Limbo Latest …… the roulette wheel continues to spin

RouletteTable-58c2bb9a5f9b58af5c9ea220Those readers who follow the official Clipper website or keep half an eye on social media will have seen the latest update on Sunday and be aware of much of what follows. For everyone else, here’s the current/latest/forecast/possible/potential plan(s).

Firstly the remainder of Leg 5 – the current leg. Originally programmed as a three race leg: Australia to Sanya, China (with an arrival window of 10th-15th Feb and a stopover until 21st Feb) then to Subic Bay in the Philippines (with an arrival window of 25th-26th Feb and a stopover until 28th Feb) and then to Zhuhai, China (with an arrival window of 2nd-3rd Mar for crew change on 4th Mar and a stopover until 9th Mar when Leg 6 would start), the boats are now all in Subic Bay. The race from Australia to Subic Bay was won by WTC Logistics (their first podium finish) with Qindao and Ha Long Bay, Vietnam in second and third respectfully. Someone has to come 11th and this time it was UNICEF.

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2019-20 original routeD_2Xr1BX4AAUytp
The original Clipper 2019-2020 Race Route

On Sunday it was announced that the two remaining races of Leg 5 would be combined into one race that would start and finish in Subic Bay. The Clipper Race stated that they remain proud of their longstanding relationship with its Partners and friends in China but this means that the stopovers in Sanya and Zhuhai are now officially cancelled. The Race will resume on 23rd Feb and the “new Leg 5 finish race” will cover 1600 nautical miles, roughly the equivalent of the original two races. The new route will see the fleet race north from the Philippines, across the Luzon Strait and around the western most cluster of the Japanese Ryukyu Islands (Osumi, Tokara, Amami, Okinawa and Sakishima). They will then race downwind east of Taiwan and battle against the notorious Kuroshio Current which flows north and east of Taiwan, before heading back towards the Philippines and Subic Bay.

SEAsiatmp718674606201765889In a variation of the scoring rules (See Blog 76: How The Clipper Race Is Scored, published 3 September 2019) there will be two Ocean Sprints and two Scoring Gates on this race. Teams will have to declare in advance, 48 hours before race start, which of the Ocean Sprints they wish to go for. The two Scoring Gates will be placed either side of the rhumb line route and teams can decide whilst racing which optional Scoring Gate they wish to compete for. Further details will be briefed to the crews during the Leg 5 Race 7 Crew Brief on 22nd Feb. And obviously the upshot of all this from a personal perspective is that I now know I will be rejoining team UNICEF in Subic Bay, Philippines.

Sunday’s announcement, some 10 days before Ruth and I were originally programmed to fly out, also confirmed that the joining date for those arriving for Leg 6 will be 6th March, refresher training will be conducted at sea on 7th March, there will be a full prep day on 8th March and Race Start will be …………. watch this roulette/limbo space while race options are finalised.

qingdao-locator-mapThree options are now being considered for the two races that will comprise Leg 6. Option 1 remains a first race to Qingdao in northern China, stopover, and then onto Seattle, USA. The original Qingdao arrival window was 17th-19th March with a stopover until 26th March. Clipper have caveated this option with the statement that they will not risk the safety of its crew or staff and in light of the current coronavirus outbreak, this option will only proceed if it is safe to do so. If I were to spin the roulette wheel on this one are there any takers?korea_map-2

Option 2 is to race from Subic Bay north to a port yet-to-be-decided in South Korea. Right now your guess is as good as mine. After a stopover we would then race across the North Pacific to Seattle.

Option 3 is to race from Subic Bay to Yokohama, Japan and then onto Seattle. Yokohama, as coronavirus-watchers will be aware, is currently “home” to the cruise liner the Diamond Princess.

In each option the arrival window into Seattle remains 19th-24th April with a stopover until 2nd May.

Limbo travel planning for me continues but Ruth has decided to hang up her limbo pole for the short term and will be in Seattle to meet me from whichever direction I ultimately appear!

 

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see

https://www.justgiving.com/keithsclipperadventure

For UNICEF UK see

https://www.justgiving.com/KeithWinstanley-TeamUNICEF

Please take a look. Thank You.

Place Your Bets Please. Where Next In Travel Planning Limbo? (Long Odds on China!)

