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.


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


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

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.


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.

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!”

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!
Ruth’s Travel Planning

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see

and for UNICEF UK see

Please take a look. Thank You.

Coronavirus update


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

and for UNICEF UK see

Please take a look. Thank you.

Sophie’s Choice

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 ……

Sophie on the helm during Leg 3, Cape Town to Fremantle (via Durban!)

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, standing, far left.
left to right – Shaneil, Sophie, me, Jo, Angie. Level 4 training July 2019

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.


The UNICEF team at Leg 3 race start in Cape Town, Sophie front row 3rd from the left.
The same team (minus Andy and Thomas landed in Durban) on arrival Fremantle, Sophie, kneeling, 4th from the right.

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

and for UNICEF UK see

Please take a look. Thank You.



Leg 5, Race 6 Here We Go ……… or maybe not quite yet!

I had originally intended blogging today about Leg 5, Race 6 from the Whitsundays in

The Whitsundays

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:

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


The same team on arrival in Cape Town, South Africa some 4050 miles later!



Team UNICEF alongside in Cape Town about to start Leg 3, Race 4 to Fremantle, Western Australia.


The same team (minus Andy and Thomas) 6547 miles later on arrival in Fremantle (via Durban!)


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

and for UNICEF UK see

The 12 Days of Christmas (ish!)

An extra 11 days at sea did allow us to write our own version of the Christmas Carol “The 12 Days of Christmas”

Here is the team UNICEF version …..

12 Calls to PRAXES (our long range telemedicine support team)

11 Sails for sewing

10 unused dry suits

9 days diversion

8 phoney forecasts

7 Time Zone Crossings

6 injured crew mates


4 broken ribs

3 smashed teeth

2 medivacs

And Andy’s appen – dect – o – mee!

and ZERO redress.

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see

and for UNICEF UK see

Please take a look. Thank You

Cape Town to Fremantle official wrap-up video.

Happy New Year

Don’t look for us, we went via Durban (although the lightening storm at around 59 seconds might have been us!!!) but here is the official highlight video of Race 4, Leg 3, Cape Town to Fremantle. Enjoy.

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:

and for UNICEF UK  see:

Please take a look. Thank You.

10,597 Nautical miles. So Far, So Good.

Stafford Train Station 7th Oct
Manchester airport pm 23rd December.


Buenos Aires, Argentina,

Montevideo, Uruguay,

Punta del Este, Uruguay,

4050 nautical miles across the South Atlantic,

Cape Town, South Africa,

a medical emergency diversion and 2hrs alongside in Durban, South Africa

6547 nautical miles across the Southern Ocean/South Indian Ocean (should have been about 4750 nautical miles)

48 in Fremantle, Western Australia

and 9 hours in Dubai airport!

Catch up blogs to follow.


For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:

and for UNICEF UK see:

Please take a look. Thank You.

A Message From Mary

This leg from South Africa to Freemantle is thrown up many challenges for the crew on Unicef and their supporters – all of which they are dealing with brilliantly as they come along whether it be a medical evacuation or a variety of more minor medical issue, light wings , violent storms & sail mending in a confined space oh and at an angle. Let alone their youngest crew member(18) having to put up with the music choice of a crew most very much not his age. Still it seems he is starting a music education programme of his own.

At the moment they are sailing hard towards Australia but as Ian (Skipper) puts it in his blog today ‘the distance between Perth and Sydney is currently shorter than our distance to Freemantle… ‘ so they need to sail a continent! Quickly we  hope.

However its great to see they have support from so many people – the video below was sent via Keith’s daughter Heather. The crew have all seen it and with a big thanks to Heather and Mary it was a great boost to morale. Lets hope the cooking on board goes from strength to strength – and Keith shares his new found skill when he gets home.

Getting to Freemantle – the long way

‘Here we go again’ from Cape Town has proved to interesting to say the least. As most of you will know UNICEF had to divert after a few days sailing towards Freemantle and head for Durban. Unfortunately one of the crew developed suspected appendicitis. He has now be landed in Durban and is receiving appropriate hospital treatment. Another crew member had a bad fall- losing a couple of teeth into the ocean- he has also left the boat in Durban.

The boat has refuelled, victualled and is heading in the right direction.  The following is Keiths post from the boat on Race 4- Day5.(Some of its contents have been over taken by time and events but the thought  on support and family remain the same)

‘Here we go ….back to South Africa’

We really are one big UNICEF team family. Race crew afloat, those crew members who have already finished their Clipper Race adventure and those waiting expectantly for their adventure to begin. Our extended UNICEF team family includes ALL our families, friends and supporters, some who provide fantastic personal support including victualling and even helping out with sail repair during stopovers, and those whose support is geographically distant but just as strong and just as welcome. Today, some family plans are on hold as the UNICEF family team afloat does what it is really good at and looks after one of its own in need of help and support.

We are sailing back towards South Africa- in the general direction of Durban. a prudent measure to seek timely medical support for crew member Andrew Toms,  the details of his condition having been released by a  Clipper Race press release earlier today’. Andrew is comfortable and resting. Our onboard medical team of Skipper Ian, Holly, Anthonie and John are giving Andrew excellent care, ably supported by long range advice from PRAXES. We are in good shape and hope to rejoin the race to Australia just as soon as we can. But Andrew needs us to sail as safely, accurately and as fast as we always do, only this time not quite in the direction we had intended. But the family comes first. The Race will still be there when we turn around. We will be back’

Keith expresses so well how valuable all the support for the boat and everyone concerned with the boat is.

Now the boat is heading to Australia in the Southern Ocean. The  skipper’s blog  reports ‘ the forecast has  50knots in it , so we know the gusts will be significantly stronger and the sea state will build up quickly … Bring on the cold, the wet, the grey, the wet and the ice squalls. Ohh did I mention the wet!’

So getting to Australia will be a challenge with an expected twelve day heavy weather epic.

Here We go