Keith has asked me to post 2 blogs from the boat boat written as Unicef travels on its slightly extended route from New York to Derry. As I understand it the trip has been extended as the boats sailed so quickly as the boats sailed so quickly across the Atlantic. Keith’s blog will explain the new route.

The underlining theme of both blogs is time. Time seems such an extraordinaire concept. It goes so fast when you don’t want it to and occasionally drags. However clipper 2019 has taken AGES. It began in 2019 and could be the longest sporting event in history. When the Egyptians or Babylonians started to record time even so battles did not last this long.

First blog is from Danny Lees (July 4th)

‘Yesterday, Ian,Dan,Holly,JD, and I ticked off a fairly impressive milestone having sailed every single line of longitude on the planet. This serves as a stark reminder, not that I really one is needed, that this big old race is nearly run. I’m not going to get too emotional here. I hope. Ill save that for my final blog into London where I’ll likely just be a gibberish wreck, crying into my laptop as I type. I once spilled a glass of water onto my keyboard at work and could thereafter only type the letter P. So please expect three or four paragraphs of the latter P for my final missive. Although I sincerely hope you’ll be able to get the gist of what I’m trying to convey from context. For now, I think I’ll try and be semi-serious for once ( not just in my blogging output but in life in general) and talk about time.

This is of course the longest race in Clipper Race history and its often felt like it would stretch out into eternity. But even without the oh-so-fun- filled two year desolate waste years of death there has always been that element of feeling frozen in time whilst on this adventure. The race, party, race, party winning formula seems to go on ad infinitum – and i mean that in the best possible way. I’ve often seen it as like we’ve stepped through the wardrobe into Narnia, only it’s this side that’s in suspended animation whilst the rest of the world continues to turn without us.

The Louis Armstrong song We Have All The Time in the World comes to mind. An ironic lament, because of course, no matter how much we wish it wasn’t so our time here is finite. All the more reason to suck the marrow out of life when you can and take on challenges like the Clipper Round the World Race. Sailing the globe does open a Pandora’s Box somewhat though. How can you go back to normal life after doing something like this? That’s no a rhetorical question by the way. I’m genuinely after some answers. Seriously, DM me.

The Clipper Bubble is real and i really don’t want it to go pop. The world, at least to me, too often feels like a tragedy playing out its final scene where I’m completely powerless to help. It’s wonderful to be able to step outside os that and exist in aplace where nothing really matters except sailing and passing time with friends. I’ve always been Epicurean at heart and taking part in this race has allowed me to fully indulge in that way of life. The shared experience is incredible, but so too are the moments of peaceful solitude. The chance to be completely mindfu, helming on another glorious starry night without a single worry passing though my mind.

Als, we cannot stay here forever in our joy filled parallel universe. Reality creeps over the horizon, and with it all the trappings I’ve enjoyed escaping from so long, but also, crucially, all the things I absolutely love in life- my friends, my family, London, meals that aren’t cooked in one big pot, football and of course, because I am completely basic, my massive TV. But, I’m not ready to return just yet. For now I’m going to wander on deck and remain in this carefree idyll. Just a little while longer at least. I have all the time in the world.

Keith’s blog written on July 10th

’Seattle is in sight.

Before you think this is something of a deranged, Leg 6 flashback, I should point out that I am not talking about Seattle (city in USA pop 624,535) but the somewhat smaller Seattle (CV22 pop approx18)

In the wee small hours of this morning we rounded this first additional mark of our extended Leg 8 Race14 extension. Since then we have been slowly nibbling away/creeping up upon/reeling in/gnawing at (insert your own metaphor here) Seattle’s relative lead as we hope to overtake them this watch. Ahead of us liesRockall. That’s a 19m granite rock not a statement of fact and the Sailing Directions state that Rockall light is often extinguished for long periods due to the weather. You don’t say! After that we round St Kilda (4 isles & 3 stacks pop from 0 to small) and from there its a straight dash to Derry -Londonderry (pop -welcoming!). The weather forecast for rounding thes two rocky outcrops between us and the finish line is going to be suitably spicy.

