Postcard from Punta


This is now the end of my first full day in Punta dal Este and tomorrow, Friday 18 Oct, I “register” at the Clipper office to formally join the UNICEF yacht for the beginning of Leg 2. The weather today has been very ………………. South Atlantic! It’s been raining pretty much all day, cold – certainly much colder than the 27 degrees C experienced in Buenos Aires last week – and windy. Excellent preparations I can here you say. Thankfully the forecast for the rest of the week is for improvement.

Ruth and I arrived yesterday in time for the Leg 1 prize giving ceremony at the Punta del Este yacht club. It was great to catch up with my UNICEF crew mates and to bump into old friends from Levels 1, 2 and 3 training who are racing with other crews.  Line honours went to Qingdao in first place and as they were playing their Joker they doubled their points, picking up 22 points plus bonus points from the scoring gate meaning they are the current overall leaders. Sanya finished second, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam third and UNICEF a very creditable fifth. No news yet on penalty points for race 1 and race 2 of  Leg 1 which may yet alter the overall race standings before we sail again on the 23rd. Plenty of rumours flying around about other yachts – none of which bare repeating here – but I can report that Holly and the UNICEF sail repair team have been busy repairing our Code 2 Spinnaker which did suffer damage during Leg 1. In breaking news (DEFINITELY NO PUN INTENDED) Angie our circumnavigating Chief victualler …… has broken her wrist and will have to go home to New Zealand for an op. Heartbreaking news as it means she will miss at least the next leg, and very likely Leg 3. She was still in good spirits last night but we will miss her very much as a team. Sheila, one of the joiners for Leg 2 will take on the role. The skipper of Seattle has also left his boat in Punta. Regular followers of Clipper news will be aware that he fell overboard in the North Atlantic during Leg 1. He was on deck at night and not clipped on. The only gossip I am prepared to repeat is that last night I was told, admittedly at least third hand,  that on entering the water his first thought was, “I’m going to die,” and upon seeing Seattle begin to manoeuvre to pick him up his second thought was “I’m going to be sacked.”

After registering tomorrow, and surrendering my passport, Ruth and I will join all crews and race supporters at a welcome Asado – a traditional Uruguayan welcome BBQ, something of a South American meat-fest! On Sunday 20th I will do my pre-Leg 2 sailing assessment-sail afloat with other Leg 2 joiners in CV29 (Sanya) from 0900 to about 1630 and immediately thereafter I should find out my bunk allocation, who I am hot-bunking with, which watch I am in and who I will be Mother-Watching with!

The following day I am a tour guide for 3 hours showing children from Punta del Este schools around the UNICEF boat and then on the 22nd it’s time to get all my kit weighed, drop my bags off onboard, complete a briefing about the onboard satellite communications kit (that hopefully will allow me to continue blogging) and some other last-full-day-alongside stuff. That afternoon we will all attend the Leg 2 race brief in a nearby hotel before each team will complete their  team briefings onboard individual yachts. Wednesday 23rd Oct is Race start for me and Race start for race 3, Leg 2 across the South Atlantic to Cape Town. All crews must be onboard their yachts by 11am. There will be a farewell parade and yachts will slip lines at 2.00pm local. The Parade of Sail starts at 2.45pm and the yachts will cross the race start line at 4.00pm. More to follow ………..

We’re A Funny Lot Us Sailors …….. And The Morn’ Of Race Message From Our Skipper

We are a funny lot, sailors. I’ve been one, lived with many and been privileged to have commanded a few in 34 years in the Royal Navy. I continue to work with them at Harwich and at the HHA. And now I rub shoulders, in some cases quite literally, with more at Clipper and team Unicef.

We work hard, we play hard. We are not adverse to the odd grumble. It is sometimes said you should only worry about a sailor if he or she has nothing to complain about. But woe betide anyone from the “outside” who criticises our ship, our crew mates or our unit. We can be fiercely loyal, make friends for life, and have an ability to pick up a long lost friendship as if we have never been apart.  Generally we are always up for a challenge, we are robust, determined and live life to the full. The old adage “When the Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, He marks not that you’ve won or lost, but how you played the game” could have been written for many sailor I have known and do know. Sailors can also be superstitious, romantic and sentimental. Many, even those who never get over being sea-sick, have a deep, deep respect and affinity with Mother Nature and the Sea.

For those lucky enough to have been in charge of a boat or to have commanded a ship there is something else. Something special. A particular link, a particular connection with the ship herself. You talk to her and she talks to you. You get a feel for her and her moods. As I mentioned in my previous blog, someone standing next to me in St Katherine’s Dock as the Clipper yachts were slipping their lines commented to me that of all the yachts, Unicef – the yacht herself – actually seemed eager to get started. She was actually physically straining to be “released.” I made no comment but I had noticed the same thing myself.

