Clipper Race: Searching for silver lining

Published on March 16th, 2020

(March 16, 2020) – After the Clipper 2019-20 Round the World Yacht Race altered its course route to avoid three Chinese cities due to the coronavirus outbreak, it found a safe haven of Subic Bay in the Philippines. However, that venue has now become tenuous.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak worldwide, significant restrictions have been made in Subic Bay where Race 9 finished on March 14 and 15. The Philippines Government announced an enhanced community quarantine which has been put in place for the island of Luzon, where Subic Bay is located.

After the Clipper Race fleet arrived into Subic Bay, the crew have been held at the Subic Bay Yacht Club (above), awaiting quarantine clearance.

“We are currently working to establish the implications for the Clipper Race,” stated the Clipper Race Organizing Committee. “This is a developing situation and we are working hard to get clarity on what this means for Race Crew and for the upcoming race and beyond.”

As the situation was developing, the Clipper Race Organizing Committee had stated that Race 10, which extends across the Pacific Ocean to Seattle, USA, would start earlier than scheduled after the present stopover.

Under normal conditions, Subic Bay Yacht Club would be a dream destination as it is as much a vacation resort as boating facility. But with the government restrictions it is temporarily and partially closing its facilities from March 14 until April 12, 2020.

“The Club is not accepting new room bookings, functions and events, yacht cruises and berthing,” said the club statement. “Our restaurant outlet, Cambusa Bistro will not be accepting walk-in guests. Our recreational facilities shall likewise be closed.”

So much for the five large swimming pools with waterslides and swim-up bar alongside the tennis court, basketball court, beach volleyball court, and complete gym facility. Look but don’t touch.

The original plan was for Race 10 to depart Subic Bay for on March 21 with an arrival window into Seattle between April 19 and 24. A revision was announced yesterday to move the start up to March 19, but today’s statement appears less certain.

And it’s not as if Seattle is much better as Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced he will temporarily shut down restaurants, bars and entertainment and recreational facilities statewide due to the coronavirus, with the order to last until March 31… for now.

The timing of the race’s arrival to the Asian region has been horrendous, with the only silver lining being how the next leg is the longest of the 2019-20 course. Considering the massive reach of the current health pandemic, there is no better time than now to be at sea.

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Course change: The fifth leg was to be divided into three races (6, 7, 8), with the first race to finish in Sanya, China. However, due to the coronavirus outbreak, a course change during Race 6 from The Whisundays was enacted and the fleet finished in Subic Bay, Philippines.

Additionally, Races 7 and 8 were combined to avoid the Race 8 finish port of Zhuhai, China. The course for Race 7/8 took the fleet north from the Philippines, across the Luzon Strait and around the western most cluster of the Japanese Ryukyu Islands before returning to Subic Bay for the finish.

Furthermore, the original course for Races 9 and 10 of the sixth leg had to be revised as the Chinese ports of Zhuhai and Qindao were not deemed safe to visit. Race 9 became a 750 nautical mile triangular course in the South China Sea, starting and finishing in Subic Bay, with Race 10 to start in Subic Bay before extending across the Pacific Ocean to Seattle, USA.

About the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race:
The Clipper Race was established in 1996 by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world in 1968-69. His aim was to allow anyone, regardless of previous sailing experience, the chance to embrace the thrill of ocean racing; it is the only event of its kind for amateur sailors.

Held biennially, the Clipper 2019-20 Round the World Yacht Race gets underway September 1 for the fleet of eleven identical Tony Castro designed Clipper 70s. This 12th edition has attracted 688 crew representing 43 nationalities for the 41,000+ nm course. The race finishes on August 8.

The course is divided into 8 legs and 15 individual races, with some of the crew in for the entire circumnavigation while others will do individual legs. The team having the best cumulative score over the entire course will win the Clipper Race Trophy.

The Clipper 2019-20 Race Route:
The fleet departs from London, UK to Portimão, Portugal; across the Atlantic to Punta del Este, Uruguay; the South Atlantic to Cape Town, South Africa; across the Southern Ocean’s Roaring Forties to Fremantle, Western Australia; around to the Whitsundays on the east coast of Australia, back into the Northern Hemisphere to China where teams will race to Qingdao, via Sanya and Zhuhai; across the mighty North Pacific to Seattle, USA; to New York via the famous Panama Canal; to Bermuda and then it’s a final Atlantic crossing to Derry-Londonderry in Northern Ireland; before arriving back to London as fully proven ocean racers.

Source: Clipper Round the World Yacht Race

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