I haven’t posted for a while now, not since my own Coronavirus update on 27th Jan. Since then Clipper have re-routed the fleet to Subic Bay in the Philippines, instead of Sanya in China, for what they have announced as an “extended” stopover. My joining date for reporting to team UNICEF ahead of Leg 6 across the North Pacific has slipped from 4th March to 6th March. The latest official announcement, as of 1600 on Monday 10th February reads as follows:

Members of the Clipper Race team are on route to meet the fleet ahead of its arrival in the

SubicBayOIP
Subic Bay Yacht Club, Philippines

Philippines. The Clipper Race yachts are expected to start arriving in Subic Bay from Wednesday 12 February. Here the fleet will be berthed in Subic Bay Yacht Club for an extended stopover due to the decision to amend the race schedule and delay its arrival into China.

The coronavirus outbreak continues to be a developing situation. The Clipper Race is continuing to work with the Chinese organising committees in order to secure the safety of its crew, staff and supporters whilst also taking into account the changing British and international government advice and progress contingency plans for the 2019-20 route.

Due to the logistical, timing and operational demands, the Clipper Race organising team isSubic4th looking at a number of alternative ports and aims to have a decision on any further route amendments by next week at the latest. The arrival window into Seattle (at the end of my next Leg between 19th and 24th April) remains the same and the original schedule for Legs 7 and 8 remains unaffected.

The Crew Changeover date for Leg 6 joiners is 6 March. Leg 6 joiners are recommended to postpone making new travel arrangements and when they do  to book marine fare tickets as these can be easily changed.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the World Health Organisation are providing regular updates on the coronavirus outbreak and more information can be found on their respective websites.

The Clipper Race organising team appreciates Race Crew and supporters need for more details but until plans are firmly in place, providing any information that could change might lead to further disruption. This is a complex and evolving situation but the team hopes to have a suitable and safe solution as swiftly as possible.

SubicViewer

As far as the race itself is concerned then the lead yachts are heading south within 160 nautical miles of Subic Bay as I type with wind holes and light winds between them and the finish line and the UNICEF yacht in Stealth Mode (see Blog 76: How The Clipper Race Is Scored, published 3 September 2019 for an explanation).

So where does all this leave me? Firstly I have completed all the formalities I touched upon in my last blog and acquired a Chinese multi-entry business visa. I’m not holding my breath I’ll be using it this year! But as it is valid for 2 years for visits up to 90 days in length, a post-coronavirus visit to Beijing, the Terracotta Army and the Great Wall is not out of the question. Watch this space as they say. For the moment I still have a hotel booking in Zhuhai and a flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong. My finger hovers over the cancel/delete button on both. And right now – not too far above.


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Don’t be fooled by the absence of people. This was early in the morning and I was collecting my visa. Earlier in the week when I appeared for my interview this room was full of people.

Last week, suffering I-kid-you-not, from a really bad COLD, I went to the US Embassy in London to be interviewed for my US business visa to permit entry to Seattle at the end of Leg 6. Simple I can hear you say. Well, not quite.

One of the as-yet unsung benefits of being 11 days late into Freemantle (having run out BracesOIP8MO1X0KKof any fresh veg other than onions 6 days prior to arrival; powdered milk 2 days before arrival etc etc etc) was a Clipper weight loss programme that resulted in the re-introduction of braces (suspenders for US readers) to keep my business suit trousers in place. And by “in place” I mean UP! Cue a rather 20200205_120007bemused look on my face when invited to take my braces off prior to clearing the airport style security to enter the Embassy. My attempts at humour were met by stern looks, no smiles and an instruction to put my hands in my pockets to keep my trousers aloft. Fair enough. But you try putting braces back-on WITHOUT taking your trousers OFF once through security! My cold and potential routeing via/through China passed without comment.

My coughing and sneezing DID attract a number of curious looks while in London and at one point induced a woman sitting next to me on the tube to change seats. Irony of ironies ……… she was Chinese.

So along with all other Leg 6 joiners I remain in something of a travel planning limbo. My thoughts are also with those in the Clipper yachts who are completing their Clipper adventure at the finish of the current leg. Many will have already made arrangement to return home from China. At least arrival in the Philippines in the next few days should allow them to make alternative arrangements. “No ordinary Race.” “No kidding sherlock!”

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Ruth also had to go through a Chinese Visa Interview process but as a “tourist” had to have an inbound AND outbound flight booked prior to interview. She is currently practicing double-planning limbo!
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Ruth’s Travel Planning

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see

https://www.justgiving.com/keithsclipperadventure

and for UNICEF UK see

https://www.justgiving.com/KeithWinstanley-TeamUNICEF

Please take a look. Thank You.