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Clipper diversion, record breakers (or not), medical disruption

by Guy Nowell 11 Feb 2020 08:17 GMT
Lunch at Yau Ley - normality in Hong Kong © Guy Nowell

Clipper Diversion

The Clipper fleet is approaching Subic Bay. It’s a diversion, and not for the first time. The current sector of the round-the-world race was to have been: Whitsundays (Australia) – Sanya (Hainan, China) – Subic Bay (Philippines) – Zhuhai (China) – Qingdao (China) and then across the Pacific to the USA, but the programme became untenable in the face of the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV, otherwise known as the WuFlu.

First of all, Sanya advised that the fleet was welcome to visit, but that there would be no welcoming party and no ancillary razzamatazz. Fair enough. But then the race to the Philippines may become compromised, so… go straight to the Philippines, followed by Sanya, Zhuhai, Qingdao, before heading for Seattle - an eastward trip across the Pacific should be long enough to constitute quarantine.

During the 2003-2004 event, the Clippers slated to participate in the Hong Kong-San Fernando Race, which was called off on account of SARS. The Clippers headed for Singapore instead, and ended up in Nongsa Point Marina. Glasgow Clipper developed “keel problems” and other boats displayed the same symptoms during the 2005-2006 race. The whole fleet paid an unscheduled six-week visit to Subic Bay for repairs/strengthening to their keels. And in 2013 the race fleet diverted to Hong Kong for ‘touch-and-go’ repairs when forestay bottle screws started showing signs of fatigue.

Record breaker?

It seems that these days that anyone who takes a crack at a distance record, succeeds. Failure is very rare. Guess we can put this down to a combination of bigger and faster boats, and ever-improving weather routing. However, there are sticky patches. As at 03 February, Francis Joyon and the crew of IDEC Sport were 756nm ahead of the standing record for the Hong Kong to London ‘Tea Route’ set by Giovanni Soldini in 2018 on the MOD70 Maserati. Since than it’s been a roller coaster ride – and remember that roller coasters have “down” parts. Where Soldini worked his way up the coast of Africa, Joyon was forced further and further out into the South Atlantic by adverse weather systems. After some very mixed fortunes, on 06 February Joyon was still 742 nm ahead of the record, having passed St Helena and Ascension Island to starboard. After that, the Doldrums started to really bite. As at midday 11 February (HK time) Joyon was 60nm behind Maserati’s elapsed time position. But it’s not over until it’s over: there are 3,122nm to go, and IDEC Sport is a bigger and faster boat than Maserati… but this is a good deal more interesting than just watching Joyon extend and extend. This is a record attempt that’s not just a whitewash!

Medical Matters

The Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV outbreak continues to produce ever more disruptions in Asia. Restrictions on population mobility are affecting businesses. In Hong Kong, Government employees are working at home, and the public-private interface is massively affected – for example, vehicle registration has to be done by mail (or online) and no longer face-to-face, on the spot, over a counter. It makes a difference.

Even sporting and boating events are affected. The Singapore Yacht Show has been postponed until October, the Hong Kong International Boat Show (aka Marina Cove Boat Show) has been cancelled, and the Korea International Boat Show (13-15 March) has been postponed until June or October. The International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA) and the International Federation of Boat Show Organisers (IFBSO) were planning their combined annual Congress due to be held this year in Zhuhai in China in May, but no longer.

We have already seen the postponement of Hong Kong Raceweek (5-9 February), and now it is strongly rumoured that the Rolex China Sea Race 2020 (starts 08 April) is going to be cancelled. There has not been any official announcement yet, but a letter to owners of competing boats said, "RHKYC are currently reviewing this year’s Rolex China Sea Race as the current border closure in the Philippines and quarantine procedures already put into place for vessels arriving in the Philippines by sea means that it will be unlikely that we will be able to run the race to Subic." Rolex, of course, would like some return on their up-front investment in the event, and that’s fair enough. Anyone with suggestions for something really glitzy to replace Asia’s blue riband offshore race, please let us know and we’ll pass it on.

Meanwhile, safely quartered far from the madding crowd, Sail-World Asia is busy spreading the gospel that sailing is a very healthy outdoor pursuit. On Saturday last we cruised down to our favourite restaurant, Yau Ley at Pak A, enjoyed a lavish seafood lunch, and cruised home again. A whole day out, four hours’ sailing, and not a single surgical mask in sight. Hooray!

Standing by on 72.

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