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

64. I’m Still Waiting…

I forgot to mention finding clear plastic recycling bags in Pimlico. You’d think it would be easy in these times of Extinction Rebellion to do your bit for the planet. Not here seemingly: no local shops sell them, the council won’t send them to blocks of flats, eventually I found out I could pick them up at the library. Having found out where the local one was, I strolled in and asked at the desk. “Downstairs” I was told, so headed off and found a chap at the desk there. When asked he pointed wordlessly to a heap in a bin. It felt a bit like the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy where the plans for the bypass are hidden in the basement protected by a leopard. (I may have this slightly wrong, I’ve not read the book or listened to the excellent production on the BBC for a long time. Feel free to correct me).

I’m missing not making a Christmas cake this year (go all the way back to Post 10 for last year’s effort). Also, do they have mince pies in Australia? I’ll know by the time this goes out so a pointless question, but for the last few years we’ve had a tasting of all the commercial ones we can find. It’s not so easy when there’s only one of you as they often come in packs of six. I’ve been told that Starbucks do a good one but not yet tried it. I did try a mincemeat croissant from Paul, interesting, good mincemeat but I don’t think it’s the right combination. I did bring my Christmas tree to add a bit of festivity to my room.

I’m now in Australia and so far have not had a mince pie. I have had espresso martinis but a bit disappointing, no lovely shaking sound in the bar to make you salivate before they bring it to you. Yes, they are READY MADE out of a packet! They do have Earl Grey tea but I’ve not found this very appropriate brand (thank you Julia for the picture).

You were left checking Race Viewer to see whether Qingdao arrived before I flew out of the UK. The answer is yes they did, I was checking into my flight at Heathrow when they crossed the line. By the time I arrived in Fremantle on Monday morning, the first four had arrived (Qingdao followed by Ha Long Bay an hour later and Imagine Your Korea an hour after that, then GoToBermuda as I was flying into Perth) with WTC Logistics a few hours after I got in.

Waiting to check in

We now (Saturday 14th) have all but the last three in. Punta del Este is due on the afternoon of Thursday 19th, Unicef on Friday morning and Sanya Friday afternoon. All three are now allowed to motor in order to arrive on time (large areas of little or no wind threaten) although Punta is racing under sail to see if they can be placed in the Ocean Sprint.We should know the results of that by Monday. As these three are arriving so close to the race start, it has been decided that they will have an extra two days and leave on 24th December (yes, Christmas Eve) exactly 48 hours after the others. All will race on elapsed time so the first three into the Whitsundays may not be on the podium if these three are faster. Here we go Unicef!

So far this stop has been one of anticlimax. First I missed George coming in and now I’ll miss John leaving. Let’s hope this does not happen again. So what have I been up to, other than kicking my heels? Not a lot, in this heat. The day I arrived George popped over and had some lunch with me at my hotel, the Esplanade, a rather splendid Victorian building on the site of a former prison (this is Australia, after all). Later in the day my pal Liz who now lives in Perth came over and we had an early supper at Bathers Beach House (oddly enough, on the beach. This is Australia, after all).

My sleeping pattern is thrown at the moment. I am waking up around 3-4 am local time, mid evening UK time. I can only guess it’s because my body thinks it’s time for supper. (Shades of being a dog owner here?). The Code 3 (sail) for Qingdao is severely damaged and due to the heat they have been starting work on it at 5 am. Despite my new sleeping pattern I’ve not been able to get there before 9.30 but I have spent two days trying to help, cutting out sticky tape to hold it together before it’s stitched.

