Leg 6 and Race 9 Starting This Morning

Leg 6, race 9 is starting today. It will be a short 4 to 5 day race out and back to here in Subic Bay Philippines. This is because we sadly cannot go to any of our planned China destinations due to Coronavirus outbreak.

The course.

Three ocean sprints. Teams must declare this morning which 2 of the 3 they will go for.

The about 5 days after we return we start our longest and probably most challenging race which is the Pacific crossing from here to Seattle in the US.

Robin Knox Johnston kicking off the prize giving party.

Anne and Andrew from Punte Del Este, Andrew had volunteered and sailed on Zhuhai for the last race.

Skipper Seumas socializing.

Some videos from the band and dancing.

Skipper Wendy from Zhuhai on stage auctioning a chance to have a private “ask anything” conversation in the dollhouse, see previous dance floor videos. Sold to highest bidder from team Qingdao, $1000 US.

Party moved into the pool that was next to the dance floor.

Yes, that is me letting loose in the pool.

Later I realized that even though I had carefully emptied my pockets of phone and camera I had forgot that I was wearing my precious hearing aid. It was lost and some frantic searching was not finding it. Next morning I went back to the pool where they had just finished cleaning and miracle they had recovered it from the depths and it still works!

Here are some examples of the many Philippine fishing boats that we encountered on the race course.

That’s me on the helm.

Scenes in and around Subic Bay, Philippines

We start a new race out of Subic Bay tomorrow. It will be a sail up north passing the east side of Taiwan to round some remote Japanese islands before returning back here.

We are told by Clipper that our first race destination for Leg 6 will be sorted out by the time we return here. Current options are Qingdao China, South Korea, or Yokohama Japan. It all depends on the ever evolving coronavirus outbreak. Clipper HQ just wants to get all yachts raced to Seattle safely on the original arrival schedule there allowing the fleet to get back to the planned routes and timetables for Legs 7 and 8 which get us around North America and then back across the Atlantic to the UK and final London race destination.

In the meantime please enjoy these photos I captured here in the Philippines.
Halong Bay Vietnam – First Place

Qingdao – Second Place
Philippine reggae band, high school kids, entertained at the prize giving ceremony.
Clyde and Bruce, Clipper Yachts in the background.
Liz and Michelle
Richard helping me with kite sail repair.
Two dudes from another team. Must know how to sew!

The boys insisted on interrupting sail repair for some golfing so it was off to the links!

Dickey and caddy.
Richard and caddy
Rick and caddy

The boys golfed with their beautiful caddy’s while Michelle, Sue and I just sat on the veranda having a lovely lunch. We all ordered nachos. Sadly no picture to show for that.

Daytime in old town Olongapo – Jeepneys
Night time jeepneys which function as local busses – jump in the back and hang on for a ride!
Olongapo – City of love!
Dickey, Michelle and Carl love you all.
Texas Joe’s – very authentic!
Fantastic team dinner at Texas Joe’S
While on the hunt for a karaoke bar we found this curbside laundry.
Subic Bay beach panorama.
Tranquil to be relaxing on a mooring in the bay.
Docked power cats.
Some sort of military ship.

A random encounter while I was on a walkabout to the beach.

I am always on the hunt for a cruising sailboat. What is not to like about this beautiful Hans Christian 41 footer docked in the marina here? I still prefer the smaller and simpler Bristol Channel Cutter, a 28 footer, which I am sure can sail circles around this big heavy cruiser.

Bristol Channel Cutter, my current dream boat. None here in Subic Bay however.

Leg 5 Race – Airlie Beach Australia to Sanya China

After Clipper race officials thankfully delaying the race start for two days to allow for new working water makers to be delivered and installed on Sanya and the two other affected yachts we departed for Sanya Tropical Paradise our yacht Sanya’s sponsor port. We looked forward to a fabulous reception and activities Sanya had planned for us there. Sheila finalized travel plans to join me in Sanya.