The next day I read Ian Wiggin’s morn’ of race message on the private (Unicef Crew only) crew hub. I’ve never quoted from the crew hub before and I hope Ian won’t mind. Here is his message in full:

Today is the 1st of September. Today is the day we slip lines and parade under Tower Bridge. Today is the start of our racing adventure!

I had to get up a few times in the night to try and calm CV31. I said “Easy girl, shhhhh, eeeasy girl” as I rubbed her top sides. Her nostrils were flared and she was pulling on her mooring lines. This morning she is like a fully charged race horse and is restless. St Katherine’s Docks have been great, but I know she wants to stretch her legs and that the worlds oceans are calling her.

The Unicef crew were calm last evening. We explained how our first race is going to be around 7-8 days and that 1300nm is very similar to a L4 training course. Once we get away from the London excitement and adrenaline we are looking forward to settling into an ocean racing routine. I am sure emotions will be running high today, but that is completely natural. We will soak in this great experience today and then once we get to Southend tonight we will drop anchor and regroup. Tomorrow morning at around 10am we weill start our race. As I said to the team, the race cannot be won tomorrow……. but it can be lost. An ocean racing mindset is all about consistency, focus, and looking after everything. We will not be trying to win this first race at all cost. We need our sails to last 40,000nm. We need to look after our crew and equipment.

Lots of people have been asking if I am nervous. I am not nervous. We are about to sail 1300nm, most of which is near coastal. We have an amazing support team on shore, we have a great boat, our crew is unbelievable, and our boat speed has been good in training. I am not thinking about a round the world race. I am mainly thinking about getting to Portugal.

We have a great team and wider team of supporters. We have had so much support over the week. You have managed to build such a buzz over the past few months. Our “movement” has built great momentum. I have been very proud and flattered by the kind words that our visitors have said about our team, our attitude, and our performance. Very few people think that we are crazy!! In fact, many, many people are envious of our team dynamic and would love to be part of what we are doing together.

When William Ward (CEO) checked the JustGiving fundraising tally page for the first time the other day …. he thought the system was broken because we had raised so much!! On the same morning Sir Robin signed our C3 spinnaker. He knows about our team efforts and was very complimentary. Unicef UK are so proud and grateful to have us as a team.

Sir Robin wrote on our C3 “Everything is possible, anything can be.”

From the poem:

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child

Listen to the DON’TS.

Listen to the SHOULDN’TS


Listen to the NEVER HAVES

Then listen close to me –

Anything can happen, child,

ANYTHING can be!!!

Thanks again for such a great start. If you are supporting in London today please make lots of noise. I look forward to updating you all once we get to Portugal.

Portugal….. HERE WE GO!       Ian”


The Clipper Round the World Race fleet leaving gosport for the race start in London.
Free for editorial use image, please credit: Matthew Dickens/imagecomms The Clipper Round the World Race fleet leaving gosport for the race start in London.

Like I said, we’re a funny lot……..

and as if more proof were needed …….

I note that I landed in Uruguay, my Clipper Race departure country, yesterday – Saturday 12 October. It was my first landing in Uruguay, indeed my first landing from sea on the Atlantic coast of South America. I couldn’t help but note that the date was the anniversary of the first landing of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492. Now I know I was a pretty good navigator in my time, and I am NOT likening myself to CC, but I also note that in some Latin American countries the 12th of October is also known as “Dia de la Raza” or Day of the Race!!! 

What do you think? Good omen?????

Please take a look. Thank you.

Another Time Travel blog


If I’ve programmed this correctly then this is another blog posts that goes back in time as I travel. Right now, as this is published, I should be at sea. Not, I hasten to add, as a crew member on the UNICEF Clipper yacht, but hopefully as a foot passenger on the Buenos Aires to Calina ferry across the River Plate between Argentina and Uruguay. The lead yachts could well be in Punta del Este by now and it will be 6 days before I must “report for duty” and 11 days to my own Race Start. Time to wind the clock back again to THE Race Start and the run up to 1st September.


The Bank Holiday Monday prior to Race Start saw me don my boat-tour-guide rig to show, first Ruth, and then son Alastair, daughter-in-law-law Sarah, brother Paul, and sister-in-law-to-be Janine around the UNICEF yacht alongside in St Katherine’s Dock, London. We had a good crawl around the yacht – in some cases quite literally, and the beautiful day and hot weather only served to point out the lack of air conditioning! For Ruth it was her second look around the inside of a Clipper yacht; she remains unconvinced it constitutes a sensible means of travel, and for Alastair, Sarah, Paul and Janine this was a first. Sadly Ruth had to depart early to meet other commitments back home but the rest of us finished the day with suitable refreshments.

