Today is Sunday 27 March (or at least it was when Keith wrote this).. its a week since we sailed from Subic Bay. Those of you who are following progress on the Race Tracker will know that we got off to a pretty good start. With over 6000 miles to race its slightly demoralising to talk about distances to Seattle but we are pleased with our progress so far. (As of April 6 Unicef are sailing hard to the scoring gate).
Conditions have been tough with strong head winds meaning we have spent most of the time since March 23 slamming into the waves with the boat at a 45 degree angle. Its been stiflingly hot below deck. Someone described it like being in an earthquake and a tsunami inside a sauna. Getting ANYTHING done at a 45 degree angle is difficult. Everything is much harder and takes at least twice as long. And when I say everything I mean EVERYTHING from moving around to dressing and from cooking to washing. And the less said about going to the heads (toilets) at 45 degrees the better…….
….. there are 10 bunks on each side of a clipper 70 yacht. On UNICEF the bunks are named after sea creatures. I think the idea originated with my predecessor as Team Coordinator as something that might appeal to visiting children. In any case I saw no reason to alter this when I took over, so the names have stuck.
The skipper and AQP get their own bunks and do not share. The skipper is on the starboard side furthest aft and the AQP port aft. The bunks above the skippers and AQPs are full of stores/spares/spare lifejackets. The front two bunks on either side forward of the mast are also used to store food and equipment.
To save you doing the maths that leaves 6 bunks on either side of the boat for crew. 4 bunks either side on the outside of the port and starboard passgeways leading aft from the galley and 2 bunks on the inside on each side immediately aft of the engine/generator room. These inside bunks are known locally as the ”coffin bunks” as they have reduced headroom and no ’cave lockers’- cubby holes in the side of the boat to store kit. The top coffin bunks on either side are normally kept free to facilitate the 2 crew on Mother Watch getting an undisturbed nights sleep on completion of their duties.So on UNICEF the starboard side bunks are named Bass, Salmon, Ray and Tuna, with the starboard lower coffin bunk called Clown. on the port side its Ocra, Whale,Dolphin and Shark and the lower coffin bunk is called Walrus. For the duration of the crossing of the North Pacific I am living the life of a Walrus. In addition to no cave lockers there is very limited storage space underneath the Walrus coffin bunk as I sleep on top of the boats batteries. The bunk is about one and a half ’Keith’s body’ wide and to get a sense of the headroom imagine you are in bed on your back – put your elbow on your tummy and extend your arm,fist clenched, upwards. That’s it for headroom.
Thankfully there is extra space at the foot end of my bunk helped in part by a number of bungy cords I have rigged underneath the bunk above me from which I can hang my carefully packed and organised kit in dry bags attached by carabiners. My lifejacket with safety tethers attached lives in a pocket at the foot end of my bunk with my sea boots nearby. I have 1 dry bag containing all my base layers and mid layer clothing plus hats etc for weeks 1 & 2 and a second dry bag containing the same for weeks 3 & 4. Another dry bag is spare for my dirty laundry. My top layer (fleeces etc) are in a bag that doubles as a pillow and my wind proof jackets hang on their own. My Musto foul weather clothing- sallopettes and a smock- hang on a numbered peg in the wet locker immediately next to the ladder up to the upper deck.
I have separate bags for my wash kit, diabetic paraphernalia, and my ’electrics’ required for my phone, my battery pack, my head torch and my portable fan- a lifesaver in temperatures above 30 degrees. The fan is lashed to the bottom of the bunk above me and my head torch is looped through one of my bungy cords. The bunk can be adjusted to stop me falling out in the middle of the night when we alter course and go from being healed over 45 degrees in one direction to 45 degrees in the other. For limited privacy each bunk has a Lee cloth- a piece of blue canvas that you tie up behind you when you get into your bunk…..inside your sleeping bag if cold but outside if not. I have yet to be inside my bag on this Leg. And if that all appears pretty straightforward then imagine finding what you are looking for at 02.40 in the morning ahead of the 03.00 watch change under red lighting in a pitching rolling slamming yacht. All good fun and would knew the domestic life of a Walrus could be so much fun 🙂
I leave for the boat as soon as this blog is posted. We sail at around midday for the 6200 nautical mile race to Seattle.