What could possibly go wrong? Well it was not any of the myriad of issues Sheila expected to face in traveling alone to an out of the way place in an unfamiliar culture and language. We did again experience issues with our yacht’s steering mechanism. This time it was the lever arm on the port side rudder post that makes up the linkage from this port rudder to the starboard rudder. Two of the four bolts securing this arm to the rudder post had sheared off and the lever arm was slipping to the extent that we could not steer from the port helm when that was the high side of the boat. We effectively dealt with this issue by lashing with the arm to the rudder post and constant monitoring and re-tightening of said lashings. But this was not the real drama which was still to come.

The sail started with positive vibes as we motored out past the barrier islands and coral reefs and then on to some more motoring north in search of winds sufficient enough to make our race start possible. After a few more days we finally had the needed winds albeit still light and challenging. We got the racing formally underway with a Lemans start and high hopes for our team. By luck of lottery we were awarded the favored east side of the linup for the start where we had previously determined that more favorable winds were to be had on that side of the rhumb line and on up north to the Solomon Sea and doldrums corridor so we were off to a good start.

We had days of light winds and very sunny hot temperatures as we made our way towards the Solomon Sea. We had good spirits as we celebrated Chinese New Year and later Australia Day. We played dress-up with traditional kit provided by our full-time media person Guan and attempted our best at delivering messages in Chinese language for the new year of the rat. Chinese New Year

We built a ramshackle sun shade to cover the helms as much as possible and help beat the searing heat as we sailed north towards our equator crossing. This was surely needed as our one helm station sun umbrella had taken a flyer off the back of the yacht on the first day out. We had tried to circle back and retrieve it but it sank before we could get back.

In the doldrums corridor Clipper Race instructions allowed all yachts to motor sail northwards for 36 hours to pass the zone of no winds. So during this time we used the bimini tarp to fashion a lean-to tent for additional sun shade and relaxing.

Lots of backgammon games were played and the guitar came out with Rick and Jorge providing entertainment.

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Twice we stopped the yacht for a mid ocean swim the first of which I missed as it happened on my four hour off time and I was blissfully napping in my bunk.

Next we crossed the equator, the second time for us round-the-world crew and first time for most others so we had a good celebration with AQP Jorge making an appearance as King Neptune.

After the equator crossing we just needed to get north past Papua New Guinea and complete our easting of the Philippine Islands by sailing into the trade winds that skipper Seumas promised would rocket the fleet all the way through the Luzon Straight and on to destination Sanya. But we still had to navigate lots of light winds and some night time rain squalls before reaching the trades. One night watch, not mine, experienced some very closeup lightning including one big strike that encircled the yacht. Halong Bay yacht apparently caught and rode a favorable rain squall and its winds through one entire night putting them many as 75 nautical miles ahead of the rest of the fleet.

Around this time the news of new pandemic virus outbreak in China began trickling into our yacht. As you must already know, when we are racing, crew persons do not have any access to the internet and only have crude text only email access for those who have paid the Clipper fees. So reports of coronavirus outbreak in China causing a real situation for the racing fleet were quickly becoming a real concern. We got official word from Clipper HQ that we may not be able to sail to the Sanya destination and might have to re-route to some alternative race destination. We were told that a decision on new destination port would likely come by the time first yachts were reaching the at the top of the Philippines Islands.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luzon_Strait

For some days the trade winds were not as consistent as we expected and also not clocking around to a more favorable angle for downwind kite sailing. As Clipper HQ was not providing timely updates on the China situation we were left hanging on whatever news we could get from our collective personal emails. Obviously this was a rapidly changing epidimic which was disrupting Clipper plans and schedules and we hungered for answers to our concerns.

Ultimately the fleet was re-routed to a race end at Subic Bay in the Philippines. So after passing the Luzon Strait it would be a sail down the west side of the north island some 300 plus miles and more very challenging light winds and wind holes ti deal with before reaching Subic Bay.

Halong Bay was clearly averaging about 75 nautical miles ahead of the next yachts that included us on Sanya and Qingdao, Punte, WTC and others in contention for the next positions as we all approached the virtual turning marks at the north end of the Philippines.

