Race 7 - Day 5
Crew Diary - ​The Joy of Salopettes and Boots
28 February

John Dawson
John Dawson
Team Unicef
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The Joy of Salopettes and Boots

John Dawson.

We are now past Taiwan and going around the islands of Shimoji Shima, Minna Jima, Tarama Jima, Ischigali Shima, Iromote Shima, Hatoma Shima and many other very small ones on our loop-de-loop race from Subic Bay to Subic Bay. Whilst the fact that we wouldn’t be arriving into a new port was a disappointment for a man who likes journeys, the race is turning out to be both exciting and rewarding.

The exit from Subic Bay and up the Luzon coast showed wonderful coastal scenery of deeply scalloped hills, many tree-lined and of rich autumnal hues. The race got off to a cracking start with spinnakers up from the get-go. However, within a couple of hours the scene was reminiscent of a motorway pile-up as the boats all fell straight into the same windhole. Instead of mangled vehicles, the scene was one of boats only metres apart all desperately trying to reflate collapsed spinnakers. Indeed, George and I had a good father-and-son exchange of gestures over it. I have a photo with all eleven Clipper Race yachts in it, which must be rare when taken from one of them out at sea. In fact, the only other one is from Unicef as we led the procession up the Thames last September, which now seems a century ago.

After stop-start sailing up the coast of Luzon, we then encountered very lively trade winds from the north east as we headed for Taiwan on our way to our turning point around the islands, making living on board challenging at a lean of 35 degrees or more. Just yesterday evening a pressure cooker, fortunately without food, flew from the galley to the side benches, clobbering me on my left knee and amazingly I hardly felt a thing.

Highlights have been an escape from the sub-tropical heat that is made worse when the boat is marooned in a windhole and the joy of swapping shorts and T-shirt for the stability of boots and the protection afforded by salopettes from all the hard pointy things that hit you on a bouncy boat crashing through the waves. On the wildlife side it has been the myriad acrobatics of flying fish, often in squadron formation, and the two beautiful brown boobys that shepherded us for mile after mile this morning. On the other side of the coin a distinct lowlight has been a nasty tummy bug that has afflicted several of the crew in succession over the past few days, causing misery for them, pressure on bunk spaces and short teams on deck. However, it is relatively short-lived and our two watch-teams collaborate so that we don’t give a quarter in our bid to win the race. We currently lie second behind, you’ve guessed, Qingdao, but as we’ve learned several times over, ocean racing has many twists and turns. So, a big surprise will be the arrival order into Subic Bay in four to six days’ time. The next surprise will be where we head next in our world journey. We know nothing of up to date attitudes of the US administration regarding the entry of aliens and their treatment in the current coronavirus climate. However, we do know from supporters that Israel has banned flights from South Korea and Japan and that Italy has called off its forthcoming Six Nations Rugby Union match against Wales. And my final surprise will be whether Sam will be there to greet George and I on the dockside when we return to Subic Bay next week, as she was undecided as she left The Philippines last Sunday.

Last but not least, to Mam, thinking of you tomorrow, the 29th of February, the first four-year anniversary of Dad’s death. We often talk about what he, as a World War Two navy veteran, would have made of George’s and my trip. Whatever it would be, it would have brought back many of his tales and as always, he’d have lots to say!