Time has certainly not waited for me in terms of writing blogs and I am disappointed that all I have to offer is this rather brief “see you later”. So here are a selection of photos covering the passed couple of weeks…..
We have played our joker on this Leg, race tracker is up and running on the official website and the race proper gets underway on 24 March when the Fleet meets up for a Le Mans start north of the Philippines. In the meantime we do some offshore race training and here is a video of what lies ahead …..
Links to my justgiving pages for Diabetes UK, the National Autistic Society and UNICEF UK are at the bottom of previous blogs.
It turns out this title is something of a misnomer. This blog already has a foodie element to it. Every time I posted something about Mother Watch routines
and how many other blogs do you know with personal messages from that “patron Saint of all Mother Watches” Mary Berry
This short video message (courtesy of my eldest daughter, Heather, strong-arming Mary to record it) was received pretty much slap-bang in the middle of our leg to Fremantle. While such personal “endorsements” are frowned upon in some quarters, it was also amusing having to explain to non-Brit team members exactly who “Saint” Mary is. It helped pass part of a long afternoon watch. My Mother Watch skills even warranted a comment in the Skippers personal blog, but you have to trawl through his daily reports on the UNICEF page of the official website – back to the first week of Leg 2 Race 3 to find that one.
So there you have it. This is already a blog with foodie overtones. Ok, maybe not recipes you can use at home. Unless, that is, you’re cooking for up to 24 in a kitchen that moves around quite a lot, but you get the idea. Lighting the cooker without blowing your eyebrows off is a skill worth perfecting, as is the timing required to bake anything. And in this instance I’m talking about the “timing” required to get your cake mix INSIDE the oven as it moves one way and you move the other. There are a few things that belong inside sailing boots. Socks and feet spring to mind. Cake mixture does not.
I have always been impressed with the quality of the food we produce onboard. Some fantastic meals. Due in no small part to the victualling team but the meals still have to be cooked and served. On time. The cooking challengd is particularly evident the longer a leg goes on and the lower our stocks get. JD (John Dawson) and I managed to conjure up a kedjerie on the last full day at sea on our overly extended leg into Fremantle when onions was almost the only thing we had left. Earlier that same leg we had produced a roast chicken dinner to mark Advent Sunday. Many other UNICEF “mothers” surpassed themselves. Acer (Anne Elizabeth Serigstad) produced cinnoman swirls one evening in the Southern Indian Ocean that would grace any High Street bakery. At one point, bread-making became a competitive sport. I had some success with my breads and one notable failure. I did try to make a gluten-free loaf one night. Let’s just say it was buried at sea with NO military honourz the following morning and, even now, it probably constitutes a navigational danger to shipping somewhere in the Southern Ocean.
It’s fair to say that quarantine meals out here, as I hinted in the previous blog, and as illustrated above, have not lived up to UNICEF standards. Eating some of it has actually proved less challenging than identifying it in the first place. Writing about it all is going to prove impossible. So here’s a selection of meals for you (like me) to guess at from the last 12 days or so …..
And in fairness, and with due deference to the Philippines Department of Tourism, I should point out that “other dining options” are available ……
For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see
After the PCR trauma of actually getting out here it is fair to say that outside of hotel quarantine lockdow the time has flown by. Hotel lockdown is mind-bendingly boring but spare a thought for Danny Lee. His room has no windows! It’s already Sunday 6th March. I’ve been here 12 nights, am currently confined to my room awaiting results from my second Government PCR test and, subject to a negative result, I should be at sea again in a little over 24 hours. But there IS an 11th hour twist – isnt there always – see my very final PS comment.
It was a good job I had some time on hands immediately on arrival as it gave me time to cancel my missing American Express Card (last seen during the emergency PCR testing airport-trolley-juggling episode of Blog 138) which itself killed time waiting for the arrival of my missing bag of sailing kit!!! Oh and it was raining. I spared all that from blog 138 but if “these things happen in threes” I got my three out of the way early.