By the time we rounded these marks and could turn south toward Subic Bay we were in about fourth place. We had the advantage of seeing the updates which we get every six hours that showed the lead boats ahead of us were stuck in very poor winds and sailing a mostly west north west headings and we clearly did not want to go that way. So staying east of these boats we eventually got lucky and caught some favorable not forecasted wind that rocketed us slowly into first place. We then managed to hold that lead for four consecutive six hour reporting periods before our luck ran out. We chose to ride this wind close to the new rhumb line towards Subic Bay without fully knowing how the previous leaders now to our west side were coping with their large wind hole. We were however within sight of yacht WTC who was close on our heels. WTC came within about two nautical miles of our stern before chosing to sail a bit closer to the coastline in hopes of getting shore wind advantage while we stuck close to the rhumbline course. Turns out Qingdao and Halong Bay also made a dash behind us sailing towards the coast. Mountainous terrain along the coast was yielding katabatic winds inshore that were not quite reaching out to our position some miles offshore. This ultimately allowed WTC, Qingdao and Halong Bay to regain the lead from us. After some frustrating days we finished the race in fourth just about 4 hours behind the lead boat WTC closely followed by Qingdao and Halong Bay. So after some 4000+ nautical miles of racing this was a good outcome for Sanya. Remaining seven yachts had very real challenges with the wind and wind holes and all finished some days later.

Sadly the fleet is unable to sail to Chinese ports of Sanya and Zhuhai. Qingdao in the far north coast of China also remains in question. Current plan is to conclude leg five of this journey with a race north back to the Luzon straight followed by sailing up the eastern side of Taiwan to round some Japanese islands and then retrace our way back to Subic Bay. This will be an expected nine to ten day sail. We have crew briefing meeting in a few hours to get more details and will be starting this race tomorrow.

We are now at about the halfway point in our circumnavigation and hopefully it is all towards London from here!

Continue reading “Leg 5 Race – Airlie Beach Australia to Sanya China”

Leaving Airlie Beach and Headed for Sanya

Tomorrow we expect to sail away from Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays area of Queensland Australia for start of Leg 5 of this Clipper Round The World race and the circumnavigation that I am completing. This is the first of three races in leg 5 and takes the Clipper fleet from here to Sanya China. We will be crossing the equator on our approximately three and a half week sail. This marks my first time in China having only previously been on a very quick business trip to Hong Kong way back in the 1990’s.

This start will now be after a two day delay. Problem was our boat and a couple others had suffered damaged/non-functional watermakers during Leg 3 and the parts needed to fix them did not arrive here in time for repairs to be completed by planned race start day. Initially Sanya and the other affected boats had made plans to cary on board enough water for the entire trip and on Friday eve prior to race start day we were loading the additional water, some 50 large water cooler bottles, onto our boat and finding places down below to store the huge load.

Then on Saturday morning of the original race start day at time of the pre-race skippers briefing our new watermaker had made it to Brisbane and was on the way to arriving soonish. Clipper races officials then made the wise decision to delay race start for entire fleet by two days to allow all boats get their watermaker repairs completed by new planned start which would now be Monday. So we no longer face the prospect of rationing two liters drinking water per person pre day for three plus week sail across the equator and on into Sanya.

I was not actually part of that work of loading additional water on Friday evening as I spent my entire workday preparing and installing yet another new main halyard for the voyage. Something inside the mast where the main halyard runs down from the top exit point to its exit point about three meters above the deck level was chafing our main halyard over time and the best we have been able to do is add chafe protection in three key locations on the halyard. I do this work by sewing in three additional cover sections over those chafe points on the brand new halyard before installing it. I got great new guidance from Clipper maintenance person Harry on now to make my sewing of the chafe protection more durable as some of my previous work did not hold up well in the Southern Ocean. It is one of the great and commendable things about the Clipper race as crew do really pitch in and learn to and do all the minor maintenance and upkeep on these boats.

That said we are leaving the repair of the water maker to the professionals.

We had however routed our galley fresh water foot pump pickup line to be placed into the newly acquired water jugs. That work has been undone putting the pickup line back to the permanent on board water tanks in anticipation of a working watermaker.