It was also my first opportunity to look around the Clipper Race village at St Katherine’s Dock.

Our Code 3 Spinnaker was also available to “sign” with donations going to the UNICEF UK charity. Ruth and I both signed.

Some of the UNICEF crew were already living onboard the yacht by then, most notably Holly, our sail repair team-leader and a circumnavigator from the West coast of the US and Joe, with whom I will cross the South Atlantic this year and the North Atlantic next year. Joe is doing Legs 1, 2, 7 and 8.

Mike weighing the skipper’s kit as he moves it onboard. I will go through a similar process in Punta.

Various other members of the crew were around and between guided tours I helped Joe, Sarah (who I did Level 4 with in July – see Blog 81: Race 2 Day 3 latest ….. 4800 nautical miles still left to race, so let’s wind the clock back a bit, published 18 September) who is doing Leg 4 around Australia, and Thom who is doing Leg 1 of this edition of the Race but has competed in TWO previous editions  and has the t-shirts and hats to prove it, empty the sail locker of all the sails so everything below decks could be cleaned for a media event later that afternoon.

The UNICEF yacht also moved berths for this filming..


which also produced this excellent, Ian Wiggin-led guided tour of OUR yacht…..

The Tuesday and Wednesday of that week saw me dashing between London, Harwich and Eccleshall before I was back in London at St Katherine’s Dock again to collect my UNICEF branded kit – a rather smart UNICEF/Musto jacket and a couple of UNICEF Clipper shirts – and join a host of UNICEF crew members for the official naming ceremony of our yacht .

Now I’ve actually only ever been to a couple of ship naming/launch ceremonies previously. One was the naming of a big cruise liner in Southampton when I was the Captain of the city’s adopted name-sake destroyer, and the second was as the Captain   Designate of HMS BULWARK as she went down the slipway at Barrow.

What all three ceremonies had in common (apart from years of maritime tradition, strong sense of family and belonging etc etc etc) was ………………. champagne!

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The team gathers in the bow for yacht naming

The bow is “christened” with champagne by the Clipper Ventures plc CEO and a representative of the charity UNICEF UK

L to R: John (Legs 1,2,3 & 6), Mario (Leg 1), the other Keith W (Legs 1, 2 & 3). Angie (circumnavigation), Sue (Legs 1 & 6), Thom (Leg 1) and Sarah (Leg 4).

Lindsay (Leg 1) doing what looks like, at first glance, a very passable impression of me!!!!

The following night (Friday) Ruth and I were back in London for the pre-race party only to then drive back to Eccleshall that same night (getting home at 0500 on Saturday morning) in order to be “on duty” at the annual Eccleshall Show at 0630! On Sunday we were ……… back in London! It was Race Start Day.

The atmosphere was fantastic with thousands of people in St Katherine’s Dock and many more lining the banks of the Thames. All the circumnavigators and the crew completing Leg 1 were already onboard. There were at least a dozen or so other crew members who had come down to London to see our team mates off. It was exciting and emotional and, if I’m being completely honest, made me wish I was doing Leg 1. To my very great surprise, having popped down onto the pontoon and then onboard the yacht to say our farewells, those of us who were fortunate to be present in our UNICEF branded clothing were invited to join the circumnavigators and the Leg 1 crew who were about to sail away from London, in the farewell parade and stage appearance prior to the yachts slipping their lines. A couple of my team mates who had collected their branded kit that very morning just had time to slip away and change. A few more continued to watch from the quay side. I felt honoured and privileged to be taking part. Unfortunately it did mean Ruth was left watching from the quay as once onboard we were not allowed off the yacht until it was time to parade and, as the last yacht programmed to sail, we were the last team to parade.

As is often the way at these times, as a team, we invite each other to share thoughts. More often than not this is done by throwing a knotted rope around. When the rope comes to you, it’s your turn to share your thoughts. Today’s topic, not unnaturally, was “what are you most excited about and what are you most worried about?” Not necessarily in that order. When it came to my turn it was quite easy. I talked about the excitement I felt for my team mates sailing in just a few hours and the enormous unexpected privilege I felt at being able to join in what I had always assumed would be their parade today. When it came to concerns I explained that when I left Ruth on the quay  I had told her I was just “popping onboard to say a few quick goodbyes”, but as I had not returned my real concern was that Ruth might be thinking I was about to do Leg 1 after all!

Eventually it became our turn to parade around the various basins that constitute St Katherine’s Dock and then finally up onto the stage to the “our song” – see Blog 85: Here We Go, published 7 October. A quick interview by Ian and then, to much cheering and waving, we made our way back to the boat.