Today is the last full Sunday at sea on Clipper 2019-2022 Race. This race and The Race are in t(e closing stages and we are pushing for a podium finish in 3days or so. This blog will be my final one from CV31 and tomorrow will be my penultimate Mother Watch since first joining in Punta del Este for leg 2. I know this with some certainly. As Team Coordinator I get to draw up the jobs rota. i am leaving the ‘last words’ in blogs between Derry -Londonderry and London to our three remaining round the worlders. Holly, Danny and JD. For my own part I will save my overall refections for my personal blog, in the event I am not ready to put the last four years or so into perspective and I may yet surprise myself when I try and put it all into words. For example, I am already reflecting that once the Race Finish party is complete and a small group of us complete the delivery voyage to return CV31 to Gosport, I will not have a Clipper Race Leg somewhere in my not too distant future to plan and prepare for. That already seems a little strange.

Has the experience been life changing? Almost certainly, yes. I now drink lemon and ginger tea with a dash of honey (thanks to Dan Bodley) and put marmalade in my porridge (many thanks Michiel Kool); how much more life changing do you want? I am fond of the cliched saying ’do not look for me in my past, I do not live there anymore’ but its going to take me some time to ‘pack away’ the last 4years. And its much to early to get emotional.

we still have this race to complete and race 15 to London ahead of us and more points and pennants to win. But as I sign off this blog a huge shout out to all UNICEF crew it has been my privilege to sail with on Legs 2, 3, 6 and now 8. it has been, and continues to be a blast . A massive ’Thank You’ to all the supporters and friends who have followed our trials and tribulations via Race Viewer (its not over yet!) and in person at our various stop overs. Finally my heartfelt thanks to close friends and family for your love and support and in particular Ruth for her love, humour, belief, support, understanding, forbearance, resilience and patience (not always in that order)

2 great blogs.
My thoughts

It will be interesting to meet/hear from other clipper supporters and the family members and hear their experiences of the Round the World Race. For me too its been life changing – I,ve had a tango lesson in Uruguay/ enjoyed the ultimate bbq in Argentina /made new friends and now have my own tool box (an old Lancome make up case) and I have used the tools.


ps apologies for the lack of pictures

149. The Atlantic Homecoming Leg.

Here is what some of the official Clipper website has to say about what’s coming next.

“While this might be the homeward bound leg there is plenty of racing still to be done. With an Atlantic crossing and an emotional homecoming, this is one of the most sought-after legs of the Race.And, with almost 40,000 miles of racing already behind you, there are still valuable racing points to be won. The podium places on the overall Race have been decided on the last race of Leg 8 on the last three Clipper Race editions.

The weather might be mixed but the competition is hot, with teams battling it out for the final race points. The New York to Londonderry race takes you north and a check on sea water temperatures will tell whether yachts are getting a helping push from the Gulf Stream. A further check will tell you when it gives way to the cooler Labrador Current and the mixture in seawater temperatures often produces unpredictable fog banks. It may feel like familiar ground but don’t take this mighty ocean for granted. You need to stay focussed, race hard and race safe. The route will have waypoints to avoid any risk of ice, even at this time of the year, and will take the Fleet close to the Flemish Cap, a fishing ground made famous by the book and film, The Perfect Storm. Then its a 2000 mile blast back towards Europe and one if the warmest welcomes of the race in Ireland.”

For my part I’m certainly not about to underestimate the North Atlantic, even in the summer. Two of the biggest waves I have ever encountered were in the North Atlantic; in the South west approaches in HMS FALMOUTH and the North West approaches in HMS NEWCASTLE, and both were big enough to damage the ship. Two days ago we learnt that Colin Golder, skipper and owner of Morgan of Marietta, competing in the Newport to Bermuda race, went overboard 325 miles from Bermuda in heavy seas. He did not survive but his body was recovered.