Rain on the afternoon of 22nd Feb was the last rain I have seen. The days are hot and humid with temperatures in the high 20s C and often as high as 25C in the shade. The Phippines are not as much in lockdown as I expected but your temperature is taken in all major shops and buildings before entry. Masks are compulsory, even outside in the heat of the day, and I have yet to see a local WITHOUT a mask, even when riding a bike or moped.
None of us “first arrivals” were allowed into the Subic Bay Yacht Club or onboard the boats until we received a negative result from a Government PCR test conducted in our Department of Tourism approved hotels on 25 Feb.
Prior to that I was allowed out and I tried to exercise (walking – too hot for anything else) between 2 to 5km every day. Sometimes more than once.
When back at the hotel a variety of quarantine meals were delivered to our rooms. I use the word “variety” adviseadly! The earliest breakfast delivery was 0645, the latest 1050! Dinner has been any time between 1730 and 2220! And ahead of my latest and strictest lockdown I did visit a local supermarket for some additional supplies!
Those of us who had arrived and tested negative were allowed into the yacht club (via the tradesman ‘s entrance – temp check, medical certificate and formal logging in every time) on 28 Feb and, until this latest lockdown, the 5 or 6 of us cleared to do so, plus the skipper and AQP have been down there every day.
and Ian and Dan took the boat to sea on 2nd and 3rd March with skippers and AQPs from across the Fleet for their own refresher training.
I think we are the only unchanged Skipper/AQP pairing in that Dan was one of our Round-the-Worlders before taking over as our AQP. Although there WERE jobs for the rest of us to do, including when the boat was at sea, it is fair to say that Ian and Dan had already broken the back of virtually ALL of it in the three weeks or so they have already been out here.
No doubt refresher training will reveal more to do, and we want to replace the port rudder after training for reasons I’ll cover in a future blog. But we all think the boat is in great shape and we are raring to get going. The rest of the UNICEF team arrived between 1 and 4 Mar so we are now all here, even if we haven’t all been in the same place yet. We went into hotel isolation at 1800 on 4 Mar and after our PCR tests yesterday we have all been confined to our rooms. Test results are due later today.
But ……….. and here’s the 11th hour twist ……… there have been crew who have tested positive for COVID since we arrived and we are all expected to LFT test every Wednesday and Sunday. Whilst I LFT’d NEGATIVE first thing this morning, one of my team mates has tested POSITIVE this morning. And yes, I and others have been in contact with him prior to locking down at 1800 on the 4th. I have just been informed I must now complete a further LFT test first thing in the morning irrespective of the result of yesterdays PCR test the resulg of which are expected any time soon.I cannot even begin to tell you how I feel right now.
For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:
You don’t need a long memory to recall a blog entitled “Plan early ….. plan twice.” A week or so should cover it. An even shorter memory will recall how someone was pretty convinced he was answering in the affirmative to “Be in all respects ready ….”
Now is most definitely the time to add that another of my over-used and favoured sayings has always been, ………………….. “in the nick of time will do nicely.”
Like many, I remember when the most complicated aspect of international air travel was on-line check in. Covid has certainly changed all that. For reasons I wont bore you with, but I suspect you can appreciate, flying into a country that only started vaccinating a year ago and who only reintroduced Visa waivers on 10 Feb 2022, requires quite a bit of paperwork. A traveller arriving by air but departing by 70ft yacht adds another dimension.
My final pre-flight check list included passport, tickets, online check in confirmation, official letter from Clipper, two separate letters from the Philippine’s Department of Foreign Affairs and their Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, a copy of my NHS vaccination certificate covering both shots and the booster, proof of registration (via separate on line forms generating a personal QR code) of the Philippine’s “One Health Pass”, proof of having already downloaded the Philippines test and trace app (called Traze) which can only be activated on arrival, and finally, proof of a negative RT-PCR test 48 hours prior to departure by a testing service accredited by both the UK and Philippine’s authorities. And all that was just for the flight. My training notes, some Team-Coordinater-related paperwork and circa 25kg of rather important sailing kit also featured.
A rain soaked, wind-buffeted, one hour, rush-hour drive to Manchester Terminal 3 (from where I had departed two years ago) then followed, via a doorstep goodbye to Mum and a final stop just short of the airport for petrol. As I refilled the car I thought I’d better check the Terminal again ……. did so …….. and there it was …… Terminal ONE!!! Delete “ready in all respects” – insert “in the nick of time will do nicely.” Don’t worry. It WAS to get worse.