The event was televised and friends watching on BOTH sides of the Atlantic sent us screenshots, the cameraman appearing to take a particular shine to Ruth 😉

This time it really was time for the goodbyes (at least until Punta for me)

L to R: Jo (Leg 7), me, Karen (Legs 5, 6 & 8), Chris (Legs 5 & 6), and Bruce (Legs 5 & 6)

and I rejoined Ruth and the other supporters to watch the Fleet proceed out of the Dock and into the Thames.

Race StartingIMG-20191001-WA0005
Ian and Mike ready for “the off”

Joe say farewell



So, a few other thoughts as I waved them off and was left looking at an empty St Katherine’s Dock? First and foremost it was admiration for my fellow team mates, and all the other Clipperees, departing today. I knew how much more I had yet to organise and sort out in my life before I would be ready to Race and all these people had already achieved that. In particular a huge admiration for those about to spend the next 11 months circumnavigating the globe. I could see the mixture of excitement, anticipation and nervousness in everyone’s demeanour and hear it in their voices and I was excited and nervous for them in turn.

In the final few seconds before UNICEF slipped her lines someone in the crowd turned to me and said, “she looks as if she is straining to go,” and it was true, the yacht did look eager to depart and was pulling at her lines. No sudden gust of wind. No impatient revving of the engine from Ian. No prop wash from departing sister yachts. Although I too had noticed it, that restless movement indicating a desire to depart, I didn’t really give it another thought …………. until that is, I read the skipper’s final pre-sailing message to the UNICEF team when I finally reached home. But a little more about that in my next blog………


For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:

and for UNICEF UK see:

Please take a look. Thank you.



Time Travel ………. or rather TIME to wind back the clock, while I TRAVEL.


Right now I am somewhere between Madrid and Buenos Aires (in an aeroplane rather than a yacht) while the Clipper Fleet is (very roughly) in the general vicinity of Rio de Janeiro off the South East coast of Brazil and – again very roughly – 1000 nautical miles from Punta del Este, or at least the centre of the pack is. The lead yachts, Visit Sanya and Qingdao who are pretty much neck and neck, are less than 800 nautical miles from the finish line. The current tail end Charlie (Imagine Your Korea) is still over 1200 nautical miles away and Unicef and Zhuhai are locked in a tight battle for 5th and 6th place about now. This post comes to you courtesy of the pre-programmed “publish” facility so its time to wind-the-clock-back a couple of months ……… Portsmouth Prep Week!

At the beginning of August a whole bunch of us “volunteered” and gathered in Portsmouth immediately before the Fleet sailed around to London for a busy week of final preps onboard the team UNICEF yacht. It was a similar story on each yacht in the Fleet. By now many of the circumnavigators were living in Portsmouth, if not actually onboard the yachts, and long-distance travellers signed up for Leg 1 (from Australia, South Africa, China and the US for example) were in similar positions. So most (but not quite all) of our circumnavigators were there. It was a kind of team-building-week-Mark2 and it was also extremely busy.

No list can be completely exhaustive but to give you an example ………… all the old sails came off the boat and at various times all the brand new sails arrived. In the case of the latter these had then to be unpacked, marked-up accordingly, and then re-packed. And re-stowed. Some of this we could do onboard, some on the pontoon and some “elsewhere”. You need to read on for the “elsewhere” bit. In the case of the main sail (and at the risk of stating the blindingly obvious) it actually had to be rigged and fitted to the mast! Oh and on the subject of rigging …… all the main rigging is new and EVERY sheet – the lines that operate the sails – is also new and these had to be run through the appropriate deck fittings and cut to size. Ends had to be whipped with whipping twine and those areas most likely to chafe had to be additionally protected. All the jammers (through which these lines are run) were taken apart, deep cleaned, and reassembled – a somewhat tricky job undertaken by two people to prevent important items (such as a strong internal spring!!!) pinging over the side! A similar maintenance operation was conducted on all our winches.

All the safety netting on the upper deck was removed and new safety netting rigged, taking care to cut it correctly to allow for both the “gates” on the port and starboard sides just forward of the helm and the traveller. All the internal fresh, grey and black water systems (the tanks are new) were traced and sea outlets checked. The engine was serviced and various elements labelled to help at-sea maintenance particularly when cold, wet and tired. Our new batteries were checked. All the engineering spares we carry were sorted, labelled (re-ordered in some cases) and re-stowed. John Dawson – one of our circumnavigators and “lead” Doc)- received, checked, catalogued and packed all our medical supplies, both routine and emergency, various crew members built new platforms at the helm stations on which our helmsmen will brace themselves during periods at a 45 degree angle and ALL the safety equipment – most if not all of it new for this race – was carefully checked and stowed. Oh and the weather for all this in our beautiful August summer ………….. AWFUL. The first day of Prep Week coincided with the first day of the Cowes Sailing Week …… and the first day of Cowes was CANCELLED due to storms, high winds and rain.  A combination of all three summed up the week.