We spent most of yesterday on final sail repair/maintenance and packing/storing our 21 days of provisions plus checking and repacking lifejackets and filling our fresh water tanks. We also completed our Race 14 crew brief. For my own part as Team Coordinator I had already published the bunk allocations for this race and the jobs rota from sailing (this morning) through to the arrival window {and a little beyond just in case).

and last night we all had a relatively quiet night ahead of an early start – it is currently 0540 in the morning here.

We sail this morning shortly after 0900, straight into a Parade of Sail between Jersey City and Manhattan, which we will lead, and then we have a 110 mike motor/sail transit to the start line out in the North Atlantic clear of shipping lanes.

The Fleet will r/v at 0600 tomorrow morning for an 0800 Le Mans start for which we will be the leeward boat. 3 teams have played their Jokers on this race, potentially doubling their race points, it remains tight at the top and we continue to lead the fundraising table (thanks to those who have already donated). The sun is just up and it looks like a nice day.

For fundraising for Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:


for fundraising for UNICEF UK see


148. The Montivideo Maru

If you have no interest in Naval/military history and would prefer to skip over a rather tragic story then this is not the blog post for you and I recommend you give this one a miss. I started writing this in Subic but never got around to publishing it before we left for Seattle.

Some years ago, for reasons I wont bore you with now, I wrote an MA thesis for King’s College London about the qualities and characteristics required by senior military commanders in peacetime, in “total” war and “limited” wars. Leaving aside, for the purposes of this blog, my belief that the academic characterisation of “limited” war is of no practical relevance when YOU are the one being shot at, the only thing you need to know about that work is that I chose General Douglas MacArthur as my illustrative case study. Deliberately non Naval. Deliberately non British. A man who saw active service on the Western Front during WW1; rose to be peacetime head of the US Army in the early 1930s; retired in 1937 and who was recalled at the beginning of the war in the Pacific. For various reasons he served in the Philippines from 1935 to May 1942 and famously kept his “I will return” promise 2 years later. He went on to be the de-facto ruler of Japan during the Allied occupation 1945-1951 and commanded UN forces during the Korean War. A character as flawed as he was brilliant, it is no surprise that the title of William Manchester’s biography of MacArtur is entitled “American Caesar.”

But I digress. The net result is that I know quite a bit about what was going on in these ‘ere parts in 1942. This, however, is a story I am saddened to say I knew nothing about until Clipper brought me to Subic Bay.

The Montevideo Maru was a 7766 ton twin screw diesel motor vessel built in Nagasaki in 1926. She was operated by the Osaka Shose Kaisho shipping company for service between Japan and South America – hence the name. During the early moths of the war in the Pacific she was used by the Imperial Japanese Navy as an auxiliary transporting troops and provisions throughout SE Asia. After taking part in landings in the Dutch East Indies and operations around Java, the Montevideo Maru was ordered to New Britain.

Early on the morning of 22 June 1942, members of the Australian 2/22nd Battalion No1 Independent Company and civilian prisoners of war, including women, captured in New Britain were ordered to board the vessel in Rabul. The Montevideo Maru then sailed, unescorted for the Hainan Islands routing via the Philippine Islands in an effort to avoid Allied submarines. She was displaying no markings (Red cross for example) indicating she was carrying prisoners of war.

Eight days into the voyage she was intercepted by the USS Sturgeon. For 4 hours the Sturgeon manouvred into a firing position to fire from her stern torpedo tubes. Sturgeon’s log records a torpedo hit at 2.29am on 1st July. Japanese survivors reported two torpedo hits followed by a fuel tank explosion. The Montevideo Maru sank by the stern in as little as 11 minutes. According to the official Australian version of events, it does not appear that the Japanese crew made any attempt to release the prisoners although as recently as 2003 a Japanese survivor claimed that there were Australians in the water singing ”auld lang syne” as the ship sank. Of the 88 Japanese guards and crew only 17 survived the sinking and the subsequent march through the Philippine jungle.