Moving quickly beyond the final lingering farewells, I find myself at the front of the check in queue. It is exactly 10am. I pass over various documents as requested. I answer a couple of questions. After a while the check-in chap stops and begins to look increasingly troubled. “Don’t worry, Keith,” I say to myself. “They always look worried at some point during check-in. I bet they’re even trained to look worried. Just wait till he checks the 9 year old passport photo against the bearded apparition in front of him,” I thought. Then came the small bombshell. “Your PCR test result has expired. I can’t let you check in.” Did I really just type “small” bombshell?
“You have got to be $#@&ing kidding me” …….was, thankfully, only what I thought. “I beg your pardon?” was, thankfully, what came out of my mouth a split second later. My test result was timed at 1050 on 19th Feb which was, he helpfully pointed out, 47 hours and 10 minutes before I started checking in. But, he rather unhelpfully went on, that is 50 hours and 20 minutes before the scheduled take off. “I therefore cannot check you in for this flight.” (##$%&€£ – feel free to insert your own expletive at this point). Time for a rather quick “Plan B.”
The “published” turnaround time for the sort of test I required was 3 hours. My Wednesday test result had been turned around in 2 hours and 3 minutes. The time was now 1012 and check in was due to close in 1 hour and 58 minutes at 1210. Beginning to look like a requirement for Plans C, D, and E and maybe NOT “in the nick of time” after all.
Cue a rather undignified sprint pushing a loaded airport trolley through the rain to a COVID test site outside the Terminal in the airport train station. Why is it that when you don’t really know where you are going, and you are really pressed for time, the large “COVID testing centre” signs you have been sprinting passed …….. suddenly disappear??? Probably the same reason that the first “official-tabbard-wearing” person you stop to ask for directions turns out to be a window cleaner! And almost certainly why the final doors to the airport railway station are not automatic and have to be simultaneous held open whilst wrestling with a trolley which had, by now, developed a mind of it’s own. Eventually I reach the centre, book in, pay, complete an online registration and have the required PCR test. Tick tock.
The test is timed at 1038.
Check in closes in 1 hour 32 minutes. “How long?” I ask. “Normally 2 hours” she replies. “Plan Z” I begin to think, “What’s the quickest possible turn around,” I ask, briefly explaining my position. “One hour 30 minutes,” she calmly replies. And with that she applies the only solution possible and puts an “urgent” sticker on my test. Tick tock.
The result will be e mailed to me.
When I get back to the check in queue ….. it is HUGE! Good. I need time. I don’t think I’ve ever been in an airport check-in queue before AND wanted it to move so SLOOOOWLY. Where are the family of 8 with 32 pieces of luggage when you really want them??? I’m at the back of the queue and its 1058. Unfortunately, all the check-in gates are now open. Bugger!
At 1200 precisely I am at the front of the queue. Still no test results. “How long have I got?” “10 minutes,” is the reply …. “but,” he adds looking at the remaining queue, it might be as “late as 1220 or 1225.” 1210 (normal closure time) comes ….. and goes. No test results. By 1215 I can see the end of the queue. Up steps a party of 6 “twenty-somethings” travelling together on the same booking. Stacks of luggage and, God bless ’em, 2 of them still haven’t got their paperwork out of their carry on luggage. You couldn’t make this up. And I’m not!
I am standing to one side, phone in one hand, paperwork in the other, watching the queue get smaller. “Ping” goes my phone at 1216. IT IS NOT MY RESULTS!!!
My results, timed at 1218, arrive by e mail at 1219. Test to result in 1 hour and 40 minutes. Let’s hear it for “urgent stickers” and long check in queues. In the nick of time will do very nicely indeed. All checked in by 1225 and a mad dash through security and a further sprint through all the Duty Free shops accompanied by broadcasts announcing the final FINAL CALL for my flight.
Oh and after all that …….. the result………was negative…… boarding was actually delayed …….. and we were 1 hour and 6 minutes LATE taking off!!!!!
Tonight, just over 24 hours after a safe and relatively uneventful arrival at my “Government approved” quarantine hotel, you might wonder if actually crossing the North Pacific can be anymore stressful than getting to Subic! I’m fairly confident it will be.