Various members of the team came and went during the week as visa interviews, other specialist training, family commitments and work/business were also addressed and the week finished with a BBQ event hosted by the sponsors of WTC Logistics, an event I sadly missed due to other commitments. I intend to make up for that in the future!

There were two other off-yacht events that I really must mention. Firstly, unpacking and packing a spinnaker (ok make that THREE spinnakers and a wind-seeker) takes space. Lots of space when dealing with a sail the size of a tennis court. Ideally you also need a fairly calm day. We were lucky with a gap in the weather – we had to pick our moment – and disappeared to a Portsmouth park for this particular evolution. It will be interesting to see if any grass stains mark our spinnakers when we arrive in Punta. That should make for interesting conversation, but perhaps not as interesting as some conversations and some stains…. so to avoid THOSE, our spinnaker unpacking was preceded by anti-dog-poo patrols of the park! NOT something I ever thought I would associate with a round the world yacht race!

The Portsmouth-Park-Sail-Packing-Team (plus some young local supporters!) From left to Right: Sophie, Karen, Lindsay, Graham, Anthonie, me, Alex, Mike, Holly, Mike, Nicky (Mike Miller’s wife), Joe, John, Angie, Dan)

The other major off-the-yacht activity was victualling. We have to eat and drink. So supplies for each crew for each day of Leg 1 had to be received, checked, unpacked (no unnecessary weight – this is a race remember) and then stowed as per the menu for each day in marked dry bags. All the ingredients for a complete days menu (pus bread and cake mixes etc) for 24 people likely to burn up to 5000 calories a day for 40+ days. All the labels were removed from EVERY CAN (if they get wet they will fall off/become unreadable anyway and create a great deal of mess) so every can was then inscribed with its contents. Tempting as it was to label tins of peaches as peas …….. the temptation was resisted! It was quite a back-breaking operation. Oh and then ……… all the bags, plus additional bags containing the necessary bulk foods, condiments, snacks etc) had to be transported back to the yacht ….. and stowed in such a way that they can be FOUND and RETRIEVED by Mother Watch at the start of their cooking duties AND the rest of us still have space to live and work, and maybe even sleep!

It was a great week. This is what it looked like in pictures and time-lapsed video, oh and before I forget, two editorial comments on the final video ….. 1. Check out the dance moves!!!! and 2. It was Grahams birthday but I cant remember what the drink was!!!!:


For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:

and for UNICEF UK see

Please take a look. Thank you.

Here We Go!

Its been a VERY hectic couple of weeks but …………………………… Ruth and I depart for South America (Buenes Aires, Montevideo and then Punta del Este) TODAY!!!!

Never has it been more apt to play the official team UNICEF song, selected by the crew earlier this year. This song plays every time “we” sail from a port during the Race and will be played when we get a podium finish 🙂


I hope to continue to blog, including from the yacht during the Race, although uploading photos may have to wait until stop overs – for me for the rest of this year that means Cape Town, South America in November and Fremantle, Western Australia in  December. Some blogs (already written) will appear as I travel over the next 48 hours or so courtesy of the pre-programmed-publish facility; the miracles of modern technology!

For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see:

and for UNICEF UK see:

Please take a look. Thank You.

Normal “service” will be resumed from….. Argentina!

Crossing The Line

No, not a post about inappropriate actions or language ….. but – as of about now – pretty much everyone on this edition of the Clipper Race (even tail-end-Charlie Imagine Your Korea) are now sailing in the Southern Hemisphere having crossed the Equator – Crossing The Line. They will not be back in the Northern Hemisphere this DECADE! And some form of suitable ceremony will have been carried out in every yacht of the Clipper Fleet.

A Dare To Lead crew’s Crossing The Line Shirt

Dare To Lead Skipper Guy Waites as King Neptune and the Horse Latitudes – get it???

Its quite an event in any mariners career or time at sea and I have been fortunate enough to do it 10 times – twice in the Pacific, twice in the Atlantic, four times in the Indian Ocean and twice in the South China Sea/Java Sea! Somewhere in an old box I have a rather faded certificate, first signed back in 1983, to prove it ………. signed (obviously!) by King Neptune himself!