Although the exact number and identity of the more than 1000 men and women onboard the Montevideo Maru has never been confirmed, Japanese and Australian sources suggest an estimated 845 military personnel and up to 208 civilians lost their lives in the tragedy. There were no Australian survivirs.

I came across the Subic Bay memorial during one of my ”fitness walks” prior to the start of Leg 6 and the clipper fleet sailed close to the position of the sinking during our week long refresher/level 4 training.

It remains the worst maritime disaster in Australian history.

147. An Affair To Remember …. A Result (but not a Race) to forget.

An Affair to Remember is a 1957 film starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. What’s that got to do with racing from Bermuda to New York? Well, when you’re stuck in a wind hole going nowhere and you’ve exhausted your attempts to remember songs about New York, you turn to film. An Affair to Remember was set, very largely, in New York. As was Gangs of New York, West Side Story, Rear Window, Taxi Driver, Ghostbusters, Manhattan, Saturday Night Fever, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Funny Girl, Wall Street and The Odd Couple – just to name a few more. It was a BIG wind hole!

Race 13 will probably not be my favourite of Clipper so far, it is certainly NOT my favourite result. It started badly with the tragic news of the unexpected death of my brother-in-law (from my first marriage) just as I was leaving to join the boat. It included my wedding anniversary during which Ruth informed me she was not going to be able to make it out to New York after all, and concluded with us being the last boat across the finishing line. I wont dwell on the first two aspects but I will write about the race, and the result. With everything that occurred I needed no reminding that this was Race THIRTEEN starting from one corner of the BERMUDA TRIANGLE!

We were the 9th yacht to slip lines and there was a stiff and lively breeze blowing us on to the jetty and we had ”holding-off” lines rigged to mooring buoys in the harbour. With the assistance of a Rhib to pull our bow off the jetty we got away in a timely manner but within a minute of clearing the berth we suffered a serious overheating problem and had to shut down the engine. Less than 150 feet off the jetty and in danger of being set down by the wind across Hamilton harbour and hitting at least one multi million £ racing yacht and drifting amongst the Clipper Fleet executing the Parade of Sail, we ended up with our kedge anchor dropped from the stern and, assisted by another Rhib, our bow attached to a mooring buoy. And there we waited. The Parade of Sail came …… and went …… and the other Clipper yachts left the Harbour for the Great Sound. Clipper engineers came out to us, rectified the problem, and we waited for the engine to cool down so we could play catch up. Catch up would be the theme to our race.

We eventually caught up with the other yachts as they completed their demonstration sail and their man overboard exercises in the Great Sound ……….. only for our engine to overheat again. At least by now we also had sails up and we were able to tack across the Sound and await the return of the engine experts (and in this case a jubilee clip of a size we were not carrying) and the engine to cool again. Meanwhile the other yachts proceeded to the start line. Time was now against us. It was going to be touch and go whether we would get to the start line in time. Worse, if we couldn’t clear the channel out of Bermuda by 1900, we would have to return alongside and sail 24 hours late. As it turned out we did clear the channel, did complete our compulsory man overboard exercises and almost (almost) made it to race start. But not quite.

Time to play catch up. And with the benefit of the clarity of 20:20 vision that hindsight always gives you, I cant help but wonder whether a catch-up mentality convinced us all that we had to ”do something different” when it came to routing, rather than trust our sailing and our speed to ”reel the other boats in.” We were also aware that there were periods of light winds and wind hole conditions (next to no wind) in the forecast, very likely to affect all boats at some time or another. We did overtake Punta del Este on the first night, and did the same to Imagine Your Korea the following morning. But ….. when the other boats tacked north that day, we chose not to, seeking stronger winds (and less punishing light wind conditions) to the west. To cut a long story short this was (hindsight time again) a mistake. And remember our ”troublesome” engine? Throughout the race we had a salt-water cooling leak into the engine bilge. Easy to pump out (manually and automatically) when on an even keel, but requiring buckets, scoops and sponges when not. We were emptying the engine bilges every 2 hours and removing 4 to 5 buckets a time.