For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see
I first wrote those words in a Captain’s Night Order book in the summer of 1988. 18 years later, almost to the day, I wrote the same words for the last time. Now I review those words from something of a different perspective. I asked myself ”Am I ready” way back in blog 90 written the night before sailing from Punta del Este. That was deliberately light-hearted. I updated this with a slightly more serious blog on the morning of sailing – blog 91: Leg 2 (Race 3) starts TODAY! the following day. A similar question was on my mind in blog 98 on 17 Nov 2019, on the day of our sailing from Cape Town. Tonight, on the eve of departure for the Philippines, the answer to the ”am I ready” question must be something of a “qualified yes.”
I’m certainly ready for departing the UK. My day started with a ”final to-do list” of 15 items. When you consider it included rigging outside lights, checking the winter feed on the beehives and moving a Grandfather clock, you will realise it wasn’t ”all Clipper.” I thought one of the decisions on which I had most control in the final days before departure would be when to stop shaving and get the annoyingly-itchy bit out of the way. I made a pact with myself that the razor would be put away when I was 80% certain I was actually going. In the end the decision was nowhere near that ”scientific” – I simply ran out of shaving cream about 2 weeks ago! The ”to-do list” grew to 23 items as today progressed but it is now …… clear.
We had a very good UNICEF team zoom call at lunchtime today spanning time zones from San Francisco (early morning) to the Philippines (mid evening). Ian and Dan have been working very hard on engines, generator and a multitude of yacht systems. The yacht has been deep cleaned and passed a structural survey – more surveys to come. Our main sail is back on and most/all of the running rigging has been checked. Ian and Dan are afloat on Thursday and Friday with the other skippers and AQPs for their training. We also continued our discussions about strategy, tactics, weather, routines etc but you’re going to have to wait for some of those details. Still plenty to do and I guess I will only be ”ready in all respects” after Level 4/refresher training and we all have a Crew Assessment to pass. More on that (again) if future blogs. As I reflected today, I haven’t tied a knot in 2 years, or at least not a knot that the skipper would recognise!!!!
For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see
Thank you to those who spotted my inadvertent use of ”Apr” rather than ”Feb” when listing my abbreviated programme yesterday. Now suitably corrected/republished. Just to be crystal clear – forget the date, forget the month ……. I fly on Monday.
It’s very easy to lose track of days and months in the “sail-eat-sleep-repeat” routine of a long ocean crossing. I appear to be so ”in the zone“ that I started early yesterday. Just imagine how confusing I’m going to find the International Date Line 😜😜😜
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:
I checked my bees today. Or at least I checked their feed. I hadn’t expected to be even typing this let alone doing it on the first day of 2022 but the unseasonably warm weather right now means my bees as as active today as they are on some days in Spring. My garden thermometer registered 14 degrees. It felt warmer. The bees were flying and that’s not necessarily a good thing. 14 degrees! I bet it won’t be that warm in the North Pacific.
When I sat down to type this afternoon I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not 2022 will be the year that sees the Clipper Round The World Yacht Race 2019-2020 complete! Just think about that for a second. An 11 month race that will restart in month 30, and finish, fingers crossed, in month 34. I think this is about 1,033 days so when I joked about Sir Francis Drake being quicker in my last blog, I think I might be right. I seem to remember Drake’s circumnavigation took 1,020 days!
Regular readers will know I have tempted fate much too often on these pages in previous posts, so forgive me if I continue that tradition into the New Year and also dispense with all the usual “what-if”, “maybe”, “COVID-permitting” caveats that normally accompany any discussion about Clipper programming. Here is the latest version of the Clipper schedule:
I fly to the Philippines in a little over 50 days. I’m two legs, two races, two oceans and 10,597 nautical miles into Clipper. I have two legs, five races and two oceans to go. I’ll let you know the mileage when I finish. We’re in 5th place in the Race, 7 points off 4th place, 16 points off 3rd, and we haven’t played our joker yet. Leaving aside (at least for this post) a degree of pre-flight isolation, PCR testing, flight details, visas, insurance, relocating all my kit, packing and repacking, goodbyes, quarantine hotels, bubble arrangements, boat maintenance, mandatory sailing training, more quarantine, lateral flow testing and more PCRs, flights from Seattle, getting to Bermuda and the London race finish – oh, and I almost forgot …. the “when do I stop shaving decision!” – leaving all that aside for one moment – the key dates for me appear to be:
22 Feb – date on which I must arrive in the Philippines.
Thursday 10 Mar – Leg 6 Race 9A starts – a point scoring race “around” the Philippines starting and finishing in Subic Bay. Arrival window Subic 14-15 Mar.