No one is quite sure of the origins of the associated “Crossing The Line Ceremony” but sailors rarely need much of an excuse to let their hair down. Crossing the Line and its associated rituals had certainly become a well established tradition in the Royal Navy as long ago as the eighteenth century. In HMS ENDEAVOR, under the command of Captain James Cook, a seaman called Joseph Banks described how the crew drew up a list of everyone on board, including cats and dogs, and interrogated them as to whether they had crossed the equator when sailing in the Pacific in 1768. If they had not, they had to choose to give up their allowance of wine for four days (NOT Likely methinks!) or undergo a ducking ceremony in which they were ducked three times into the ocean.

I’ve written about Robert Fitzroy before (see Blog 23: The weather theme continued ….. but spare a thought and a prayer this Sunday for Abhilash Tomy, published 23 September 2018) but when he was Captain of HMS BEAGLE he suggested the practice had developed from earlier ceremonies in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian vessels passing notable headlands. Fitzroy thought it was beneficial to morale. During the second voyage of HMS BEAGLE, on 17 February 1832 one of the first crew members to be “initiated” was one Charles Darwin (of naturalist, geologist and biologist fame) who noted in his diary that he was led up on deck by “four of King Neptune’s constables”, as “buckets of water were thundered all around.” Darwin was then “placed on a plank, which could be easily tilted up into a large bath of water. They then lathered my face and mouth with pitch and paint, & scraped some of it off with a piece of roughened iron hoop – a signal being given I was tilted head over heels into the water, where two men received me and ducked me. – at last, glad enough, I escaped. Most of the others were treated much worse, dirty mixtures being put into their mouths and rubbed on their faces. The whole ship was a shower bath & water was flying about in every direction: of course not one person, even the Captain, got clear of being wet through.” There is a detailed account of the ceremony onboard HMS BLOSSOM (we don’t name our ships like we used too! ….. thankfully!!) written somewhat earlier, in 1825, and its clear from my own memories that it hasn’t changed much in the intervening 160 years or so!

No digital cameras or mobile phones back in 1983 so the next 4 photos took a bit of digging out ……..

Crossing the line 19832019-10-01_233921
HMS Falmouth crossing the line in the Atlantic in 1983 on passage to the Falkland Islands. Top and bottom left – King Neptune’s Court. Top right – King Neptune arrives. I think he was actually the Chief Shipwright or the Chief Stoker! Bottom right – the Captain (Commander Alastair Ross RN) shares a welcome drink with King Neptune.

And if you want a glimpse into what might – or might not – have happened onboard the Big Blue Boat then I can do no better than point you in the direction of Skipper Ian Wiggin’s Day 16 blog on the official Clipper Race website

Meanwhile, here’s a 1922 silent movie blast-from-the-past crossing the line ceremony onboard HMS HOOD ….. like I said, nothing much has changed ……


For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see

and for UNICEF UK see

Please take a look. Thank you.



Dollydrums! WHAT Dollydrums????

Regular readers will be aware that almost a year ago now I wrote two weather related blogs that made comment about my weather forecasting abilities (or not) and my personal experiences with hurricanes. See Blog 22: Florence, Mangkhut and Helene…… with memories of Michael Fish, Daria and Luis, published 17 September 2018 and Blog 23: The weather theme continued … but spare a thought and a prayer this Sunday for Abhilash Tomy, published 23 September 2018. I’ve enjoyed re-reading them this morning.

24 hours ago I started to write a blog with the title “Dollydrums! WHAT Dollydrums?????” following my previous attempt to explain the Doldrums and the doldrums corridor rules, as immediately ahead of the Clipper fleet, and directly across the doldrums was TROPICAL STORM LORENZO!!!! So much for flat calm and wind holes!!!!

(Jerry and Karen are interesting and Lorenzo starts at the 4 minute mark)

and for busier readers here is a shorter version…

So on the race tracker the normal shades of dark blue to light blue on the wind overlay indicating slack wind gradients and wind holes had been replaced with the much angrier looking darker oranges, reds and purples of 30knots + ….. some Windhole, some doldrums NOT!

However, this morning, normal doldrums service has been resumed. Lorenzo continues his charge NW into the Atlantic and the darker shades of blue and light winds have returned to the doldrums corridor. When last I checked Visit Sanya, leading the Fleet, was down to a speed-over-the-ground of 1.3 knots with over 3,200 nautical miles to run to Punta del Este. Which is just as well as I still have three “wind the clock back” catch-up-blogs to write before the end of the month!!!!


For Diabetes UK and the National Autistic Society see

and for UNICEF UK see

Please take a look. Thank you.


Ruth over breakfast this morning ……. “Explain these Dollydrums to me again.”……. The Doldrums Corridor Rules explained in 5 words.