When we did eventually hit light winds and a wind hole we managed to find the Mother of all wind holes! In one 6 hour period between position updates we managed an average speed of just 0.5 knots. 3 miles in 6 hours. And not even 3 miles in the right direction. To make matters worse, those boats who had tacked north (basically everybody but us!) made better progress and when the wind “filled-in”, it filled in for them first. In very short order we were 150 miles behind the lead boats and 50-60 miles behind GoToBermuda and Dare to Lead at the back of the pack. In a long ocean crossing that’s not necessarily as bad as it sounds, but in a relativel short hop like Bermuda to New York it meant 11th place became a nailed-on certainty and the only real race left to us was crossing the finish before midnight on the 24th in order to get alongside on the 25th in time for a prize giving party the following evening. This would require a 52 mile motor – you remember our ENGINE at the start of this piece!!!

Ironically, some of the sailing, when we were actually sailing, was fabulous. It was warm, humid and at times the wind was strong enough to tip us over at an angle and put the low-side rail in the water. It was pretty much shorts and t shirt sailing throughout but occasionally chilly over night. We flew all three Spinnaker sails, all three Yankee headsails, the Staysail and the Wind-seeker, the latter sail for much longer than any of us wanted. The new joiners to the team (Ricky, Tom, Daniel and Greg) were all new to the Clipper 70 but settled in well. We enjoyed some spectacular star-lit and moon-lit nights and some glorious sunrises.

And the entry into New York on the morning of 25th June under a cloudless sky was stunning. Despite the result I consider myself extremely fortunate to have sailed into 3 iconic harbour/skylines during Clipper so far – Cape Town, Seattle and now New York.

Derry-Londonderry up next and we are very very keen to put this result behind us.

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:


For UNICEF UK see:


We’re back at sea first thing on Wednesday.

146. Bermuda whistlestop.

Photo taken mid-way across the North Pacific in April

The Countdown clock to Race start now shows just a little over 24 hours of nervous anticipation until we are off once more. The weather forecast looks a little ”sporty” and we are all onboard for the Bermuda to New York race briefing at 1430 this afternoon. Thereafter its one more night of relative peace, quiet and comfort.

My kit is now either all packed (and goes onboard this afternoon) or laid out in my digs ready for Sunday morning.

We are all onboard the UNICEF yacht by 10am tomorrow. Team photos will be from 1015 and we slip lines from 1100. After that we have a Parade of Sail around Hamilton harbour before a practice start out in The Great Sound. We will then do some compulsory man overboard training, practicing rescuing a man overboard who has gone overboard still attached to the boat by his tether, and a recovery of an untethered man overboard who is no longer attached to the boat. From about 1445 we will sail out of the relatively sheltered waters of Bermuda into the North Atlantic for a Le Mans start at 1800. Thereafter its a relatively short race (depending on the wind speed and direction!) to New York. The Fleet is due into Liberty Landing on the Jersey City side of New York on the 23rd or 24th of June and will remain alongside until Sunday 29th June when we start the North Atlantic crossing to Londonderry.

This has been the first time Bermuda has hosted the Clipper Fleet and it has clearly been a great success. Here are a few images:.

Alan Brookes – one time Captain of HMS LONDON when I was CO of HMS NEWCASTLE – who I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. Tracked him down this time last week and he and I went to sea in his boat most of Sunday.

Lindy Scarborough, a UNICEF supporter – her husband Graham did Leg 7 – being congratulated by Sir Robin for her fundraising efforts making Clipper jewellery – go way back and see Blog 70: Advert time …. go on, its for a great cause, published on 2nd August 2019.

Just good friends!

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:


for UNICEF UK please see:


Only about 4500 nautical miles to go!

145. Just remember, a volunteer is just someone who didn’t understand the question in the first place.

My late father volunteered for service in the British Army immediately after the Second World War and shortly after his own father was de-mobbed from the RAF following wartime service. The fact that Dad would have been called up anyway is not the point. He was proud of the fact he volunteered. He was offered a Commission in the Pay Corps and service in Scotland which he turned down, expressing a strong desire for service in the Far East. In a move all too familiar to anyone who has served in the British military, the powers-that-be promptly shipped him off to northern Germany for 3 years in the Royal Signals!

Finally leaving UNICEF in Seattle having posted the bunk allocations for Leg 7 and the jobs rota for Seattle-Panama-Burmuds.

He only ever gave me one piece of military advice. Shortly before I left home he told me to be, “careful what you volunteer for.” In his opinion, a volunteer was often someone who, ”didn’t understand the question in the first place.” I followed this advice if you are prepared to overlook the fact that I did once volunteer for UN service in Cambodia only to end up doing a UN tour with the British Army during the fighting in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia in the early/mid 1990s!!! So let’s overlook that one. Wind forward to late January/early February 2022 and the first of three Zoom calls with the UNICEF team preparing for the restart of the Clipper race. Ian and Dan were already in the Philippines and the rest of us were getting ready to join them. We “met” some of the new crew members joining the team for the first time and discussed plans and tactics. It was during this video call that we first discussed the possibility of playing our “Joker” on arguably the toughest Leg of the circumnavigation. I’ll come back to that in a future blog. During this first call the subject of ”additional duties” came up, and in particular (as far as this blog is concerned) the role of Team Coordinator, a role normally/previously undertaken by a round-the-worlder but now ”vacant” as a result of the impact of a 2 year delay to the Race.

“We need to appoint a new TC,” said Ian. There then followed something of a deafening silence. Ian held his nerve. Eventually I broke cover and offered the suggestion that, ideally, because of the role, the new TC should be someone completing all of the remaining Legs – 6, 7 and 8. Unfortunately I didn’t stop there………. Warning!….. school-boy error coming up accompanied by mental picture of Dad rolling his eyes to the sky ………. I went on to say that as I was doing two of the three remaining Legs I would be, “happy to assist.” And with that we moved on. Wind forward again about a week to our second Zoom call and fairly soon after we started proceedings Ian announces that ”Commo,” …….. ”Yes?” I remember thinking ……. ”Commo is going to be the new TC.” Thankfully my microphone was on mute and somewhere I could imagine my Dad roaring with laughter.

According to the official blurb the role of the TC is as follows.

“The Team Coordinator Role, more commonly known as TC, is there to support the communication between the whole team, crew onboard, crew leaving, crew joining, the skipper and the Race officials/office. The TC helps the skipper with yacht administration and organisation.” The instructions go on to say that this is a “varied role requiring good planning and time-management skills, integrity and tact!” The exclamation mark is mine. The full instructions run to about 3 pages and I wont bore you with all the detail, but one of the most important roles (at least as far as everyone else onboard is concerned) is deciding who gets which bunk and who they will be sharing with as bunk buddies and designing the onboard jobs rota for each race of each Leg. And all this has to await Watch allocation which generally follows refresher training and crew assessment. There is the additional complication of not knowing exactly how long each race/leg is going to take, further complicated on Leg 6 by the international date line and on Leg 7 by 5 separate finish line options and a Panama canal transit the date of which was not confirmed at the time of me completing this work for that Leg. And that, in a nutshell, is why I didn’t get away in Seattle until a few days after the formal end of my Leg 6 contract, why I have already been gently lobbied by some crew here in Bermuda and why I will be juggling with excell spreadsheets on Friday and Saturday. Oh and I have a meeting with the Staff and all boat TCs later. Obviously I have to be focussed on this next race to New York but I do now have to give some thought to (and be able to answer questions about) race 14 and race 15 plus Londonderry, London and, shortly thereafter, the return of the boat to Portsmouth. All good fun.