As planned we need to complete about twelve hours of motoring by entire fleet to get out past the barrier islands and reefs to where we would be able to do a safe start of this race. The additional problem is that there is very little wind now and in near term forecast for the actual starting area. So the fleet may be motoring significantly further north before the start of racing. This additional motoring is expected to allow the fleet to maintain the original planned arrival window into Sanya China.

Our route will take us north through the Solomon Sea and east of Papua New Guinea. In the area of the Solomon Sea we pass through the Intertropical Convergence Zone. This is the so-called and dreaded doldrums where we may again experience poor winds for sailing. North of that area we cross the equator and then sail up and around the east side of the Philippine Islands before making the turn towards Sanya China. It is looking like three plus weeks of hot challenging sailing but nothing like the high winds, huge waves and cold experienced in the Soutrhern Ocean.

Here are our yachts parked at Airlie Beach looking mostly ready to go.

Sanya is in the forefront.

Southern Ocean Racing Legs 3 and 4

Southern Ocean

Note: if you followed the above link – we were prohibited by Clipper on going south of 45 degrees latitude.

It has been a while since my last posting which I can only apologize for with excuses. In Fremantle I had very little free time after the required deep clean and boat maintenance and I was exhausted from the first of the two Southern Ocean legs.

Here in Airlie Beach our shore time was also short and It is only now that we have an extra unplanned extra free day that affords me the time and good internet bandwidth to make this post.

So we have now completed the crossing of the Southern Ocean in legs 3 and 4 races first from Cape Town in South Africa to Fremantle in Western Australia and secondly from Fremantle south around Australia and up the eastern side of the continent to the Whitsundays in Queensland on the north east Australian coast.

It was just Team Sanya and Team Punte Del Este sailing out of Cape Town after our collision repairs were finally completed there. Both yachts put in a super effort to race quickly across the Southern Ocean to rejoin the fleet in Fremantle, Western Australia. But we only managed to arrive somewhat close to the planned leg 4 departure date from Fremantle. Team Unicef was also a very late arrival to Fremantle due their leg 3 reroute to Durbin South Africa to med-evac an ailing crew member who was suffering Appendicitis.

Punte Del Este and Sanya left Cape Town together motoring south through the first night south and actually started our “Ceremonial” match the following morning with a Lemans start. Sanya had already accepted that we would get no points for this race due to our fault in the collision prior. Punte had already collected “duress” points for this race.

We quickly got into the Southern Ocean and had high winds, monster waves and cold for days on end. The Southern Ocean has been prescribed as relentless and I can now attest to that as an accurate adjective.

In the end we did get a break from the conditions to some days out of Fremantle and we actually opted to motor in the remaining light winds to make up time.

Completing deep clean, boat maintenance and re-provisioning quickly in Fremantle would have given the three late boats very little free time before starting another Southern Ocean crossing for Leg 4. The new plan from Clipper was for 8 boats to start on time as planned and the three laggers would start exactly two days later with all scoring done on total elapsed time for each boat. So we started Leg 4 on Christmas Eve. We found ourselves again deep in the Southern Ocean and the comment from Seumas using one of the New Years end evolutions was to the nature of happily reefing in the new year!”

In leg 4 we initially did very well and were able to capture 2 points for the scoring gate and later collected additional 3 points for the ocean sprint having completed that about 8 hours faster than any other boat. In the late stages of the race into the Whitsundays we made a tactical decision to sail near the coast to avoid contrary currents. This decision turned out to be flawed and we were stuck for days in light airs with current not so favorable and at times the best we could do was go sideways to the necessary track into Airlie Beach. We ultimately were forced to accept last place and motor to the finish. Just days prior to turning on the engine we were sweet enough as to be expecting a podium finish. So goes yacht racing!

Half of the eight legs but somewhat less than half of the ocean miles are complete. Wow! One highlight for me particularly on these last two legs was helming the fastest times on team Sanya. – leg 3: 27.5 knots surfing and on leg 4: 20.2 knots surfing. What a rush!

