When “we” last “spoke” about the race schedule – post crew allocation (See Blog 62: Crew Allocation Day (1)….. The Bits We’ve All Really Been Waiting For, published 18 May 19) there were, not to put too fine a point on it, a few missing links. Specifically we were still awaiting announcements on one additional stopover port for Leg 1, an announcement regarding a South East Asia port for Leg 5 and, more significantly for yours truly, ALL of the details for the final leg, Leg 8. What we did know back then was that Race Start (and finish) would be London, and Punta del Este, Cape Town, Freemantle, The Whitsundays, Sanya, Zhuhai, Qingdao and Panama were announced or confirmed as stopover ports. With Seattle announced as a partner/boat sponsor then Seattle as a stopover port was pretty much guaranteed…… or maybe that last bit was the other way around, but you know what I mean.
Since then there have been a plethora of announcements on all-things-Clipper and the final piece of the scheduling jigsaw, the homecoming leg stuff, was finally announced when I was at sea completing my Level 4 training with the UNICEF team onboard CV31, the UNICEF boat. More about Level 4 training in a later blog but first here’s the complete Clipper 2019-2020 Race schedule and, if you will permit me a slightly selfish note, here is what it means for ME!
Let me try and bring that to life a little. Leg 1 will start from St Katherine’s Dock, London, on Sunday 1st September 2019. The Departure ceremony will begin at 1350 with the first yacht slipping at 1500. The Parade of Sail down the River Thames should start at around 1600. The Race itself will start off Southend the following morning. Leg 1 (The Atlantic Trade Winds Leg) consists of 2 separate races over a total distance of 7250 nautical miles. The Yachts are due to arrive in Portimao, Portugal between 8th-10th September. This will be a first stopover for the Clipper Race in Portimao. The Race restarts on Sunday 15th September heading for the Equator and then on to South America. The yachts are due to arrive in Punta del Este, Uruguay between 12th-16th October.
I am contracted to report to the UNICEF boat, in Punte del Este on 18th October and the Race restarts for Leg 2 on Wednesday 23rd October. Leg 2 (The South Atlantic Challenge) comprises a single race to South Africa over some 4,200 miles using the South Atlntic trade winds and long rolling South Atlantic swells. Surfing down the fronts of these swells can bring boat speeds of over 20 knots and the leg poses unique mental and physical challenges. I will be due into Cape Town, South Africa during the window 7th-11th November for a well earned break. New joiners must report to their yachts on 12th November . Leg 3, and my second Leg, starts from Cape Town on Sunday 17th November. Leg 3 (The Southern Ocean Leg) comprises a single race of 5500 nautical miles from Cappe Town to Freemantle, Western Australia. On leaving Cape Town and rounding the Cape of Good Hope, we will tack down towards the 40th parallel and the infamous Roaring Forties. The Southern Ocean provides some of the most extreme and exhilarating sailing in the world. I have been told to expect 80 foot swells, boat speeds of over 30 knots and wind speeds that can reach 70mph+. With winds sometimes coming straight from Antartica it can also be somewhat chilly! The Southern Ocean is probably the most remote Ocean on the planet and, apart from the other Clipper yachts, for miost of the time our nearest companions will be the astronauts in the International Space Startion. Leg 3 is due to finish with arrival info Freemantle during the window 9th-14th December and I must vacate my berth onboard UNICEF on the 17th December. I will return home shortly thereafter.
Leg 4 (The Australian Coast -To-Coast Leg) will start from Freemantle on Sunday 22nd December 2019 and will comprise a single race of 4000 nautical miles around Australia to Airlie Beach and The Whitsundays where, having spent Christmas and the New Year at sea, the yachts will arrive during the window 9th-12th January 2020. Crew changeover, for those joining and leaving will be on 13th January and the Race restarts with Leg 5 on Saturday 18th January. Leg 5 (The Asia-Pacific Challenge) consists of 3 races over 6300 nautical miles. The first race will be from The WhitSundays to the Chinese port of Sanya with an arrival window of 10th-15th February. There will be no crew changeover in Sanya and the race restarts on Friday 21st February. The second race of Leg 5 will be to Subic Bay in the Philippines, another first for the Clipper Race. The arrival window into Subic Bay will be 25th-26th February and once again their will be no crew changeover. The final race of this leg will start from the Philippines on Friday 28th February and will race back to China and the port of Zhuhai. The arrival window into Zhuhai will be 2nd-3rd March.
I will rejoin the UNICEF boat in Zhuhai on 4th March along with the other Leg 6 leggers and the race will restart on Monday 9th March. Leg 6 (The Mighty Pacific) will comprose 2 races over 8000 nautical miles. The first race will be from Zhuhai up the Chinese coast, inside the Korean Peninsula to the Olympic sailing city of Qingdao. The weather will turn significantly colder and the winds are likely to be from directly ahead, kicking up challenging sea states. One of the coldest parts of the race ends with one of the warmest welcomes and the arrival window into Qingdao will be 17th-19th March. There will be no crew changeover and the race restarts on Thursday 26th March. The race rounds the southern tip of Japan before entering the Pacific proper. After crossing the International Date Line and encountering monsterous North Pacific swells, landfall is a further 6000 miles away on the north west coast of the USA and a great entry into Seattle. The arrival window into Seattle will be between 19th-24th April and I will leave the yacht again at crew changeover on 27th April. The Race will leave Seattle for Leg 7 on Saturday 2nd May.
Leg 7 (The USA Coast-To-Coast Leg) consists of 2 races over 7200 nautical miles. The first race is down the US Pacific coast from Seattle to Panama with an arrival window into Flamenco Island Marina on the Pacific coast between 27th May and 2nd June. After transitting the Panama canal the second race of Leg 7 will start from the Shelter Bay Marina on the Atlantic end of the Canal on Friday 5th June and will race north to New York. The arrival window into Liberty Landing Marina, New York will be 16th-19th June.
I will rejoin in New York on the final crew changeover day, 22nd June 2020. Leg 8, the final leg ((The Atlantic Homecoming Leg) will comprise 3 races over some 4400 nautical miles. The first race will start from New York on Saturday 27th June and will race to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, Bermuda, a first appearance in Clipper for the island of Bermuda. Our arrival window into Bermuda will be 1st-2nd July and there will be no crew changeover. We restart the race from Bermuda on Thursday 9th July heading for Derry-Londonderry and the famous Foyle Marime Festival, a stopover which has featured regularly now in the Clipper schedule. The arrival window into Derry-Londonderry will be 23rd-27th July and again there will be no crew changeover. The final race of Leg 8 and the final race of Clipper 2019-2020 will start from Derry-Londonderry on Sunday 2nd August. The podium places on the overall race have been decided on the last race of Leg 8 on the last three editions of the Race so there might still be all to play for. The race is due to finish in the Thames estuary probably on Saturday 7th August and the final Parade of Sail will return up the River Thames to St Katherines Dock, and my Clipper 2019-2020 Race will finish, on Sunday 8th August 2020.