The previous and current Team UNICEF TCs seen here on Leg 3 from Cape Town to Fremantle. For future applicants, a damaged right hand is not a prerequisite!

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society please see:


For UNICEF UK please see:


Please take a look. Thank you.

144. A brief Monday Race Update from a small, small world.

The first of the yachts crossed the finish line SE of the island in the wee small hours of this morning, Monday 13 June. The first of the boats got into the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club between 0700 and 0800 local with UNICEF finishing 5th (7 points) behind Sanya, GoToBermuda, WTC Logistics, and Punta del Este but ahead of Zhuhai in 6th, Qingdao in 7th and Dare to Lead in 8th. As I type this at approaching 1800 local, Seattle have ”pulled the plug” and are motoring in having accepted 1 point while Imagine Your Korea and Ha Long Bay Vietnam are still about 60 miles from the finish line in lights winds battling it out for 9th and 10th places. They are are not now expected in until early tomorrow morning. Along with KC (also rejoining) and a great turnout of UNICEF supporters I was up early this morning to welcome the Fleet in.

Me, Mike Miller (formerly UNICEF AQP and now the skipper of Sanya who won the race today) and Karen Corley (KC) who, like me, did Leg 6 across the North Pacific and now rejoins for Leg 8 across the North Atlantic.
Anthonie Botha, Mike Miller and me over two and a half years ago at Race start in London

The ”scores on the doors” BEFORE all the points for this leg are as follows:

Qingdao 112

Ha Long Bay Vietnam 110

Punt del Este 95

Unicef 88

Visit Sanya 74

WTC Logistics 69

Imagine Your Korea 69

GoTo Bermuda 60

Dare To Lead 55

Seattle 46

Zhuhai 46

and with GoToBermuda, WTC Logistics and Zhuhai all playing their Jokers (doubling their race points) on this current race and the Ocean Sprint and Scoring Gate points yet to be added, it’s all getting tight at the top of the Leaderboard and there is much to play for in the three remaining races in the final Leg 8.

Tomorrow I have a meeting with the Clipper Staff and all the TCs from the other boats before the Leg 7 Race 11 and Race 12 prize giving. UNICEF is back out at sea for two separate corporate sailing events on the 15th when I, and the other UNICEF new joiners and rejoiners, will go to sea in Zhuhai for our refresher training and crew assessment. Thereafter it will be final preps for Leg 8 Race 13 to New York. All crews are required onboard the yachts by 1000 on Sunday 19 June and we will slip lines at 1100. As the official countdown clock shows, 5 Days, 18 Hours, 44 minutes and the odd second or two to go until race start.

On Saturday afternoon, over lunch in Front Street, Hamilton, I decided to see if I could track down an old friend who I knew had emigrated to Bermuda over 20 years ago and who I had not seen in over 25 years. Courtesy of LinkedIn, Google Search, Google Maps and my second ”Dark and Stormy” I discovered that ”Brooksie’s” work place was a mere 8 minutes away. Not expecting him to be in work on a Saturday (he is a retired Royal Navy Captain and an aviator to boot!) I anticipated leaving my telephone number with his team and, at best, being able to catch up sometime before the 19th. To my great surprise and even greater delight Captain Alan Brookes MBE Royal Navy Rt’d was in his office and greeted my surprise appearance with a great cry of ”Ginsters!!!”

As Commanders Brooksie and I did Commanding Officers Qualifying Course together in 1995 prior to Alan taking command of HMS LONDON and me, HMS NEWCASTLE. We became great friends. Alan has the distinction, probably unique in the Royal Navy, of having survived ejecting from a fixed wing aircraft (a twin seat Hunter during take off as a young officer on the Junior Officer’s Air Acquaint Course!) and ditching in the sea in a Sea King helicopter. Having started a 20+ years catch up that afternoon, he and I took his boat out the following day, motored out of Hamilton Harbour, across the Dundonald Channel, between Watford Island and Somerset Island, and anchored in Mangrove Bay near King’s Point. Mangrove Bay was as idyilic as it sounds and a picture perfect setting for our prolonged reminiscing.