Sunset after leaning Cape Town deceiving us of the tough times ahead.

Sue poking head out to get a weather report. Don’t let the sunny skies fool you as it is cold and a rogue wave could crash over any moment turning the cockpit into a wading pool!

Takes One person to helm and two others standing close by for logistical and morale support.

Rick checking the time – when can we finally end our watch and get below to warm up?

Bruce has spotted something?

Barry looking resolute as ever,

Ashfin and Lisa in the galley and the food always served up in dog bowls.

That’s me taking a rare selfie.

Fred looking happy. Being from Sweden the cold does not phase him?

Helms person plus afterguard.

Spoksey and Barry looking up at the sail trim.

Get tough guys!

Victoria Falls – November 25ik

After night back in Johannesburg Chris and I caught an early morning flight to Victoria Falls.

Excerpt from the WIKI page

While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls is classified as the largest, based on its combined width of 1,708 metres (5,604 ft)[5] and height of 108 metres (354 ft),[6] resulting in the world’s largest sheet of falling water. Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of North America’s Niagara Falls and well over twice the width of its Horseshoe Falls. In height and width Victoria Falls is rivalled only by Argentina and Brazil’s Iguazu Falls.

For a considerable distance upstream from the falls, the Zambezi flows over a level sheet of basalt, in a shallow valley, bounded by low and distant sandstone hills. The river’s course is dotted with numerous tree-covered islands, which increase in number as the river approaches the falls. There are no mountains, escarpments, or deep valleys; only a flat plateau extending hundreds of kilometres in all directions.

The falls are formed as the full width of the river plummets in a single vertical drop into a transverse chasm 1,708 metres (5,604 ft) wide, carved by its waters along a fracture zone in the basalt plateau. The depth of the chasm, called the First Gorge, varies from 80 metres (260 ft) at its western end to 108 metres (354 ft) in the centre. The only outlet to the First Gorge is a 110-metre (360 ft) wide gap about two-thirds of the way across the width of the falls from the western end. The whole volume of the river pours into the Victoria Falls gorges from this narrow cleft.

Arrival and Decisions

We arrived at Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport in Livingstone Zambia and made our way from there to the A’Zambezi River Lodge. One side if the Zambezi river is Zambia and the other is Zimbabwe and we now had to get from Zambia to Zimbabwe. We had stops along the way to clear customs, border control another entrance issues before finally getting dropped off at our accommodations at the A’Zambezi Lodge. Actually I am not quite sure what all bureaucracy we passed through but our tour operator, Wild Horizons, shepherded us thru OK.

We had a little downtime to check Into our room and also research activity options for the next day before we needed to board the sunset cruise boat. What to do tomorrow on our full day here: fishing excursion, river rafting in the gorge below the falls, zip line and other thrills over the gorge, helicopter flight options and of course just seeing the falls in person? Research was done, but actual decisions would come later as we needed to get on to the sunset cruise.

Sunset Cruise

We did not know what to expect from the sunset cruise as it was just an add-on that the Cape Town travel agent had thrown into the complete travel package that she arranged for us. Suffice it to say, the cruise was great.

Chill out! Ditto. Lots of hippos in the water. A momma elephant and babies swimming across the river. Climbing up the river bank.

Dinner and next day planning.

Back at the lodge we regrouped for a late dinner. The buffet looked enticing but we were tired from the day and chose instead it have a light meal from the a la carte menu and planned to end next day with the buffet. Over dinner we ruled out fishing and river rafting and had a plan to figure out the rest first thing in the morning.

Over breakfast the next day Chris’s was sure he wanted the zip line over the gorge and would want to do the helicopter flight over the falls if I would. There was a choice between short 15 minute flight just over the falls and a llonger 25 minute flight that also went over the below falls river gorge andthen upriver from the falls going over the game reserve looking for animals. I was privately agonizing over the decision and the cost of the flight but finally breakfast was over and I made the decision to go for the long helicopter flight. So we signed up with chosen activities with the Wild Horizons agent. Chris would be taking on the full daredevil package over the river gorge doing superman flight, zip line and drop swing which was some almost bunge like drop but culminating in swinging what out over the gorge. I was happy to just sit back and film his exploits. Memories of the massive bouts with vertigo that I suffered many years ago when Ménière’s Disease wrecked my left ear prevents me from such stunts.

The Gorge below the falls and watching daring Chris.

So first stop after breakfast was jeep ride to the gorge for Chris to achieve his now sought after Darwin Award on the cables crossing the gorge.

The Gorge.

Getting ready.

where are you goi;g Chris?

How does it work?

Down there?

Retrieving Chris.

Looks like we will get him back.

He is back.

Next up was the swing line. Imagine a very long swinging rope attached at its top end to the midpoint of a cable strung across the gorge. Attach yourself to the other end of the swinging line. Then jump into the abyss. Surely one gets a Darwin Award nomination for this – so steep into the canyon I could not film it. Chris was offered a second time down the swing but thought the better of it and immediately declined.

Viewing the falls from Zimbabwe Side

Next stop to view the falls which we still had not seen. Yet another park entrance fee was to be handed over to get into the viewing trail.

It was low water time at the falls as the area drained by the Zambezi River has been in a three years long drought and had just started getting rains in the last two weeks. Water was spilling over about s third over the full length of the chasm into the gorge below. In these conditions it earns the nickname “Vctoria Walls” and rightly so as you could see large sections of the sheer vertical drop off. We covered the full length o the viewing walk path which is at the edge of the gorge on the opposite side of the falls. It was not to crowded with visitors so that was nice. The section opposite the most falling water was quite misty and i theorized that it was that way year-round that section because it was like a micro climate tropical rainforest. Apparently if visiting at high water time there would be dense mist the full length of the trail and then you had best come dressed in poncho leave the cameras behind as they would get thoroughly soaked. I don’t doubt it as when we returned through the small rainforest section it was very much like we were getting rained on.

The falls begin here.

.

Back towards the start.

Closer inspection.

Walking up to the edge.

Stunning!

Victoria falls and Victoria Walls.

Can you spot the swimming fools?

Not “Sheila Safe” but I found a good rest spot.

Nice place to kick back towards the falls and ponder the meaning on life.

On to the Helicopter Flight

Next we had a breif relax and smoothie at the rainforest cafe before catching the shuttle back to the lodge to regroup for to the helicopter flight at 4:30 pm flight.

Massive crevasse disappears the river.

Our ride waiting for us.

The crevasse.

The unsuspecting traveler going down river will come this ending.

The helicopter pilot has it in complete control.

Back to the lodge for dinner

Back at the lodge we ook a rest/nap before heading out to the buffet which we sadly found was not happening as it was Sunday nite and not enough guests still at the lodge to support it. A la carte menu again and the fish option we both took was great. We had front row seats to the local wildlife that regularly comes onto the lodge lawns in the evening and early night hours. Lucky for us warthogs and buffalo are grass eaters so we could feel at least mildly safe in our chairs at the edge of the lawn.

Next day we were was off way too early in the morning to Victoria Falls airport on the Zimbabwe side of the falls for our flight back to Cape Town.

In all a great excursion to Victoria Falls.

Remember when airline food was good and what’s next – November 23

The flight.

Today Chris Ey and I caught a late morning flight from Johannesburg South Africa Livingstone Zambia for a short visit to Victoria Falls.

I have to give Kudos to British Airlines as I remember back in the day when airlines served reasonably good food and not at some premium charge to the ticket price. Today my surprise was this.

Food delivered.

Let’s eat! The vegetarian sandwich which I chose was delicious.

On the tarmac.

Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport

What’s next?

So I have to confess that when the option to visit Victoria Falls I just jumped on it with no research of my own as the travel agent in Cape Town handled the details. On the flight I had a window seat and the terrain all the way to Livingstone Zambia was quite flat and arid with no mountains in sight. My logical brain was beginning to wonder how on earth would we see a world renowned waterfall in this location? We will just have to see in my next post.