A lot has happened since I last wrote. So much so, that I’m going to try and avoid boring you with any of it. OK. In reality that means I’ll try and avoid boring you with most of it.
Today is Thursday 17 February and in 4 days, subject to successful download of two separate Pilipino apps 72 hours before departure and, more significantly, a negative PCR test 48 hours before flying, I will be departing for the Philippines in preparation for the restart of Leg 6 across the North Pacific to Seattle. 4 more days.
Plan early…… Plan twice has always been a favourite saying of mine. I normally say it to myself whenever I am applying that extra pressure to myself in pushing any sort of deadline to its limits. It’s really an excuse for laziness. I deploy it alongside “anyone can make decisions, the art is knowing when to make them“, “No plan survives contact with the enemy/reality“, and “a plan is only a basis for change anyway!” I’ve used them all, especially in relation to Clipper in the days since I tempted fate in my previous blog.
The latest change to the Clipper programme blew in yesterday afternoon on the back of Storm Dudley. Incidentally, am I alone in thinking “Dudley” is far too cuddly-a-name for a storm?? If you are in the UK and storm-bound this weekend check out blogs 22, 23, 31, 129 and 133 (amongst other) for storms!
I digress. Yesterday’s Clipper e-mail announced a further 7 day delay to Level 4/refresher training and the cancellation of the short Subic-to-Subic point-scoring race (the first race of Leg 6) whilst maintaining a 20th March departure date for crossing the North Pacific. This is, in effect, an additional week of fleet prep as a result of a delay in Clipper HQ receiving the necessary paperwork to get the full maintenance and Race Staff into Subic and a shipment delay of some fleet spares. There are a number of implications here that I will return to later in this blog but one immediate impact is that refresher training will now start on 7 March and it is therefore possible for Race Crew to delay arrival in the Philippines.
With Clipper-mandated self quarantine in force for 3 days prior to refresher training (4-7 Mar) it is now possible for crew to delay arrival in the Philippines until 4 Mar. Not surprisingly various Clipper-related-team-WhatsApp groups were very active from about 5pm yesterday, around the time this latest news broke. I cannot speak for everyone, let alone my fellow UNICEF team mates, but I am aware of one colleague, due to fly out from Manchester with me on Monday to compete in the three remaining legs – and therefore not return to the UK until the end of July – who has already moved out of her flat to stay with a friend in the NW prior to our flight. For my own part I have spent the last few days “putting my affairs in order” for a Monday departure> I spent last night balancing costs of changing flights and flight availability (already done this once since Jan), rearranging pre-flight PCR testing (already booked – probably easy to change), changing quarantine hotel booking (actually its only booked at the moment until original start of refresher training – 28 Feb – because it’s cheap and I wanted to see exactly how cheap before any further booking!) and the prospect of being allowed to get stuck into boat preps between 28 Feb and 4 Mar against increased time at home. I’d be lying if Storm Dudley followed by Storm Eunice versus shorts, t- shirt, 25 degrees C, 5mph winds, 76% humidity and a few days beside a pool (no matter how cheap!) were not also factors thrown into the mix last night. Oh ……… and I discussed it with Ruth. Net result ……….. I’m still departing on Monday. Some of my team mates have yet to declare their intentions and some have already expressed an intent to delay.
Short version of MY programme is therefore:
21 Feb Depart UK
22 Feb Arrive Philippines
22-28 Feb Degree of self quarantine in Subic Bay
28-4 Mar Boat preps (see boat preps prior to Fleet departure from Portsmouth covered in blog 86: Time Travel —- or rather TIME to wind back the clock, while I TRAVEL))
4-7 Mar Mandated Clipper pre-Level 4 quartantine period. Negative PCR terst to progress to
7-13 Mar Level 4/Refresher training (see blog 81: Race 2 Day 3 latest ,.,,,, 4,800 nautical miles still left to Race, sio let’s wind tghe clock back a bit.)
14-19 Mar N Pacific preps
20 Mar Race Start – North Pacific. Then as per the published Race Schedule.
As a team, UNICEF have held two Zoom meetings since I last wrote. We have another programmed for 1200UTC on Sunday. Ian, our skipper, and Dan, our “new” AQP, are already in the Philippines and initial reports about the state of our boat are good. Dan, one of our original Round-The-Worlders has been promoted to be our Additional Qualified Person (AQP) and Mike Miller (our original AQP and a Round-The-Worlder from the 2017-2018 edition of the Race) is now the skipper of Sanya. With Sanya only 7 points ahead of us in the Race it should bring an extra good-humoured spice to team rivalry.
