Now a bell ringing, bee keeping businessman (not always in that order) Keith has limited yachting experience but considerable sea-going experience having served afloat for the majority of his 34 years service in the Royal Navy. This included serving in every class of warship from minesweeper to aircraft carrier, commanding 4 different ships (a minesweeper, two destroyers and an amphibious command ship) and commanding all UK maritime forces in the Middle East for a 2 year period. Concurrently he was the Deputy Coalition Commander of a multi-national force of over 115 warships drawn from 22 different countries. For him the challenge and excitement of being part of the Clipper Round The World Race team has proved irresistible, in particular taking on the four big west-east ocean crossings and the chance to sail across oceans and seas he has yet to experience.
A couple of days ago I woke to the heartening realisation that I had regained some of my sight. Only a slight improvement, but an improvement nonetheless. I can now see facial features within about 3 feet, which is good news ……… depending, of course, on who you are looking at! That was progress enough to prompt reaching for the razor and for removal, careful removal, of the beard!
However, that good news was tempered the following day, 17th March, with the news that Clipper plc have “pulled the plug” on the current edition of the Race, at least for the remainder of this year! The official Clipper announcement read as follows:
” With the ongoing global outbreak of Covid-19 and the enormous impact it has created on world wide travel, the Clipper 2019-20 Race has been postponed with immediate effect.
This decision has been in no way taken lightly. Our crew are currently under quarantine in Subic Bay, Philippines, where the Clipper Race fleet has been berthed since Sunday 15 March. The island of Luzon (where Subic Bay is located) is currently under ‘enhanced community quarenteed.’
In addition, the fleet was due to race across the North Pacific Ocean from 21 March towards Seattle. However, with the city currently in a state of emergency and travel and medical insurance restrictions in the United States, we could not allow our teams to depart without a viable destination. This, along with the growing global uncertainty on how the situation could develop in the coming months, meant postponing the race was the safest option for all involved.
Our first priority, as soon as the local quananteen has been lifted, will be to assist our crew in Subic Bay in travelling home from the Philippines as swiftly as possible.
The Clipper 2019-20 Race has three legs remaining. These stages will now be postponed for approximately ten months, when the remaining circumnavigation will be completed. This length of postponement allows for us to avoid adverse weather patterns on the remainder of our global route.
All Leg 6, 7 and 8 crew, along with our circumnavigators, will be able to rejoin the race when it resumes next year, All crew must complete refresher trading ahead of their joining leg. The postponement will have an impact on the timing of future races. The next full edition of the Clipper Race will start in the summer of 2022. More details on this will be confirmed at a later date.
We are extremely disappointed to postpone the remainder of the Clipper 2019-20 Race. We are proud of all our intrepid crew for having competed in this edition since it departed London, and look forward to welcoming all of our upcoming crew next year when the race continues. We are also grateful to all our crew, supporters and Race Paerners for their continued support.”
The Subic Bay quarantine saw all crews confined to the yachts/pontoons. Once lifted, the boats have been moth-balled and crews have made their way to homes across the world. I have been tracking the progress of my UNICEF team mates and friends in other yachts via various WhatsApp groups and social media. Holly Williams was the last crew member to leave UNICEF and the Skipper and AQP were amongst the last to leave the Philippines, I chatted with Danny Lee as he waited for a flight from Manila airport (others got out via Clark) and Angie arrived safely back in New Zealand around the time NZ closed the country to non-nationals. I know of at least one Brit trying to get to Canada via the US. At one point I commented that it was like watching some international version of The Great Escape, only to be told by John Dawson (my Mother Watch buddy from Durban to Fremantle on Leg 3) that the minibuses used to get crew out of Subic were stopped by road blocks along the routes to the airports, everyone had to get out, and their temperatures were taken at the roadside by Filipino soldiers! Mike Miller has described the experience of departure as a surreal dash through deserted paddy fields to catch one of the last flights out. Holly finally made it back to San Francisco (via Dubai!) late last night UK time.