Sail repairs

The Fremantle Sailing Club, where the yachts are berthed, is about 20 minutes’ walk from my hotel but not a walk I fancy in this heat. Instead, there’s a free bus on a circular route, every ten minutes, which I’ve been catching. On the first day I managed to lose my Musto cap and it’s not turned up in lost property. Cheryl bought me a lovely Perth cap which is almost as good. We shared a steak sandwich at the sailing club to celebrate the hat replacement: it was so big we still couldn’t eat it all. After that we walked it off by going to see the boats. Due to their draft (draught?) we’ve been told they cannot moor close to the sailing club, so it’s a good 15 minute walk through the boat yard (easy to get lost amongst all the boats), ironically towards the hotel. Unfortunately there’s a big fence in the way so we can’t take a short cut.

On Wednesday night we went for a sail at the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club with one of the Clipper crew who lives in Perth and is joining Unicef to head off to the Whitsundays on (now) 24th December. What we were not told was that Wednesday is traditionally “Twilighting” when they race against other boats in the club. It’s not serious racing like Clipper, we had alcohol on board, but it was pretty cramped with (I think) 19 of us crammed in. I didn’t see much as I was down in the bilges! Later in the week we found out that we’d won so here we go Unicef!

At the risk of tempting fate I went to the Shipwreck Museum one afternoon. It’s air conditioned, a definite plus here. It was mostly about the early shipwrecks in the 1600s when the Dutch East India Company was seeing if there were any natural resources to exploit. After that I strolled along to Joe’s Fish Shack then Bathers, as one of the Qingdao crew had a birthday.

The following day I abandoned Qingdao in favour of Unicef. You’ll remember the Christmas stuff stuffed in my case? Well a crowd of us supporters got together, pretending to be Santa’s elves, to make up Christmas stockings for the crew. There are a number of things they need for the boat so we bought these and made up “Secret Santa” presents for everyone. They may be disappointed when they realise they’ve been given such things as measuring jugs and scissors.

Santa stockings!

In other worlds, I am VERY disappointed that Labour did not get in, I was promised my missing four years of pension by Jeremy Corbyn. How am I expected to fund this year long jaunt? The British public just did not think of me, did they?

Well, must stop now and go and get some sun and Vitamin D. Prize giving is later today at the sailing club, Qingdao getting the gold pennant again. I’m running out of space on George’s wall.

30. Four wee wheels and a handle

To misquote a film! I know, all my preparation seems to involve buying bags of varying sizes. I’ve realised that as I won’t have Sherpa John to carry them I need things I can manage myself. As well as the Clipper bag featured in post 5, I’ve got one that will go in the hold. Here the dogs are modelling it (to give a sense of scale). It’s of a type I vowed never to have, with four wheels, so it glides alongside when you’re walking. It is very light and I’ve tried it for real so I’m converted. I’ll need careful planning on what to take as I have my suspicions that I’ll be getting wish lists from MBB.

Can we come too?

Now that we know the main stops, I can sort out my jabs. I’ve gone onto the WHO website and looked at the Immunization Chart. To summarize, I will need yellow fever (with certificate), Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Typhoid. I am advised to have Hepatitis B, Rabies, TB (tuberculosis), TBE (tick-borne encephalitis), JE (Japanese encephalitis) and Cholera. I’d best start now. There is one problem that you may have seen in the news recently, anyone over 60 (which I have to admit to being) has a greater risk of suffering nasty side effects with the yellow fever jab. A pal of ours has gone deaf and there was a recent death in the news. Maybe I’ll stay home after all. Oh, but we’ve got house-sitters coming in a month or so. Back to the travel clinic.

As for visas, I need them for the USA and China, possibly Panama, although I hear that the China visa has a time limit so I may have to leave that till later. In addition Australia may ask for a health check and proof of funds. They haven’t in the past so I should be OK. John did get a speeding fine out there some years ago which followed him back home, but we paid it so should be allowed back in!

Need to avoid this!

The languages are now known, I think. Spanish for Uruguay (which I’m learning how to spell) and Mandarin for China. The only hesitation is the first stop before Punta del Este. If it’s in Spain then great but if Brazil then I’ll need to add Portuguese. This does, of course, assume I have time to learn the languages as well as everything else I’m doing (mostly knitting hats).