Sunday 20 Mar – Leg 6 Race 10 starts – 6,100 nautical miles across the North Pacific to Seattle, USA. Arrival window Seattle 16-21 Apr. Crew changeover (date on which I must leave the yacht) 25 Apr.
Tuesday 14 Jun – Crew changeover in Bermuda. Date on which I must report to the yacht. Refresher training afloat will be in the window 15-17 Jun.
Sunday 19 Jun – Leg 8 Race 13 starts – North Atlantic, Bermuda to New York. Arrival window New York 23-24 Jun.
Wednesday 29 Jun – Leg 8 Race 15 starts – North Atlantic, New York to Derry-Londonderry. Arrival window Derry-Londonderry 14-18 Jul.
Sunday 24 Jul – Leg 8 Race 15 starts – North-about around Scotland to finish off Southend Pier Friday 29 Jul.
Saturday 30 Jul – final sail up the river Thames to Royal Docks, London.
For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:
Since “deafening silence” (at least on my part) and Blog 131 there have, in fact, been a positive tsunami, whirlwind, hurricane, even pandemic (I’m trying to avoid use of the word “typhoon”) of e-mails from Clipper HQ on a whole range of Clipper and Philippines-related topics.
We’ve had confirmation of our personal arrival dates into the Philippines including specified airports, an updated race schedule (confirming NO stopovers in China and a 6,100 miles crossing of the North Pacific direct from Subic to Seattle), more on Special Entry Permits and visa arrangements for the Philippines (with the promise of more to come), an updated detailed schedule of events in Subic, Quarantine hotel details, training (quarantine afloat) details, post-race pre-Pacific crossing quarantine details, Skipper confirmations and new additions, AQP confirmations and new additions, and confirmation of new crew members joining the team(s) to replace those who can no longer make it, in our case 4, meaning a team of 16 plus skipper and AQP for the North Pacific. All this information has arrived since 29 Nov. Enough info for three or four blog posts but I guess I have been putting off writing much of late. Somehow I think COVID has not yet had its “final input” to all this planning and February 22nd (the date I am expected to arrive in the Philippines and go into the first phase of quarantine) still seems a long way away despite the “mental ground rush” of all I realise I still have to put in place to make it all happen. have arrival.
In addition to my reluctance to burst into print as a result of continuing COVID news, I realise I have been extremely reluctant to write about Clipper given the impact of most recent weather events on the Philippines.
I’m no novice when it comes to experiencing bad weather at sea, or for that matter witnessing its effects on land. I’ve written about weather and various related climatic oceanographic stuff a few times on these pages, most notably blogs 22, 23, 27, 28, 37, 79, 82, 83, 111 and 129.
As recently as last week our newly appointed AQP wrote that “his most memorable sailing moment was crossing the South Atlantic from Punta del Este to Cape Town, surfing the incredible weaves in strong winds out at sea,” going on to say, “seeing the power and the majesty of the world’s oceans will be an experience I will never forget.” I remember it well and share that view. It was over a week of this:
Super Typhoon Rai hit the Philippines just prior to Christmas. Rai underwent an unexpected rapid intensification on 15 December when it increased windspeed from 75mph to 160mph on 16 December just before it made its first landfall. By this time the eye, clearly visible from space, was 6 miles wide. While the Clipper fleet in Subic appears to have escaped undamaged the same cannot be said for large areas of the southern Philippines and hundreds of thousands of the population of the southern archipelago.
A powerful pre-North Pacific reminder, if a reminder is needed, of the power and might of Mother Nature. Have a peaceful Christmas and be thankful you can. More (much more) to follow in the New Year.
For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see: