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Around the World with Catherine Nurrsaw

March 16, 2006

To recap briefly, having won the races from Durban to Fremantle (hurray!) and Fremantle to Singapore (double hurray!), the good ship Durban was on track to do well in the race to Qingdao (provisional hurray!) when it became clear that all was not as it should be with the keels of the majority of the fleet (boo!) and that we would all have to divert to the Philippines instead of making our way to China (boo, but also hurray because everyone made it there safely and it's a fantastic place for a stopover).

We arrived in Subic Bay on 5 February. Having hung around there for about 10 days, partying hard and waiting for news of the expected timetable for repairs, we were told that the race could not possibly start again until at least the middle of March. Many of the crew, having made a determined effort to drink Subic Bay dry, decided to head back to the UK to recuperate. Several of us decided that instead of heading back to an English winter we would continue to enjoy the wonderful weather and scenery in the Philippines, and a group of us headed to Palawan Island.

This is an absolutely beautiful island about an hour's flight from Manila. Most of us spent most of our time in a little place called El Nido, which is just lovely. I had heard that the diving there was spectacular, which was part of the attraction of going there for me. Sadly, this is no longer the case, as about 85% of the coral is dead now (the explanation given was a hurricane in 1998, but I'm not sure that that is the whole story). Still, that was the only disappointment, and there were plenty of other activities to keep us busy - lounging around in hammocks, swimming, sunbathing, lounging around in hammocks, kayaking over to nearby beaches to go snorkeling and lounging around in hammocks.. and so on and so on.

You may possibly have detected a slight hammock theme creeping in there. Yes, it's true, I am a hammock addict. The first step is recognising that you have a problem, then joining a 12-step programme to recovery ("Hi, my name's Catherine and I'm a hammockholic"). In the mean time, I am the proud owner of three hammocks. I haven't yet figured out how to use them all simultaneously, but I'm willing to give it a go. I plan to sling at least one hammock from the boom when we're back on the race...

Once I had bought up all available hammocks in El Nido, it was clearly time to move on. I decided that since I was half way to New Zealand already, it would be just rude not to call in on my friends there. Accordingly, I headed off to Auckland, where I spent a very happy week catching up with friends, then spent nearly another week in Wellington, catching up not only with friends but also some of my family (my cousin Sally and her partner Simon are living there for a year in a house with the most stunning views - I'm officially insanely jealous - and my aunt and uncle were over visiting while I was there too). Now I'm in Christchurch, catching up with more friends here, but unfortunately the recall has come and I have to get back to the boat by next weekend, which means that I will not be able to get together with some of my friends in the South Island, which is a real shame.

So on Saturday morning I fly up to Auckland, and from there to Hong Kong and then on to Manila. I should get back to Subic Bay in the early hours of Sunday morning, local time. On Monday we should be getting the boats ready to go again (hopefully the gear which we left in the containers in Subic Bay will not have been nibbled too much by rats), then there are full sea trials and a training sail on the 21st/22nd, and an inshore race on the 23rd. The race starts again at mid-day on Saturday 25th.

The revised race programme is at the bottom of this e-mail. I am a bit nervous about the leg from Qingdao to Victoria, which used to have a break in Yokahoma but is now expected to take 28 days - four weeks - a whole month - ak! And it's likely to be cold and rough...remind me again why I thought this was a good idea?

Also a bit concerned by the news I've just seen on the Clipper website that Dave, the skipper of the WA boat, has resigned because he doesn't believe Clipper can meet the revised timetable for restarting the race and the new race programme. That's very sad, because he's a good guy and a great skipper - the WA crew (currently in first place by a very big margin) will be devastated. It's also a worry for all of us, because Dave would not do this lightly so if he doesn't think the deadlines can be met, he's probably got good reason to think that.

However, I know that Craig (skipper of Durban) is not going to set off unless he is absolutely confident that the boat is safe, and he'll also have a good idea of whether the revised programme is feasible. If he's happy to continue, so am I. So if you don't get another e-mail from me for a while, it will mean that I'm on my way to China - wish me luck! I'll definitely need lots of luck if Craig catches me trying to sling a hammock from the boom....

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