We followed our very own RN-style two-man ”upper deck BBQ” with ”hands to bathe.” Clipper would have proud of the pair of us had they known we combined the ”hands to bathe” serial with some boat maintenance and both had a go at scrubbing some marine growth from the hull whilst swimming. Alan was the Fo’cstle Officer for anchoring and I “had the ship” and we reversed roles for weighing anchor and then returned to Hamilton. It is fair to say we had a blast and it really is a small, small world.

Alan Brookes and his latest command.

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society please see:


For UNICEF UK please see:


143. Writer’s Block or Not Enough Hours In The Day.

I’m very disappointed that the last blog post I uploaded myself to this site was a rather hurried Blog 141: Time and Tide Wait for No Man, published on 19 Mar as I, quite literally dashed for the hotel door for the start of Leg 6 across the North Pacific. I seem to recall I was disappointed then as well. I’m happier to report that ”disappointment” and the race from Philippines to Seattle did not turn out to be bedfellows (or should that be bunk mates?) but more of that in later blogs. Ruth kindly uploaded Blog 142: Life as a Walrus, posted on 6 Apr when I was in mid(ish) Pacific and I wrote the boats official blog on or around 12 Apr as we were approaching the International Date Line. I’ll upload that to these pages soon. But between 19 Mar in Subic Bay Philippines and today, 10 June in Bermuda, nothing by my own hand for which I apologise.

Was it writer’s block? Do I need international air travel to kick start my writing? Not sure. I have LOTS of ideas for blogs, many mentally drafted over the intervening weeks, never mind a few that actually describe the race and Pacific crossing itself. I have a ”Life as a Walrus” style draft describing the trials and tribulations of getting dressed (and undressed) at an angle of 45 degree in the dark which I hope is as amusing to write and read as I find it to recall. I also have an imaginary conversation between my bladder and my brain that I simply must get down on ”paper” even if only for my own sanity.

Oh yes, and I did go right around the world by plane and yacht between February and May (Manchester-Dubai-Philippines-Seattle-Paris-Manchester) which is probably worth a blog in itself (Around The World In 74 Days – take that Phileas Fogg!)

So what went wrong? Why the prolonged silence? Well I would kind of like it to have been writer’s block. Sort of fits in and it would be quite a dramatically ”artistic” thing to be able to claim. The truth, as it so often is, is mind-crushingly non-artistic and self indulgently boring. I always ran out of time. There was always something personal (family and friends) and professionally (paid and unpaid/voluntary) to do and before I knew it I was organising video supervised COVID LFT tests, two sets of forms/apps to fly through Toronto airport, Special ”Green” visas to get into Bermuda by plane and out by yacht, overnight accommodation at Heathrow, here and for New York. Oh and packing again, this time to cross the North Atlantic. Somewhere at the beginning of all this between Clipper Legs Ruth and I found time to catch (and recover from) COVID. The good news is that flying out here yesterday was “Operation Easy Peasy” when compared with “Operation What The %€£@!” getting to the Philippines (Blog 138: Forget planning early or planning twice, In the Nick of Time will do nicely, posted 23 Feb).

Finally leaving the yacht in Seattle (post shave and haircut) having completed TC stuff for the Seattle to Bermuda leg.

So I’m now in Bermuda ahead of the arrival of the yachts with some Team Coord stuff to do (that will be another blog – the TC stuff) and I’ll update about the Race in due course but its all getting very tight at the top of the leaderboard. I’ve been in e-mail contact with UNICEF since getting here and will meet the boat on arrival. That’s all for now.

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:


For UNICEF UK see:


Go on ….. Clipper is now in its penultimate month. Please take a look.

142. Life As A Walrus.

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 🙂

141. Time and tide wait for no man.

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.

Got to dash.