here: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/uploads/annex-a-to-clipper-2019-20-race-sailing-instructions.pdf

Victualling In The Sun

Another useful bit of information comes in Jeronimo’s skipper report of 23rd January on what happens when the fleet come into a stopover. Much as the crew would like to rest, you’ll realise from previous posts in this blog that I don’t get to see MBB much during the day. Here’s why: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/punta-del-este/race6-day4-team42 although I think only two days for victualling is optimistic. And the second part: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/skipper-report/punta-del-este/race6-day5-team42

This sail should be ONE PIECE!

What’s that I hear? An anguished cry around the world? Enough about the bally boats! We didn’t sign up to this blog to hear all this sailing guff. Where’s our intrepid narrator? Last we heard, she was celebrating her birthday all alone and deserted by MBB (OK, am I overdoing this aspect? Too much martyrdom?).

Hotel jetty at night. So romantic!

Fear not gentle reader. I survived the beautiful Whitsundays, neither eaten by a shark nor stung to death by the dreaded “stingers” (don’t you just love the Australians? Why use confusing names when a simple word will do). These are the Irukandji and Chironex fleckeri or Box Jellyfish. A sting can be life-threatening. It’s recommended that if going into the water (even paddling), a full Lycra body suit is worn. By the beach we saw a BIG sign warning people, if stung, to wash the area with two litres of vinegar and call medical help immediately. At the side of this sign was a holster with a bottle of vinegar in it. I should have taken a photo but instead you’re having to put up with the sights of Airlie Beach and the yachts.

Not exactly a racing vessel

But I digress. Airlie Beach was the perfect place to do nothing but sunbathe (for health reasons, to top up vitamin D you understand), eat, drink, read books (More Abell Men, a local book; The Outside by Ada Hoffmann, an interesting SF book about AI; and Sunfall by Jim Al-Khalili, who is at my alma mater of the University of Guildford) and swim. All of which we did. As well as a bit of work for Unicef crew, sail repairing and victualling, as you can see from the photos in this post.

R&R

65. Race 4 Results

The results were already known, even before all the boats had finished. Before I list them, here are a few other exciting things I got up to in Fremantle.

The first was listening to Christmas music. Every time I came into the hotel and every morning when I sat down to breakfast, it was blaring out at me. The first day when I had lunch with George and we sat outside, I honestly though there was a busker on the street. I am rather partial to playing Christmas music from mid-December, but NOT THE SAME TUNES! I think it was on a loop of about half an hour as during breakfast it repeated.

Prize giving was a bit subdued with three boats missing, but once again we had Qingdao on the podium so much cheering.

As we knew Unicef would have a very tight turn-around, the supporters that were in Fremantle formed the Unicef elves group (as mentioned in the previous post) to try and get as much done as we could for them. The main issue was victualling, buying and sorting the food for about 18 people for 20 days. Without the day bags, we had heaps of food all over the house Angie had borrowed from a pal of hers. When Unicef arrived, the new “leggers” were drafted to do as much as possible on the boat to allow the circumnavigators and returning leggers some rest. A good learning experience.

On the “fun” side, I went off to Penguin Island with Cheryl and Lizelle, two other Unicef supporters. The only penguins we saw were ten in the rescue centre, the rest were out at sea, but there were thousands of bridled terns, pelicans and other birds we couldn’t identify. A lovely restful day communing with nature. We then had some lunch at Rockingham on the way back to Freo. The place we stopped at looked better than it actually was. Ketchup and mayonnaise cost extra, and the loos required a key from the bar. The first door was open so we walked through. After about five minutes wandering around back corridors, we found the Ladies locked. The Gents next to it was open, so we took it in turns to guard and use that. Nothing if not resourceful! I also had a couple of beach walks and a stroll in Kings Park in Perth.

There was an ongoing joke at work meetings about the Late John Dawson. Well, he surpassed any of those timings this race. However, looking on the bright side, Unicef crew certainly had their money’s worth since leaving Cape Town. Their deadline kept going backwards and they eventually arrived Friday night 20th December with a leaving date of 24th, together with Sanya and Punta, forty-eight hours after the main fleet. The next race is going to be interesting to calculate who is winning.

George and Cheryl waiting for Unicef

Results. I’m sure if you’re really interested you’ll have looked them up by now, but for the record here they are. Scoring Gate: Qingdao 3 points, Ha Long Bay 2, Imagine Your Korea 1. Ocean Sprint: GoToBermuda 3 points, WTC 2, Korea 1 again. Race: Qingdao 11 points, Ha Long Bay 10 with Joker making it 20, Korea 9, Bermuda 8, WTC 7, Zhuhai 6, Dare To Lead 5, Seattle 4. The three late boats: Punta 9 based on past performance, Sanya nil due to being disqualified for crashing into Punta, and Unicef 3 for being last.

The race so far therefore is Qingdao in the lead with 62 points, Ha Long Bay second with 51, Punta third with 36, Sanya fourth with 32, Unicef still fifth with 26, Dare To Lead sixth with 25, Korea seventh with 23, Zhuhai eighth with 21 (if you think my addition is wrong, I forgot to mention they had two penalty points for sail repairs), WTC ninth with 20, Bermuda tenth with 19 and Seattle bringing up the rear with 17.

59. Pineapples are not the only fruit

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.

Pineapple!

The first subject I have to address is The Beard. I see that Commo Keith has also got into the act, see his blog Pretty Much All At Sea. His wife Ruth is in full agreement with me. https://keithsclipperadventure.com/2019/11/21/here-they-go-again/

Beard unguents

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.

George, Keith and John

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.

Empty dry suit airing

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).

Cheryl with a heap of cans to label.

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.

Day bags laid out for each day’s food

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!

Fiona, Cheryl and me waiting patiently

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.

Anne, me and Fiona at the roof top of The Silo. Breezy!

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.

How’s that for a bottle of Champagne?

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!

Nicky, George and John at Klein Constantia

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).

Chandelier at Steenberg. See the grape pips?

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.

The Watershed

Next time, I really do promise, the full results of the Race so far.

37. Be Prepared!

Nothing to do with the Tom Lehrer song of the same name, but go and give it a listen if you want a laugh (depending upon your sense of humour). I promised last time to let you know what MBB were up to. The header to this post is Suhaili berthed in Gosport, the boat that started it all 50 years ago. (Most of these pictures have been provided by John and George’s crew mates so if anyone wants to claim copyright just shout at me). This is the last week before the current Clipper fleet set off for London. They’ve been racing each other in Training Level 4 over the last couple of months (unofficially, so no results posted). They all know how they’re placed though! George was there last week, he says Qingdao was winning at one stage then hit a wind hole and finished 10th. Here he is before then I guess.

There is a management saying “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. None of the Clipper crew are prepared to fail. After George’s level 4 he stayed on to start preparing the fleet (well, maybe only Qingdao, we don’t want to give the opposition any help do we?). Officially “prep week” started on Saturday 10th August. All RTW’ers and those crew embarking on Leg 1 to Punta del Este are encouraged to go and get the boats ready. As they’ve been racing, all rigging (bits of rope and steel that you see all over the boat) and sails need to be replaced. Everyone with a role will have extra training. I don’t think I’ve told you about the different roles people have, I’ll check and make that another post if not. John is Medical Assistant on Unicef and George Social Secretary on Qingdao. John had a couple of days earlier in July learning about what he may need to do, such as hand out sticking plasters or contact Praxes, the official supplier of 24/7 remote medical advice. They will also be at each stopover providing support if needed. More on that and other official suppliers at a later date if there’s no room here. Gosh, there’s so much to say and so little time suddenly!

Practicing

The main item on this week’s agenda is victualing, pronounced more like “vit’ling” than the spelling. This is getting all the food for 22 people for almost a month stowed on board. I’m not sure how long they will have fresh food, but I know from a phone call with George that they have bread mixes so that’ll be pretty fresh. I’m useless at making bread so let’s hope John becomes an expert over the next year. This must be a major job as it’s taking place all week (vit’ling, that is, not bread making!). Possibly two or three boats a day rather than a free-for-all every day.

Where’s our grub?

Various members of the crew get specialist training as well as the medical training that John did last month: Garmin navigation equipment, Media Crew, Sail repairs with Hyde Sails, Spinlock life jackets, Marlow ropes, Engineering, Fundraising co-ordinators with Unicef and Sat-comms. I think every boat has two crew attend the training then they’ll pass onto the others what they need to know (like how to put your life jacket on). In addition to this and the victualing (which I want to spell with two “l”s but this site KEEPS CORRECTING IT!) there are sails and rigging being issued and race start briefing. Fundraising is going well, as I type the whole fleet has raised over £77,500 with the Unicef crew hitting their target before they have even set sail.

John in his element

If you go onto the Clipper website they have the complete race details there. Notice of Race (the official details), Sailing Instructions (how the whole race is controlled with forms to show they’ve not broken the rules or incurred penalty points by, for example, losing a sail) and Course Instructions (how each leg is controlled, not yet posted on the website). There’s a one page form to be completed before they can race. This confirms that they (consider they) have enough food and water, all equipment is working, they’ve practiced their MOB drill, everyone knows what they’re doing etc. There’s a six page form of which charts and publications they’re taking, the intended route with distances and timings planned, when they’re likely to leave with weather forecasts for the first three days and any weather or navigational issues they could encounter, ports of refuge, exclusion zones and who is on board. At the end of each race they’ve got two 12 page checklists of all safety and rig checks. I’d be in my element with all these forms!

On Friday they all leave for a relaxing weekend (?), then on Monday MBB go back to start sailing on Tuesday, bringing them around to St Katherine’s Dock. If you’re in the area 22nd August (Thursday afternoon) at 5.30 you could stop by and see them come in. I’m planning on being there.

Some of the fleet

There are only 18 days left to September 1st and I still haven’t knitted enough beanies! Back to work…