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 Tear.

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



Here they go AGAIN

Of all the iconic places in the world it’s hard to think of a more recognisable one to sail in and out of than Cape Table. Table mountain is magnificent.


The clipper boats have been the focus of so much activity for the last few days. The crews are busy making sails right, vitaling, cleaning, maintenance and so many jobs big and small all of equal importance to get the boats ready to set sail again.

There’s  been some time to relax and enjoy the friendships and fun surrounding this clipper adventure

Then – so quickly as UNICEF arrived in one evening they slipped their lines and glided away in bright sunshine.IMG-20191113-WA0004

The parade of sail is a fine sight then the boats practise their ‘man over board’ drill and get themselves set for the start. Watching on the break water with others we watch them go far into the distance. Wondering just which way Australia is- there is such a mixture of emotions.



So long Cape Town. It’s been a blast! Leg 3 (Race 4) starts TODAY!

In the words of the UNICEF team song, “Here We Go” .. again, as today we finally say goodbye to Cape Town and South Africa. Next stop, fingers crossed, Fremantle Australia. The Leg 2 team have been joined by Tim, Rob, Thomas, Seb, Anne, Andrew Toms and Sophie – or I should say REjoined in Sophie’s case as she only left the team in Punta at the end of Leg 1 – and we have said our planned goodbyes to Gareth, Christian, Sheila, Joe (until he returns for Legs 7 & 8) and Jeremy (until Leg 8). We are back to a (near full) complement of 22.

So, once again on the eve of a race, how am I feeling? Well perhaps not quite as nervous as last time and certainly ready to go. The Southern Ocean is one of the reasons I first signed up for Clipper. I have never sailed in the Southern Ocean, and I will be rounding the Cape of Good Hope for the first time. The Southern Ocean has a fearsome reputation. Clipper have imposed an ice limit for example and yachts are not permitted to sail south of 45S for example. I expect it to be cold, wet, rough and tough. Extremely mentally and physically challenging.

So, what will it be like this time? Again, here’s what the official race magazine has to say:

“Cape Town to Freemantle is also referred to as the Southern Ocean Sleigh Ride. This leg offers some of the most extreme and testing conditions of the entire circumnavigation, with teams dipping into the notoriously strong winds of the Roaring Forties. Once clear of Table Bay, which is stunning but well known for its tricky, fickle wind patterns, teams will head for the first Great Cape, The Cape of Good Hope. It’s then on to the Angulhas Bank, where the meeting of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans causes very disturbed seas. Spinnakers are likely to reappear and ocean racing tactics will be in full flow. Teams will discover exactly what the Clipper 70s are made of as they surf downwind on swells higher than buildings.

Despite the gruelling reputation that the Roaring Forties command, this is a place respected by sailors as one of the best places to fully appreciate Mother Nature in her most powerful glory.”

And here is what it looked like in a previous edition

and in the 2017-2018 edition when the Greenings yacht was wrecked off the South African coast and subsequently washed ashore and, very tragically, Simon Spears was washed overboard and drowned from Great Britain…….

Time to go. Here We Go. Wish me luck.

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:

and for UNICEF UK see:

Please take a look. Thank you.