The world is already a very different place in the 2 weeks since I lost the sight in my left eye. Clipper crew are rapidly adjusting to the “blank diary syndrome” I wrote about in my previous blog. In virtually all cases it is now “locked-down blank diary syndrome.” Circumnavigators, virtually all of whom will have given up jobs and most of whom will have sold/rented out accommodation, must now find something to do for at least the next 10 months. It will be interesting to see how many of us are in a position to resume Clipper next year and, given the pace of recent events, predicting anything 10 months out is too risky a business.
For the moment then I guess I had better rewrite the Home page of this website and, while I’m at it, update my JustGiving pages. And speaking of JustGiving, a huge congratulations to Graham Scarborough of team UNICEF. Graham’s wife, Lindy, has already done much in producing silver pennants and earrings (See Blog 70: Advert time…. go on, its for a great cause, published 2 August 2019). Graham, who I worked with on various projects during Prep Week back at the beginning of August last year (See Blog 86: Time Travel …… or rather TIME to wind back the clock, while I TRAVEL, published 7 October 2019), has just secured a donation of £20,000 to our UNICEF UK fund raising from a charitable foundation called the Birrane Foundation which was set up a good friend of Graham’s.Apart from the sum, which takes our team total pretty close to £100,000 (by FAR the most achieved by ANY boat in the fleet) this is all the more remarkable given that it was achieved in the midst of the current global/Clipper turmoil AND given that Graham has yet to complete in the race. He was due to join the yacht in Seattle in April.
To be continued ………….
For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:
I see no ships – unfortunately quite literally – but lets come back to that in a minute or two. I had hoped to have blogged before now but a few things have got in the way, not least coronavirus, so here goes with an overdue update. Understandably overdue I hope, given the circumstances.
I flew out to the Philippines on Tuesday 3rd March. Manchester to Dubai and then onto Cebu in the Phillippines. A couple of hours staying on the aeroplane on the ground, and then on to Clark International airport on the Philippine island of Luzon. Clark is north west of Manila and north east of Subic Bay. I started to use the “note” facility on my mobile phone to record my thoughts etc with a few to better informing subsequent blogs; effectively kee;ping an electronic diary of my Leg 6 adventure. Consequently I can tell you that the flight from Dubai routed over India and Bangladesh, skirted across the north of Vietnam, across mainland China and crossed the Chinese coast in the vicinirty of Zhuhai. The irony here was not lost on me given that Zhuhai was to have been my destination prior to the virus outbreak. The route continued down across the South China Sea and the length of the Philip;pines to Cebu, about 650km south of Luzon and Clark International. I noted in my “diary” the “interesting fact” that sailing across the North Pacific would take me more miles than I had just flown! I also arrived without knowing where I was going next! Regular readers will be aware that three options were being considered for the first part of Leg 6 (See blog 109: Limbo Latest …… the roulette wheel continues to spin, published 18 February) and, even as I arrived in Subic Bay, no decision had been made.
After re-packing my bags from “international flight mode” to “standby to embark in a yacht mode” and a night in a hotel just outside Clark, I travelled the 55 miles or so to Subic Bay the following day. Bags duly dumped in a local hotel I got to the UNICEF yacht a little after midday on Thursday 5th Mar. Just in time to help offload the 3 spinnaker sails prior to their inspection for damage/repair and to assist in the checking/servicing of all our lifejackets; a routine involving various checks, “disconnecting” of the automatic personal AIS beacon (Automatic Identification System that allows automatic tracking in the event of a manoverboard) and the oral inflation of the lifejackets for 24 hours, before it was time for the prioze giving for the previous race, Race 8, and the end lof Leg 5.
UNICEF finished an excellent 2nd, our third podium finish, and picked up 4 bonus points (2nd across the two Scoring Gates on race 8) lifting us to FIFTH overall, just 5 points behind Visit Sanya in 4th and 9 points behind Punta Del Este in 3rd.
Even better was the news that our very own Danny Lee picked up the Media Prize Pennant for Leg 5 for his crew blog entitled Hotting Up describing what it was like to cope with the extreme heat and sweltering conditions of the race from the Whitsundays to Subic Bay. It’s worth checking out on the UNICEF team page of the official website, in fact all Danny’s blogs *when its his turn) nare well worth a read.
The other news at the Prizegiving was the announcement that there would be a briefing to all crews the following evening concerning the start race for Leg 6. Not surprisingly, given the continued coronavirus developments, there was already plenty of speculation and some talk of a “short” race next.
On the evening of Friday 6b Mar it was announced that Race 9, the first race of Leg 6, would be another Subic to Subic race. This time a short, 750 nautical miles or so, triangular race from 6 nautical miles west of Subic, heading west for approximately 200 nautical miles out into the South China Sea. The next leg of the triangle would head a similar distance north into the north east monsoon trade winds before rounding a virtual mark and turning south east back towards Subic Bay. This third leg of the triangle would be about 270 nautical miles long and would be a fast reaching sprint with decent breeze on the beam or even downwind. The arrival window back into Subic Bay would be 14th -15th March.
The next race of Leg 6 would then be a direct race across the North Pacific, departing Subic Bay on 21st March with an arrival window into Seattle of 19th – 24th April. As an added twist each of the triangular legs of the next race would constitute an Ocean Sprint and teams would be required to declare which TWO of the THREE Ocean Sprints they would wish to compete inprior to race start on 10th March. Seven teams (Qingdao, Ha Long Bay Vietnam, Zhuhai, Seattle, Visit Sanya,, Punta del Este and UNICEF opted for Ocean Sprint 1, The full breakdown was as follows:
Imagine Your Korea – Ocean Sprints 2 and 3
GoToBermuda – Ocean Sprints 1 and 2
Seattle – Ocean Sprints 1 and 2
WTC Logistuics – Ocean Sprints 2 and 3
Punta del Este – Ocean Sprints 1 and 3
Ha Long Bay Vietnam – Ocean Sprints 1 and 2
Dare To Lead – Ocean Sprints 1 and 2
Zhuhai – Ocean Sprints 1 and 2
Visit Sanya – Ocean Sprints 1 and 3
Qingdao – Ocean Sprints 1 and 3
Unicef – Ocean Sprints 1 and 3
Unfortunately I missed all these announcements as, from midday through to about 2030 on Friday 6th March I was here …..
the Allied Care Experts Medical Center, Baypoint, Subic Bay and I was, as some of you are already aware, blind in my left eye. As I said earlier …. “I see No Ships”…. in my case, quite literally.
Late(ish) on the Thursday night, as the prize giving party drew to a close, I noticed a small black thread-like “floater” in my left eye. I excused myself from the party and returned to my hotel for an early night thinking nothing more about it, or at least figuring that an early night and some rest was probably all that was required. Unfortunately that was not the case and, the following morning, I quickly realised I had lost the vast majoprity of the sight in my left eye. Looking into the bathroom mirror I could not distinguish my own facial features, could barely distinguish my own silhouette and could see only the very blurred outline of things within about 2ft. Outside of 2ft I could see nothing. My right eye was, thankfully unaffected. My overriding emotion was shock. By nature I am an optimist. Definitely “glass half full.” That said, even I knew at this early stage that my dreams of crossing the North Pacific had just been torpedoed. I’ll come back to the torpedo analogy later.
In an episode I now look back on with some amusement, I directed my taxi from my hotel to the nearest ATM to get cash to pay for the taxi to take me, blind in one eye, to the Clipper fleet and Clipper Offices at the Subic Bay yacht club ……… only to have said ATM (the only serviceable ATM out of three) ……. swallow my card, fail to issue cash, and fail to return my card. Cue an interesting 20 minutes (with the taxi meter clocking up outside) during which I had to a. prove who I was, b. prove it was my card, c, fill in multiple forms proving a and b while unable to see properly!
Eventualyl, and I’ll adfmit with some emotion on my part, I was able to explain what had happened to the UNICEF Mate, Mike Miller, and then to the Clipper Office and managed to get in touch with Healix International, “our” UK based healthcare, insurance and risk management company. Straightforward enough you might imagine but it was a Friday and 1100 in the Philippines; 0300 in the morning in the UK! Within the hour I was referred to the Medical centre at Bayponint. I was seen by a Filippino doctor at 1300 and, reasonably quickly, referred to an ete specialist. The eye specialist was not available until 1800. I was seen at 1830. initially for some routine tests…….
nothing wrong with my right eye, but out of my left eye I couldn’t even make out the E never mind P E C F D. ….. not even blurred or faintly ….. NOTHING ….. in fact it was all I could do to make out the outline of the chart. Chemicals in both eyes to dilute my pupils and then a 30 minute wait for it to have any effect. Then in to see the specialist. Short version of a long(ish) story – virtuous haemorrhage in the left eye, some signs of diabetic retinopathy in the right eye. Pressure in both eyes ok. Recommended surgery and/or injections to left eye. Not fit for Clipper. Fit to fly pending UK medical/insurance approval. Oh and by the way ………. “here is a typed copy of our medical assessment and this is your bill so far!” Thankfully my earlier ATM experience provided enough cash …. just. Cue a late night taxi ride back to my hotel and a rather fitful, restless night, broken at 3 in the morning by a prudent decision to repack all my kit.
I spent most of Saturday dealing with UK based medical teams, insurance and underwriters plus moving hotels and explaining things to my crewmates. In case I didn’t see him I wrote a letter to Ian, my skipper. Explaining things to my crewmates and my friends on other boats was extremely difficult and at times emotional. About 16 or so of the UNICEF crew and I had lunch together. I sent private messages to those I didn’t see in person. A number of colleagues joined me in deploying humour to lighten the mood (or at least lighten MY mood!) and I promised Danny Lee a photo with an eye patch and a parrot on my return to the UK. At one pont someone said that I appeared remarkable calm in the circumstances. With the classic image of the furiously paddling swan in my mind’s eye I replied, “would it help if I wasn’t calm?”. To add to the somewhat macabre humour of it all, that afternoon, while awaiting confirmation of my return flight to the UK ……….. the internet went down. And stayed down!
There are a few more semi-humourous tales to tell but to cut a long story shorts I left the Philippines on the evening of Sunday 9th March and by 1700 UK time the following afternoon I was at the eye hospital in Stoke-On-Trent about 20 minutes from home. I had at least managed to shower. By this time team UNICEF had started Race 9 from Subic.
Full UK diagnosis – some minor evidence of diabetic retinopathy in the right eye.
Diabetic retinopathy. The eye condition that affect people with diabetes.
Now is probably NOT the time for a lengthy discourse on that subject. Maybe another time. Suffice to say I have received some preventative laser treatment in both eyes about 3 years ago because of this. My right eye was lasered there and then on Monday afternoon. Job done. A minor haemorrhage to the left eye was confirmed. No obvious damage to the eye; blindness caused by an inability to see through the blood from the haemorrhage. While some would undoubtedly attribute this to poor diabetic control, Dr Brown is aware of my vigourous, nay RUTHLESS, control and the loops through which I had already been forced to jump to be declared fit for the Clipper race in the first place. He was confident that it had NOT been caused by long haul flight and put it down, simply, to “bad luck.” Maybe even “very bad luck.” He and I agreed that worse luck would have been for this to happen at sea! Disinclined to operate or inject, he was of the opinion that I have a “good chance” of recovering my sight and that he would prefer nature to run her course and for my eye to heal/clear naturally. The first catch? ……. No guarantees. The second catch? Time. It might take up to 6 weeks, and even then, after 6 weeks, I might not have recovered full sight, indeed if the middle of the eye is the last to clear it may be some considerable time before I notice any difference. With that, and an eye patch fitted, I returned home to rest and bask, at least in the short term, in a diary clear of entries out to 8 May, the date I had expected to return to the UK!
So.…. one week on, how am I physically and emotionally? The physical bit is easy. No pain and still getting used to my eye patch. Its black (as you might expect) and protrudes a little too “Madonna’s-bra=like” for my personal taste. I need to invest in some variety. Maybe different colours? Day time? Night time? Gardening? Dancing? Ideas gratefully received. I am still having difficuklty adjusting to monocular vision and typing this has been harder than it should be on my right eye. I guess it might be time for reading glasses. Emotionally things are a little more complicated. I’ve already touched upon the shock I felt on the morning of 6th Mar, and some of what follows isnt quite rational but…..
….. whether its the grief curve, the loss curve or the Kubler-Ross change curve, I can confirm I’ve been pretty much everywhere on any curve you care to mention in the last week: shock, frustration, disbelief, anger (at myself), fear, lonliness, loss, bitter-bitter disappointment, hope, relief, thankfulness humour determination etc etc. Some at the same time and many more than once. And I have had an almost overwhelming feeling of having let down a large number of people; family, friends, team members, supporters. Remember. I did say this wasn’t all exactly rational. So where else am I? Clearly my number one priority is to rest and try and recover as much of my sight as possible. It might not help to speculate much beyond the next 5 weeks just yet but there is no avoiding the fact that
the same torpedo that sank “HMS Leg 6” on the morning of 6th March and sank my dreams of sailing across the North Pacific has also struck and damaged “HMS Leg 8.” My personal damage repair teams are hard at work attempting to keep that one afloat in the hope that a. I will recover sufficient sight, and b. the medics/insurance people will permit me to rejoin team UNICEF in New York. And then of course there is the C word, COVID-19.
It is only a couple of weeks ago that I speculated if sailing to China would become “the least worst option.” Since I returned from the Philippines, the UK has moved into phase 2 of the Governments Coronavirus plan, Italy is a country in complete lockdown, Denmark has closed its borders and flights to Spain were turned around in mid-air today. The US has closed its borders to travellers from Europe and, I understand, will extend this ban to the UK next week. Much more will probably have happened by the time you read this blog. Meanwhile. off Luzon and Subic Bay the lead yachts have just crossed the finish line. Line honours went to Ha Long Bay, Vietnam with Punta del Este in 2nd and Visit Sanya in 3rd. I believe UNICEF finished 5th. On current planning the fleet is due to sail for Seattle on 21st March…. and they say worse things happen at sea!
For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:
Ok, so you may be forgiven if you stumble across the title of this blog and thought, “Great, my kinda music, I must listen……”
Apologies but this blog remains about my involvement in the Clipper 2019-2020 Round The World Yacht Race (with a few notable “diversions” relating to Masterbaking, Weather, Beards, Booze, Fashion and even Talking Socks!
Masterbaking – (Blog 20: Masterbaking .. or .. Mother Watch preps .. or ..”If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake”, published 4 September 2018); Weather – (Blog 22: Florence, Mangkhut and Helene .. with memories of Michael Fish, Daria and Luis, published 17 September 2018, Blog 23: The weather theme continued .. but spare a thought and a prayer this Sunday for Abhilash Tomy, published 23 September 2018 and Blog 83: Dollydrums! WHAT Dollydrums??, published 25 September 2019); Beards – (Blog 11: What will crossing the South Atlantic, Southern Ocean, North Pacific and North Atlantic REALLY look like??, published 14 July 2018, Blog 12: A Bakers Dozen of Famous (and Infamous) Bearded Sailors (1), published 21 July 2018 and Blog 19: Half A Dozen More .. Famous and Infamous Bearded Sailors, published 31 August 2018);Booze – (Blog 49: Manannan Mac Lir, published 23 February 2019 and Blog 66: Another post about booze! published 21 July 2019); Fashion – (Blog 24: Does/Will My Bum Look Big In This?, published 28 September 2018 and Blog 50: Does/Will My Bum Look Big In This? (2), published 2 March 2019 and even a blog about talking socks!!!! (Blog 4: Curiosity …… or what my birthday socks “said” to me! published 31st May 2018).