I’ve started to look at the stopovers to see what sort of weather we can expect and what clothes to take. I rather wish I hadn’t. Ignoring the bit after Panama, which is yet to be confirmed, I’ve created the following table (at the bottom of this post). This is pretty simple but scary. If I don’t manage to get home between legs, then I’m going to need clothes that will be comfortable at 15 C up to 32 C during the day and down to 2 C at night. I think I’ll just copy John and George’s kit and have lots of layers. At least I won’t need ball gowns. I’ll put clothes on hold for another day.

As mentioned in post 3, I have a roll up keyboard which I can take with me. I found it the other day and unrolled it, only to find that half the keys were not doing anything. I’ve bought another as it was about two years old and I couldn’t find a warranty (nor for the new one).

What’s left? Oh yes, flights and hotels. The good news is that the official travel supplier to Clipper is also willing to help the supporters. I’ll be in touch with them next week about how to get from one place to another and which hotels to stay in. You never know, they may even be able to send bags of warm clothing to the right place so I don’t have to cart it around!

One last point for you all to note. Next Tuesday morning the Clipper website will be open to those supporters who wish to escort the Leaving Parade from a boat in the Thames at Tower Bridge down to the Thames Barrier. I wonder if it will be like Glastonbury and crash or be full within minutes? Most annoying is that I’ll not be home then so can’t sit on my computer pressing buttons. If I miss out I’ll just have to wave from the shore. This does have the advantage of seeing them slipping lines from the marina. Decisions decisions. I’m sure we’ll be having a farewell party in London before we go, but here’s the link if you want to see if you can get on a boat: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/clipper-2019-20-race-official-race-start-spectator-boat-tickets-tickets-63050263034

PlaceTimeTemp (day/night)
Punta del Este14 – 23 October22 / 13
Cape Town7 – 17 November23 / 13
Fremantle9 – 22 December25 / 15
Whitsundays9 – 18 January29 / 25
China (all)10 Feb – 26 March26-12 / 20-2 (yes, 2!)
Seattle19 April – 2 May15 / 6
Panama27 May – 5 June32 / 24

25. And The Boys Watch The Girls

Because of course everyone can go on Clipper! Although on this header more people seem to be watching their phones. Some of you will have already found out what happened on Crew Allocation Day, May 11th. If you watched it live you can probably miss out this post. For those of you waiting for this update, I’m sorry you’ve had to bite your nails for a week. The next post will tell you what else we’ve been up to.

Back to May 11th. We arrived in Portsmouth the night before to meet up with George, who had been on his Day Skipper course. The next morning we joined the queue to get into the venue.

Outside the Guildhall

We found out that it was the biggest crew allocation to date, with over 400 crew in attendance and 300 watching live. There are five weeks of Level 4 training, starting in June, with 535 crew booked and about 140 yet to book. Sir Robin warned that anyone NOT completing Level 4 will NOT sail in Clipper. In addition there were over 150 of us supporters in the room. We had a reminder of the race rules and features (see Post 18 if you want to remind yourself). During the night hours, the racing is according to IRPCS, the International Rules for Prevention of Collisions at Sea. Race specific course instructions will be sent to the crew about five days before each race.

The race skippers have completed eight weeks of training with another 14-15 weeks to do. We were introduced to them, here’s before they sat down and obscured the details. We have AQPs (additional qualified person, in effect a First Mate) for the first time but we didn’t get their specific details. You can find them on the Clipper website, https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/meet-the-clipper-201920-race-aqps

Skippers

Four yachts have already been rebranded: Unicef, Sanya, Zhuhai and Qingdao. At the meeting we found out that both Seattle and Punta del Este will be host ports and boat entries. Only another five to go! I’ve not got any pictures of them but I’m sure you’ll have had enough by the end of the race. We also had a LOT of information on safety. Crew will be clipped on if the speed is over 15 knots, at night time and if the Skipper says so. Both tethered and untethered Man Over Board (MOB) will happen before each race and the Skipper will have to email HQ that this has been done.

We then heard a bit about Brand Ambassadors, essentially crew who volunteer to represent a particular brand associated with Clipper. Team partners have not all been confirmed (see Post 14 for the different types of partners and Post 23 for announced ones) but they should all be announced in the next few weeks. After this each crew will know their team colours and identity and be issued with kit. Cape Town and The Whitsundays (in Australia) were announced as host ports in addition to Seattle and Punte del Este. We still don’t know a couple, see the updated table below:

LegRace numberLeavePortArriveDestination
0 (Prep)16th Aug
1a11st SeptSt Katherine’s Dock London??????
1b2??????14-16 OctPunta del Este
Uruguay
2323rd OctPunta del Este7-11 NovCape Town
3417th NovCape Town9-14 DecFremantle
4522nd DecFremantle9-12 JanWhitsundays
5a618th JanWhitsundays10-15 FebSanya
5b721st FebSanya25-26 FebSE Asia
5c828th FebSE Asia2-3 MarchZhuhai
6a99th MarZhuhai17-19 MarchQingdao
6b1026th MarQingdao19-24 AprilSeattle
7a112nd MaySeattle27 May -1 JunePanama
7b125th JunePanamaMid JuneEast USA
8a13/14Late JuneEast USAMid JulyN Europe
8b14 or 15?Late JulyN EuropeEarly AugSt Katherine’s Dock London

As you can see, the very first race destination isn’t known and once past the Panama Canal we’re off into the unknown. The Race will actually start on 2nd September from Southend Pier. I’ll update when I can. We then had information on stopovers (see Post 22); we’ll know more eight then four weeks before each one. I hope to get myself organised before that though. We heard that there is a travel company who will be announced in the next few weeks, mainly for crew who are only on one or two legs and so need to arrive in the right place at the right time, but I’m sure we can piggy-back on this. Unicef updated us that each yacht will have a fund-raising co-ordinator for the first time. This is not an extra person but one of the crew. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that every crew member is going to be wearing a number of hats, especially the circumnavigators.

The next section addressed communications. Race crew news will be via email to the crew. The website will carry information as will Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I’m going to have to get into this century and join all these. There will be on-board reporters (a crew member) and Youtube stuff, with Skipper daily blogs and crew will also be encouraged to blog. If you sign up on the Clipper website you should received updates in your inbox. However, don’t forget that they will be far from civilisation, so “daily” may not actually mean what we think it means. A RIB will go out to each boat at the end of each race to interview crew members and there will be local press interviews.

Smile and wave!

After all this and greater details of the race than I’ve given in the table above, we had what we’d all come for, the crew allocation (from midday, so we had about three hours of anticipation). To prolong the agony, each Skipper stood up in turn and announced HALF of his crew, so if you were in the first half you could relax. I didn’t have a bird’s-eye-view so not good photos, but here are our two teams.

George 4th out of the sorting hat!

Team Chris was first to speak so George didn’t have long to wait. Chris Brooks is Skippering the Qingdao boat: George needs to start learning his Mandarin. (Louise, you volunteered Neil to accompany me on this leg so we can test his Mandarin, you thought you were joking!). The AQP is Rhiannon Massey.

John had to wait a bit longer.

The eleventh Skipper to stand up was Ian Wiggin but luckily John was also in the first tranche. This is the Unicef boat, so John is already ahead of the game in terms of fundraising. His AQP is Mike Miller, who went round the world in the last race. For completeness here are the other two halves of our crews.

Rest of Team Chris (Qingdao)
Rest of Team Ian (Unicef)

After this we had lunch then split into teams for the afternoon. I’ll tell you more about these two boats and the host port Qingdao next time, as well as what we learnt in the afternoon session for supporters. You may be getting one of these posts a day for the next week.