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
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 is 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.
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.
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 of 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 bemused 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!”
For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see
and for UNICEF UK see
Please take a look. Thank You.