The Fleet appears to be split into two distinct packs of a lead group of 6 and a trailing pack of 5. Ha Long Bay Vietnam have been the first Yacht this edition of the Race to use Stealth Mode, emerging from their invisibility cloak in 3rd place. Right now the leading yachts are off the coast of Western Sahara roughly half way between the Canary Islands and Cape Verde Islands. The Scoring Gate lies ahead, with Sanya, Qingdao and Ha Long Bay looking best placed but there is still much to play for. Further ahead, but drawing ever closer, is the Doldrums and the Doldrums Corridor.

Now for the busy reader I can cover the Doldrums Corridor rules in just five words ………  You Can Use Your Motor.

Simples. Busy readers may now move on.



But, like most things Clipper it’s not really quite that simple. As I touched on in a previous blog (see Blog 80: They’re Off Again, published 15 September), the Doldrums, or the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) is the area where the northeast and southeast trade winds converge. It encircles the globe near the thermal equator, though its specific position varies with the seasons. Within the ITCZ  the average winds are slight. As trans-Atlantic sailing became more common-place in the 18th Century, sailors named this belt the doldrums because of the calm, inactive winds. To avoid, or rather reduce the time Clipper yachts may be becalmed within the ITCZ the Doldrums Corridor and the Rules were established.

For those interested in the detail ………

The positioning of Doldrums Corridor and the North and South Gates are defined in the race instructions. Both lie north of the equator for this race and look like this:


Each yacht is permitted to use its engine whilst in the Corridor subject to the following criteria:

  1. Yachts are ONLY allowed to motor-sail for a maximum of 6 degrees of Latitude which must take a minimum time of 60 hours to complete.
  2. All yachts MUST cease motor-sailing at 3 degrees North regardless of whether they have completed 6 degrees of latitude under engine.
  3. All yachts MUST declare their intention to motor-sail a minimum of 3 hours before doing so. 60 hours elapsed time will begin to be calculated from this declared time regardless of whether the engine is being used or not.
  4. When a yacht’s engine is started or stopped a declaration must be made to the Race Office within 3 hours, stating the time UTC, latitude and longitude and a digital photograph taken. This will allow the calculation of 6 degrees of latitude to be made.
  5. If 6 degrees of latitude is covered by the yacht before 60 hours has elapsed the yacht must REMAIN at that position of latitude. A declaration must be made to the Race Office within 3 hours and a digital photo taken.
  6. If a yacht must wait for 60 hours to elapse then before resuming racing it must return to its declared latitude. A declaration must be made to the Race Office within 3 hours after resuming racing and a digital photo taken so that the restart position can be verified.
  7. Once a yacht has declared their intention to motor-sail the request cannot be rescinded.
  8. All yachts MUST report their time of crossing latitude 9 degrees North within 3 hours of doing so regardless of whether they are sailing or not. This is so an elapsed time of 60 hours can be calculated, if for example a team decide to start motor-sailing at 5 degrees N they clearly cannot complete 6 degrees of latitude before 3 degrees N is reached.

Ruth is SO glad she asked!!!!!


For Diabetes and the National Autistic Society see:

For UNICEF UK see:

Please take a look. Thank you.

Race 2 Day 3 latest ………… 4,800 nautical miles still left to Race, so let’s wind the clock back a bit.

Ok so with just less than 5000 miles still left to race its clear everyone (eventually) chose to close the Moroccan coast rather than stick to the Rhumb line route, in search of stronger winds. Right now it’s beginning to look like Punta del Este may chose the route between the Canary Islands with the rest of the leading pack – Sanya, Qingdao, Dare to Lead, Ha Long Bay Vietnam and Unicef currently shaping to go between the Canary Islands and the African coast. It’s Leg 1, Race 2, Day 3, Hour 4! Time to wind the clock back and catch up with Blogs I never quite got around to writing……..

Firstly the Unicef team-building weekend 🙂 A full weekend, in more ways than one, over the first full weekend in July when ALL Clipper teams, with as many crew members as each could muster, “disappeared” on team building weekends around the country. We chose to descend on Blackwood Forest in Hampshire. We had a very good turn out – over 30 of us – in log cabins throughout the forest coming together for various team building exercises and events, eating together, a great BBQ, a perfect opportunity to get to know each other, and the environment in which to discuss our group aims, our hopes, our strategies and our values. If any of you have ever done similar corporate events then you can imagine exactly what we got up to!

