123. It’s OFF(ish)

I haven’t blogged for 3 weeks or so. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing, in fact I have been noodling away at four separate drafts. One was another in the “this time last year” series given that …… this time last year…… Ruth and I were in Punta del Este and on 21 October 2019 I was acting as a tour guide for groups of Uruguayan school children looking around the UNICEF yacht. We arrived in Punta on 17 October, I reported to the yacht the following day, and completed my refresher sail and crew assessment on 20 October. I posted the blog Postcard from Punta on 18 Oct 2019, my penultimate pre-sail blog, Am I Ready? on 22 Oct and the blog Leg 2 (Race 3) Starts TODAY! on the morning of 23 Oct just a couple of hours before moving onboard the boat.

Given that today is the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar I have a draft blog on the theme of Trafalgar Day, a somewhat loose theme it might yet turn out but I was hardly going to let the date go unacknowledged on a nautical themed blog. My third draft is planned to cover Ruth’s and my travels around Argentina and Uruguay prior to and including Punta del Este and my final draft scribbling will be published under the title “It’s Only An Adventure Holiday” for reasons that will become clear in that particular blog. That one is attempting to reflect, one year on, on my Leg 2 and maybe also my Leg 3 experiences. “So where are they all then?” I can hear some people thinking…….. “Watch this space,” is my instant reply. I do intend to finish writing and publish all four but the truth is they are all (temporarily) overtaken by other “breaking news.”

Team UNICEF alongside in Punta del Este, Uruguay, about to start Leg 2, Race 3.

The latest news from Clipper HQ dropped into the Inboxes of all 2019-2020 Clipper Race crew late this afternoon. In short a decision has been made that race start in February or April next year will not be possible. Given the views I expressed in my previous blog I will say that I am not surprised although, being completely honest, I expected this decision towards the end of November/early December when the maintenance teams would have to be given access to the boats in Subic Bay to have any chance of a restart in the first quarter of 2021. In short the Philippines is currently not allowing entry into the country except for their own nationals and foreign nationals holding valid residency permits and yachts are currently not able to sail into China. There is no indication of when these travel restrictions will be lifted and with COVID 19 infections on the rise and Clipper crews drawn from over 40 different countries, it looks like it could be a tough winter for many regions of the world.

Regular readers will recall that I “mused” about a potential “Option 4” the last time I wrote. Well we are not yet at “Option 4” and once again it is not mentioned by Clipper. This is still not surprising. But if it is not an option on the Clipper-table it remains an option on mine. What does remain as a Clipper option is “Option 3” – an August 2021 restart to follow, as closely as possible, the original route (no New York and “north European port” to replace Derry), New Year 2020/2021 at sea and a return to London at the end of January 2022. The September 2020 “joke” about taking part in the longest sporting event in history now looks increasingly likely. The latest announcement goes into some detail about potential dates following an August 2021 start date and in particular potential crew changeover dates in Subic Bay, Seattle and Bermuda and a race finish date in London. This will at least allow Clipper crew to do some degree of personal planning – not least of which will be whether or not “Option 3” is a realistic personal option. I’m not publishing the full dates here for three reasons. Firstly, I have yet to determine whether an August 2021 start works for me. Secondly, other than the personal planning this now allows, at this range the dates don’t really count for much until everyone completes the first step and we determine whether Clipper 2019-2020-2021-2022 is viable. And I’ll blog about the viability of Clipper plc as a company in due course. Finally, no “Option 3” dates here as I might have to be padding out this blog for a full year longer than I had originally intended. While ramblings about Masterbaking, weather, bearded sailors, eyesight and vitrectomy operations and-the-like have helped so far, I might need to deploy Option 3 details at a later date to drag this out a bit!

I know very few, if any, Clipper crew who don’t acknowledge there are many more pressing issues in the world today than whether Clipper 2019-2020 restarts or, for that matter, ever finishes. And I know there are some non-crew, a “vocal minority” perhaps, who would not mourn the passing of Clipper plc if the company becomes another addition to the list of COVID casualties. So for me right now it’s time to open my 2021 diary and the bit that extends into January 2022!