So its not about those Drifters ……….. its about these Drifters:
The Clipper 2019-2020 Race has been engaging in citizen-science research efforts, collecting ocean and weather data which is being utilised around the world. The project aims to monitor climate change and the impact it is having on the oceans. Racing through some of the most remote waters on the planet, the Clipper Race is uniquely placed to be able to collect data that would otherwise be difficult to access. Back during the Cape Town stopover, Race organisers collaborated with a team of experts to enable the deployment of drifter buoys on the Southern Ocean, Leg 3, to Fremantle.
Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) drifter buoys we’re put onboard four Clipper Race yachts (Seattle, WTC Logistics, Go ToBermuda ………. and UNICEF) for deployment in pre-planned positions in the Southern Ocean. Carefully secured down in our lazerette prior to Race start, the buoys were donated to the South African Weather Service by NOAA (The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), who had previously worked with Clipper during the 2017-18 edition. The buoys are designed to provide data on barometric pressure, water temperature and ocean current drift for up to 3 years. Once finished these buoys will be retrieved.
Eventually, despite our diversion to Durban, we reached 90 degrees East and, with due ceremony, our drifter buoy was brought on deck, carefully unwrapped and deployed by UNICEF’s own Drifters. Mike even read the instructions first!
A further 4 buoys were deployed by Ha Long Bay Vietnam, Seattle, Zhuhai and Qingdao during Leg 4 from Fremantle to The Whitsundays. In addition to the drifter deployments, two of the yachts were provided with training on a Voluntary Observing Ship Scheme (VOS) while in Fremantle. The first two teams to participate in the trial were Seattle and Zhuhai, with the training delivered by the Australian Meteorological Agency (BOM). The teams provided observations of barometer readings, visibility, cloud formation and sea state every 12 hours.
GOOS is a global system for sustained observations of the oceans comprising the oceanographic component of the Global Earth Observing System of Systems. GOOS is administrated by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and serves oceanographic researchers, coastal managers, parties to international conventions, national meteorological and oceanographic agencies, hydrographic offices, marine and coastal industries, policy makers and the interested general public. GOOS is a platform for international cooperation for sustained observation of the oceans, the generation of oceanographic products and services and for interaction between research, operational, and user communities. It is implemented by member states via their government agencies, navies and oceanographic research institutions working together in a wide range of thematic panels and regional alliances.
The oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface and they are linked to human livelihoods in multiple ways. From its role in modulating the climate to how it provides a variety of socio-economical, cultural and environmental benefits, the oceans contribute greatly to human wellbeing. A better understanding of ocean climate and ecosystems, as well as human impacts and vulnerabilities, requires the coordination of a continuous and long-term system of ocean observations. In this context, the GOOS coordinates observations around the Earth’s oceans for three critical themes: climate, operational services, and marine ecosystem health.
Climate: a changing climate is linked to a changing ocean. Warming results in land and sea ice melt, and increased carbon uptake is causing ocean acidification, both at alarming rates. The accurate modelling of global climate change and variability, and the monitoring of impacts of climate change migration programmes require sustained and extended observations, including those in the deep oceans and in remote regions.
Operational Services: operational ocean data services provide improved weather forecasts and early warning for ocean-related hazards at the coast. This enhances the safety and efficiency of all ocean industries strengthening the global maritime economy. Societies and economies also benefit from this near-term ocean and climate information, such as El Niño forecasts, that are essential to global agriculture, water management and disaster risk reduction.