To cut a long story short it was an excellent event, well planned by those of the team who volunteered to organise it way back at Crew Allocation, facilitated extremely well by skipper Ian and AQP Mike and as much fun as I can remember having in a field/forest with …………..…. pieces of pasta and marshmallows (building a free standing structure with other crew doing Leg 6 across the Pacific!),  multiple variations on the game of “tag”, some GPS assisted (or in our case not really assisted) orienteering – I think today’s posh word for this is Geotagging or some such! and a rather ingenious race involving a fresh chicken’s egg (and in the Leg 6 team’s case socks and a single training shoe) in which we achieved a podium finish and only lost out on top spot by “rounding a mark” on the wrong side – a ruling which we strongly refuted but as the skipper was the sole judge we eventually chose discretion as the better part of valour and shut up!

Two days later I was back down in Gosport, back onboard a now branded Unicef boat (CV31) for the second time (see also Blog 60: Level 3 Training, Part 2, published 4 May 2019) for my final Level 4 training. This was a first time to sail with both Ian and Mike, with a crew made up entirely of other Unicef crew members:  Ian (skipper), Mike (AQP), Angie (circumnavigator), Sarah (Leg 4), Sophie (Legs 1 and 3), Ursi (Legs 1 and 8), Jo (Leg 7) , Lis (Legs 6, 7 and 8), Juscinta (Leg 5), Anthonie (Legs 1, 2 and 3), Shaneil (Leg 6), Beau (Leg 4) , Giacomo (Leg 4) and me! (Legs 2, 3, 6 and 8). So Ian, Mike, Angie, Sophie, Ursi and Anthonie are afloat right now and I will race at some point with Ian, Mike, Angie, Sophie, Ursi, Lis, Anthonie, and Shaneil.

left to right – Shaneil, Sophie, me, Jo, Angie – Level 4 training 9-15 July

Level 4 started with collecting our Musto kit (See Blog 24: Does/Will My Bum Look Big In This?, published 28 September 2018) and finished with the usual Clipper Race Assessment (the Test!) another deep clean, and a late lunch in the Boathouse. In between we practised towing another Clipper yacht and being towed, transferring stores and personnel via the yacht’s dingy (in this case “Bob” the man-overboard dummy simulating a casualty), hoisted storm sails, anchored, practised racing line-starts, practiced a “Le Mans” start, hoisted/letter-box dropped/packed/and re-hoisted(!) all three codes of Spinnaker and the lighter “wind-seeker” sail (it does what it says on the tin!) and, over the last few days raced the other 10 Clipper yachts – also at sea on Level 4 training – around the Solent and across the English Channel, along the coast of Normandy in sight of beaches I know well from the shore-side perspective, and then back to Portsmouth. We experienced life at an angle (again) and in my case the difficulty of getting into a top bunk at 40odd degrees and the “pain” of being becalmed – quite literally going NOWHERE – in very light airs for a 6 hour period.  The racing aspects taught us how to do everything we had safely done during Levels 1, 2 and 3 but much, much faster!

Three one-second video clips!:


and I promise I am actually packing that spinnaker not just hugging it!

(l to r): Jucinta, Beau, Giacomo, Sarah, Mike and me (stern to bow): Angie, Lis and Jo

Flat calm and going nowhere fast!:




I’ll admit I’m rather envious of Ian, Mike, Angie, Sophie, Anthonie and Ursi off the Moroccan coast right now.

Please take a look. Thank you.

They’re off again.


Race 2 of Leg 1 from Portimao, Portugal to Punta del Este in Uruguay starts in just a little under 20 minutes time. 5,195 nautical miles across the Atlantic, across the equator for the first time (and the crossing the line ceremony where King Neptune visits and Pollywogs become Shellbacks – “obviously” I can hear you say …. more about that in a future blog!) and through the doldrums, this race is expected to take about 30 days with the yachts expected into Punta del Este in the window 14-16 October and Ruth and I fly to South America on the 7th😀 The first tactical decision is likely to be in the vicinity of the Canary Islands. Do you route east, west or straight through? Pick the wrong route and you can get caught in the lee of the land. The Doldrums, are both a physical and a mental challenge with unpredictable conditions, big wind holes, squalls, and high temperatures.



With a further 11 race points available for the first yacht across the line, bonus points are again available via a Scoring Gate to port of the rhumb line track, this time off the coast of Mauritania and north of the Cape Verde Islands and an Ocean Sprint off the NE coast of Brazil between 5 degrees and 10 degrees south of the equator. To cope with the doldrums, a doldrums corridor also exists  – more about the tactics of the Doldrums Corridor in a future blog. The Scoring Gate, Doldrums corridor and Ocean Sprint positions are available on the Race Viewer (See Blog 75: The Race Viewer – and a health warning. This can be addictive, published 2 September) for those following the Race (and who, like me, are already addicted). If you haven’t taken a look then I would recommend it.


And in “breaking news” Qingdao and Punta del Este have both elected to play their joker on this race, thus potentially doubling their race points. So there is much up for grabs.


Please take a look. Thank you.