Who would be a race organizer are this time?
Already the America’s Cup World Series is in a measure of disarray with not only Cagliari cancelled but, depending on the speed of the virus’s spread, Portsmouth must also be considered at risk.
International events with all the ramifications that go with them. Spare a thought for a global race that doesn’t get much coverage on Anarchy, the Clipper Round The World Race.
As they approached Asia the Coronavirus was taking hold in China and countries were already starting to put blanket bans in place for travel from China. The fact that the three Clipper Chinese stopover ports of Sanya, Zhuhai and Qingdao were 1,400. 930 & 840 kilometers away from the epicentre at Wuhan made no difference.
What does that matter to a yacht race? You may ask, but the model for Clipper is that some people do the circumnavigation but a significant number of the crew members only do a leg or a couple of legs.
So the crew due to be ‘dropped off’ in a Chinese port may well have faced a quarantine lock down when they got home, if indeed they could have found a flight with many airlines curtailing, or cancelling altogether, routes to and from China.
So instead Clipper went to Subic Bay in the Philippines and then instead of a leg from Sanya to Zhuhai then on to Qingdao did a couple of gyrations on the ocean off eastern Asia.
Naturally the Chinese stopover cities – who had paid for that honour as well as naming the boats were getting less than they paid for and talk of a reasonable discount has been heard adding a financial dynamic to the already logistical nightmare.
Subic Bay was, at first a reasonable bolt hole, however in the past couple of days the situation in the Philippines has got way more serious with the Capital, Manila being placed in virtual lockdown and Luzon Island in last 24 hours (Subic Bay is on Luzon Island) had travel restrictions greatly tightened has meant the crews are currently confined to the yacht club.
Given that the next port of call is North America and that is followed by a Panama Canal transit – then Europe has placed the Clipper Race between a rock and a hard place.
We hear the decision has been made to call a halt to the race to hopefully recommence in 10 months time with the fleet, in the meantime, being laid up in Subic Bay. That of course means the following race will also have to be knocked back by a full year.
This must be a huge disappointment for the crews and potentially a massive (and we sincerely hope NON-fatal) financial hit for Clipper Ventures and it is doubtful if they have as loud a voice with the UK Government as the airline and cruise industry regarding assistance.
Although here at Anarchy we haven’t reported their every move round the world surely no one in the wider sailing community would wish bad of this event which has introduced goodness knows how many to offshore sailing whether keen sailors wanting more or newbies looking for an adventure.
Let’s hope that there is ultimately, at least sufficient damage limitation that can be done to enable the event to continue once the whole virus ting blows over.
We wish them well.