Marine Ecosystem Health: the global ocean offers a variety of social, economic, cultural and environmental benefits to human livelihoods. Scientific evidence shows that marine ecosystem health, measured in terms of productivity, species diversity and resilience, is both impacted by and threatening human activities. The GOOS contributes to the marine ecosystem health theme by facilitating ocean monitoring for the conservation of biodiversity and the maintenance of sustainable ocean ecosystem services.
Although there is a lot of this out there ….. there is still much to do.
and meanwhile …… back in the South China Sea the lead yachts are already off Taiwan. Competition has been fierce and it remains pretty much anyone’s race. The Philippines wind holes have given way to upwind sailing, challenging weather conditions, wet decks (and crew!) and life at an angle. Additionally the fleet is having to navigate around large fishing nets, buoys and other vessels in the busy commercial waters. At 1830UTC Tuesday teams had to decide which of the Ocean Sprints to go for and 9 teams have opted for the north bound sprint. That’s the entire fleet minus Qingdao and WTC Logistics, a lucky call for those two guaranteeing a minimum of 2 bonus points.
5 days now until I fly out.
For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see
The second race of Leg 5 (Race 7) got underway from Subic Bay, Philippines yesterday. As I type the fleet is spread out over an area of about 25 nautical miles, off San Fernando on the west coast of Luzon with a little under 1000 nautical miles left to race. Boats speeds right now range from 1 knot to a little over 5 knots in wind holes and light winds to the west of the Philippines. The winds further north, south of Taiwan, look more favourable.
Off the Philippines it is 0120 on Tuesday morning as I type and those coming on watch for the 0300-0700 watch have another 10 minutes sleep before they are woken to dress. Back here it is now 8 days until I fly out to Subic Bay ahead of reporting to the yacht again on 6th March. My personal preparations are now entering the final phase. My kit is laid out ready to be packed and my re-grown beard is passed that “prickly-why-am-I-bothering-to-grow-this” phase …. just about. I have visas-various and a nice letter from Clipper “to whom it may concern” explaining why I am arriving in the Philippines without a departure ticket. Other than a statement in the letter that I will depart the Philippines on 10th March there is still no news of the route for Leg 6, other than the existing arrival window into Seattle of 19th-24th April. With the latest news of Coronavirus coming out of South Korea I wonder how long it will be before Option 1, covered in my last blog, becomes the least worst option? (See blog 109: Limbo Latest ,,,,, the roulette wheel continues to spin, published 18th February – Option 1: Subic-Qingdao-Seattle)
………… meanwhile, and in a throw-back to Leg 2 from Punta del Este to Cape Town…. The Mail Online Travel’s reporter Sadie Whitlocks was onboard Punta del Este for Leg 2 across the South Atlantic and her article, plus videos, was published on 20th Feb. You can view it via this link:
Those 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.
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.
In 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.
Three 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?
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
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
With the leading boats currently in the Solomon Sea between Papua New Guinea and Bougainville Island, with around 3220 nautical miles to sail to Sanya, China, the arrival window for Sanya 10-15 February, about a month until I fly to the Far East, and the day before I am due in Manchester for my Chinese visa interview, Clipper have issued the following update regarding the Coronavirus:
“We are closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak in China. On instructions from government officials, the Sanya organising committee has informed the Clipper Race that all activities planned for the stopover in its city have been cancelled and it is currently planned that there will be a simple arrival and departure for the fleet. We understand that the decision has not been taken lightly as Sanya was a fantastic host during the 2017-18 edition. At present the fleet is continuing its race towards Sanya. We are continuing to talk with the Chinese authorities and sympathise that this is an issue which is continually developing. We will advise as soon as we have any further information.”
Another case of watch this space ……
For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see
Further to the previous blog, all 11 yachts sailed from Airlie Beach earlier today and are currently motoring the 150 or so nautical miles to be clear of the Great Barrier Reef. They will RV in the vicinity of 019.47S 150.23E at 1500 local time tomorrow, 21 Jan, for a “Le Mans” start to Leg 5. In the meantime ……
Keen readers will have met Sophie before.