Not every Cliperee across the Fleet has been able to return to the Race. Reasons are wide and varied and completely understandable given the events of the last 2 years. 55 of the crew joining the Fleet in the next few days are new to this edition of the Race. All of them have completed Level 1 to 3 training in Clipper 68 yachts (more light-reading – see blogs 9, 26-29, 31, 33, 57 and 60 to catch up with my training experiences) but none of them have yet to complete Level 4 training in a 70ft yacht. This is therefore a must before any further racing.
Four new joiners will be joining the UNICEF team and its been great to meet Sue, John, Jonathan and Alex on line recently. Our only “surviving” Round The Worlders are the skipper (phew!), Dan (as our AQP), our sail-repair-Ninja – Holly Williams ( and additionally our medical expert responsible for running repairs on Leg 3 hand injuries and immediate care of all our other sick and wounded), our ace-blogger-and media expert (award winning I can hear him injecting) – Danny Lee, and our dedicated medical-supplies-guru and my Graham-Norton-look-a-like Leg 3-Mother-Watch-buddy – John Dawson. I think I am the only remaining 4-legger. Oh and I’m the new Team Coordinator (TC). More of that in a future blog.
We are currently at 12 crew plus skipper and AQP for the North Pacific. Two watch of 6. Take one out of each watch as Mother Watch and that’s two watch of 5. Then overlay a bit of sea sickness. And potential injury. Leg 2: plenty of sea sickness (and bags of credit for Jerry and Chris keeping on coming back for more on deck – generally accompanied by a bucket) plus 2 sets of broken ribs. Leg 3: two hand injuries, one case of appendicitis, one broken jaw/5 missing teeth, and one set of fractured ribs accompanied by a punctured lung. AND In my view, belief and experience, WE are a pretty safe yacht. This is tough, dangerous and hugely physically, emotionally and psychologically challenging. A sail change in the conditions we experienced in the South Atlantic will require 1 on the helm, 3 on the foredeck and two in the cockpit. When we letter-box-drop any of the spinnakers it must be immediately taken below and re-packed in the confines of the port passageway (where at least half of the off-watch will be trying to sleep), and this is also a reasonably manpower intensive evolution, at least if it is to be done in a speedy yet comprehensive manner. Muck this up and we just make more trouble when we inevitably get around to re-hoisting. All good fun.
Crossing the North Pacific, where we can realistically expect to have to ride up to three storm systems, this all becomes an added challenge (he typed with a degree of British understatement!). Consequently we, as a team, are already talking about how we might have to adapt our routines to take all this into account. Boat preps are, self evidentially, essential ahead of the North Pacific. But the understandable cancellation of the short Subic to Subic race reduces the time we have to practice any revised routines prior to race start on the 20th Mar.
So how am I feeling? In brief, very excited and seriously up for this. Raring to go and keen to get stuck in. I tried to explain the other day that I feel in a “better place mentally” than I did this time 2 years ago. Not sure I can put my finger on “why” given the considerable uncertainty that still stands between tonight and 20th Mar, never mind what comes after that. I still don’t have return flights booked from Seattle but I’m sure all that detail will fall into place in due course. I have started thinking about my next challenge (as per the closing paras of blog 131) and I’m delighted to have found someone who is keen to complete that challenge with me. I wouldn’t completely rule out a return to Clipper and some of the legs I haven’t done this time around……. but first ……… lets FINANALLY FINISH THIS EDITION!
I’ll blog again on Sunday night prior to departure, as I have done before in blogs 90 and 91 pre-Leg 2 and 98 pre Leg 3. Thereafter my next blog post will come from Subic Bay in the Philippines’ (and regular readers will know what happen last time I was in Subic- see blog 122: I see No Ships.
For new readers, and regular readers who have forgotten, you can check out the different yachts competing at blog 74: The 2019-2020 Race Line Up and Starting Stats, the way the Race is scored at blog 76: How The Clipper Race is Scored and how you can follow the Race across the North Pacific as it unfolds at blog 75: The Race Viewer – and a health warning. This can be addictive. And its still not too late to sign up to be a Race Supporter (its free!) – see blog 68: It’s Time, almost for me, but definitely for You.
There is lots of additional material on the official website at http://www.clipperroundtheworld.com including a specific team UNICEF page via the Race Teams drop down menu. Plenty to read if you are in the UK and battening down the hatches ahead of Storm Eunice. Me – I’m off to shift all that not-yet-packed sailing gear off the bed so I can get to sleep!
For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:
For UNICEF UK see:
Please take a look. Thank You.