St. Katharine Docks is the only marina in central London, and located close to some of the capital’s most famous landmarks, namely the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. The fleet of eleven 70 foot Clipper yachts were berthed in the docks’ Centre Basin for a week-long event in August, before they departed for the 40,000 nautical mile circumnavigation on 1 September.
Watching my fellow crew members prepare our team yacht – Zhuhai in this magnificent London marina was both extremely exciting to be part of, and also a time for me to wait patiently, as I would have to wait another 3 and a half months before joining the crew in Fremantle, Australia.
On the eve of the big departure, Zhuhai had her naming ceremony. We were privileged to have some key members of the Zhuhai Partnership fly over to London to take part:
- Mr Zhu. Partnership Vice President. Zhuhai Government
- Mr Wu. Pertnrrship Deputy Director. Zhuhai Culture, Radio, Film, Tourism & Sports Bureau
- Mr Li Hongbin. Partnership Vice General Manager. Jiuzhou Holdings
Also key to the naming ceremony:
- Sir Robin Knox Johnson
- Nick Leggatt, Zhuhai Skipper.
The naming ceremony began with a blessing of the yacht by a Chinese dragon. This is believed to bring luck – let’s hope it works!
We learned a little more about the Zhuhai Partnership (through an interpreter), and their reasons for wanting to be part of the Clipper Race. The partnership is a three race deal so there will be a Zhuhai team entry for the 2019-20, 2021-22 and 2023 -24 editions of the Clipper Race. We also learned that our team name (Zhuhai) is actually pronounced juu-hai.
Some facts about the city of Zhuhai:
● The ‘Islands’ city of Zhuhai, China, is making its debut as a Host Port and Team Partner in the Clipper 2019-20 Race.
● Close to Hong Kong, Guangdong and Macao, Zhuhai is renowned for its beautiful islands and coastline with the cityscape framed by a stunning mountainous backdrop.
● Located on the Pearl River Estuary, it has excellent wind conditions for sailing and has extensive experience in hosting major events such as the 2016 and 2017 China National Sailing Regatta, as well as its own ‘Jiuzho Cup’.
● Zhuhai was recently voted both ‘The Most Comfortable City to Live In’ and also is in the top ten of ‘China’s Happiest City 2018’.
● The city is home to The New Yuan Ming Palace and there’s the opportunity for mermaid spotting along Lovers’ Road, island hopping and hiking in the nearby mountains.
Following the speeches, it was time for the official naming, with the crew invited onto the foredeck, and after a few more words and photos from and for our Partner (Zhuhai), the tradition of marking the occasion with the spraying of champagne. Nick (Zhuhai Skipper) having not quite given the champagne the shake it deserved, needed a little encouragement to give the crowds what they wanted – a true champagne spray. I took the bottle, placed my thumb over the top, and gave it enough of a shake, that once released, was greeted with a lot of cheers,…
…. a very wet crew and Government official (Mr Wu). His white shirt was drenched right through! Given that he didn’t speak any English, I gauged his feeling through universal sign language – two thumbs up and looking for a response – thankfully it was reciprocated with the same response. PHEW! My crew went onto joke that would be me banned from visiting China. Let’s hope not, as I’m extremely excited to be visiting our host port of Zhuhai.
With one day to go before departure, after we’d finished the naming ceremony and photos, I celebrated with the crew and a few more glasses of champagne, before leaving the departing crew to finish preparing themselves and our yacht for the first leg.
The following morning I re-joined the hundreds of people gathered to see off the fleet. The build up to departure also involved the introduction of each crew team to a main podium in the Centre of the marina basin, before joining their boat and readying to slip lines.
Each crew gathered out of sight, and readied themselves to proudly parade through the crowds, and down onto the pontoon. At this point I was in the crowd, that was until I was encouraged by my passing crew to join them – I didn’t need much encouragement. All of this was captured on a live stream, much to the amusement of my friends and family who were watching online.
And a photo I found on China Daily:
Next up, was for those not actually setting sail, to make their way to a supporter boat and to watch the Parade of Sail from on the Thames. The parade went under the Tower Bridge and back again, before making its way down to Southend-on-Sea (where the race proper would start the following day). It was an impressive sight seeing Zhuhai leave the marina – to our team song. I watched on feeling extremely proud!
We spent a couple of hours enjoying our on-the-water, front row seats, watching the fleet parade around us, along the River Thames. The official spectator boats was a really fun way to watch the Clipper Race yachts depart from St. Katharine Docks, and to say our final farewells.
After the excitement of seeing the fleet off, I went back home and prepared to support Zhuhai with a few more Team Co-ordinator activities, whilst keeping one eye on the very addictive Race Viewer. It didn’t take me long to ensure it would be constantly visible from most screens around my house.
Leg 1, Race 1 & 2 DONE
Some amazing footage during the last 24 hours of the race into Punte Del Este, Uruguay were pretty hairy, with Zhuhai suffering facing a similar set of conditions to those captured in this clip:
The Zhuhai crew has initiated a daily team “happy hour” meeting to keep the whole team informed with pertinent information from preceding watches, as well as upcoming plans.
According to the Skipper, sailing conditions were generally quite easy from Portimao all the way until when the crew reached the coast of Uruguay! Our strategy of keeping east and not starting the engine until the last moment worked well for getting through the Doldrums Corridor, so we were well placed to make good speeds down the South Atlantic.
The team hit their first cold front, with heavy rain, just south of Cabo Frio, as is normal at this time of year (apparently!!)
By the time the crew reached the border between Brazil and Uruguay we were in 5th place, not far behind the 4th boat and still with a possibility of getting on the podium, as was the plan…until being hit by a second frontal system with some extremely violent winds. (Video above ^). Pretty much every boat suffered damage in one way or another and, in my team’s case it was the mainsail, which then meant that we dropped back down to 6th place. Great effort by the team. I think we were on the podium, until the sail tore, on to the next leg….
Leg 2, Race 3 COMPLETE – from the blogs, it appears to have been a very testing time for the Zhuhai crew, and with a couple of injured crew members to boot. Given the seriousness of the injury, we had to retire from racing, and prioritise the safe passage of all of our crew as quickly as possible into Cape Town.
Leg 3, Race 4 IN PROGRESS to Fremantle – which is where I’ll join in JUST A WEEK!
My nephews have also been playing their part in supporting the race through the Junior Supporters activities.
This blog’s header and quote is very apt for me: “Patience is not the ability to wait but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.” ~Joyce Meyer. I’m learning that patience is a key skill for all aspects of sailing, and even when you’re not sailing. I wonder what this will mean for me when I join?!