Sophie and I did Level 4 training together last July (see Blog 81, Race 2, Day 3 Latest ……. 4,800 nautical miles still left to Race, so let’s wind the clock back a bit …, published 18 September 2019) and immediately before that, the UNICEF team building weekend.
Sophie was part of the UNICEF team on Leg 1 from London to Portugal and Portugal to Uruguay and then left, rejoining in Cape Town for Leg 3 to Fremantle.
Sophie, along with John Dillon, was also responsible for organising and leading our Sunday Fundays on Leg 3, a sort of mildly chaotic attempt to break the routine with 30 minutes or so of organised madness around our lunchtime meetings on a Sunday. Sunday Fundays invariably involved chocolate …. or sweets……..of some description, carefully rationed lemonade or coke (the nearest we ever got to booze), a pop-up Turkey for US Thanksgiving Day, a range of decorations for birthday cakes and “games” of all sorts from our own version of Countdown conundrums, to a version of Pictionary, rehearsing our Christmas Carol, Secret Santa presents – with an option to “twist” and swap presents if you didn’t like the one you got! and on Advent Sunday arranging a visit from Santa (aka Kiwi Keith).
On this latter Sunday, Seb, Sandra and Mike Willis were all invited to sit on Santa’s knee while one member of the crew spoke in their defence (as to why they should get their Christmas presents) followed by another crew member speaking “against.” It was my role to speak in defence of Seb! The “outcome” was then put to a vote!
As if this wasn’t talented enough for Sophie, she has also produced the following video of our epic Leg 3. It is well worth a watch:
We are still trying to convince Sophie she needs to do Leg 6 across the North Pacific!!!
For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see
I had originally intended blogging today about Leg 5, Race 6 from the Whitsundays in
Australia, where the yachts have spent the last few days, to Sanya in China given that race start was lunchtime today (Australian time). But last night it was announced that 3 of the boats have trouble with their onboard water-makers and, in an effort to allow replacement parts to arrive, race start would be delayed by up to 48 hours. It is hoped that the arrival window into Sanya, currently 10-15 Feb, will be unaffected.
That sail, the boats did sail earlier today UK time, completed the customary Parade of Sail, carried out their required man overboard drills, plus some other sailing practice, and then returned alongside the Coral Sea Marina Resort at Airlie Beach. Those of you who are already addicted to Race Viewer will have seen the boat tracks earlier this morning and will note that the race clock is “ticking” but currently all boats are alongside.
There are 3 races in the next leg, Race 6 from The Whitsundays to Sanya, Race 7 from Sanya to Subic Bay in the Philippines, and Race 8 from Subic Bay to Zhuhai, again in China. The arrival window into Zhuhai and the end of Leg 5 is 2-3 March and I will rejoin team UNICEF in Zhuhai on 4 March. Things on the Leaderboard are very nicely poised as we start the final 4 legs but it is interesting to remember that the first 4 Legs of the circumnavigation only comprised 5 Races. The final 4 Legs include 10 Races and I will compete in 5 of them, 2 in Leg 6 crossing the North Pacific and 3 in Leg 8 crossing the North Atlantic. This is how the Legs/Races have panned out so far:
It remains fairly tight throughout the fleet on the overall race standings. Qingdao, in 1st place overall, are 5 points ahead of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam in 2nd. They are 21 points clear of Punta del Este in 3rd, who are only 3 points clear of Visit Sanya in 4th who are only 1 point ahead of UNICEF currently in 5th. Only 10 points separate UNICEF in 5th from Go to Bermuda in 8th and they are only 5 points clear of Seattle in 11th. Qingdao, Han Long Bay Vietnam and Punta del Este (in 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively) have all played their Jokers. No jokers have been declared for the race from The Whitsundays to Sanya. If you missed the scoring rules see Blog 76, How The Clipper Race Is Scored, published 3 September 2019.
For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see