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Finally home: Epic yacht race postponed for Webb

JACQUI Webb’s trip of a lifetime has been cut short with the Portlander’s adventure as part of the Clipper Round the World Yacht race postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Webb was just over six months into the 12-month race which sees 11 yachts travel 40,000 nautical miles on 70-foot ocean sailing yachts.

It has been a whirlwind and trying month for Webb after the crew first received news of the outbreak when their Ha Long Bay Vietnam yacht was on the way to China.

“We left Airlie Beach and were headed to China when we got an email on the boat saying there was an outbreak and that we could no longer go to China, they didn’t tell us where we were going so we were just sailing in the ocean without a direction,” she said.

“We then got another message saying we were likely to be heading to the Philippines, but we still didn’t know for sure.”

Eventually Webb and the crew were told to head to Subic Bay in the Philippines where they were met with an uncertain fate.

“We got to the Philippines and it was okay, but we weren’t allowed to dock so they sent us off on a race around Japanese islands and then back to Subic Bay. We still couldn’t dock so they sent us off again and back and still wouldn’t let us dock,” she said.

“We ended up being on and off for a month from Subic Bay and eventually we were just floating in the Outer Harbour, this fleet of 11 yachts.

“Eventually they let us dock but we were locked on the berth and couldn’t get onto land, so we were still living off our boats for another four days. We were able to get cleared after that, but we still weren’t allowed out of the harbour area and couldn’t get any money or food.

“The only fresh food we could get was ordering Dominos pizza on the internet and have it delivered and passed through the grill.

“We finally got the go ahead that we could leave the country by Friday (March 20) and at 3am they sent a convoy of minibuses to take us to the airport and we were frantically trying to get onto the internet and book flights but the site kept crashing and it was madness.

“We went through Manila, which is usually really busy and populated, and there was no one on the streets and no one at the airport except for us.

“I travelled with another Australian through Singapore to get home.”

While it was a relief to have a passage home Webb said it was surreal few weeks and an unfitting end to their time at sea.

“It was a really weird way to finish,” she said.

“We were living in such close proximity with our crew mates, practically living in each other’s pockets, and we couldn’t hug each other goodbye at the airport.

“We had been a family and it was hard to say goodbye not knowing what is happening.

“Our heads were an absolute mess; I know it’s tough for everyone right now but I think there was that added element that we were in such a halfway place on the sea that made everything really tough to navigate.”

Webb has since touched down in South Australia and has been living in self isolation for that past 14 days, and plans to self-isolate for another 14 days when she returns to Portland this weekend.

Her husband, Hans Richter, will pick her up at the South Australian border.

Webb is excited to spend some time as a married couple after tying the knot on the Ha Long Bay Vietnam yacht in Airlie Beach during the race.

“It’s going to be great to be with Hans again, we’ve barely spent any time together as a married couple,” she laughed.

While getting home safely has been the number one priority, Webb now has to navigate her life after planning on spending the next six months at sea has been cut short.

“Now I’m just getting my head around coming back home after I had set myself up to be away for a year,” she said.

“I had organised expenses-wise and everything to be on the yacht but now I have to support myself because my workplace had planned on me being away for a year.”

As for the epic racing adventure that Webb had been on, it is postponed for at least 10 months and will have a different feel if it is to return.

“In a perfect scenario they plan for the race to continue after 10 months and recommence early next year, but that’s in a perfect world,” she said.

“There is so much more to consider, we may not have the crew back together again and the cohesive unit that we had built up over the last six months is unlikely to be together again.

“Everyone vowed that we’re coming back as a team and we’d all be here, but you just don’t know what life will throw at you, so as much as we’d like that it’s hard to say.”

Despite the abrupt postponement of the race Webb says she is so grateful for her experiences across the six months and still has plans to be able to call herself a circumnavigator.

“I’m so glad we got the time that we did and even though the last couple of months were really weird we had an amazing adventure,” she said.

“I really, really want to be a circumnavigator, because right now I’m just half of one,” she chuckled.

“I want to cross the North Pacific; it can sometimes be more extreme and harsher than the Southern Ocean so I’m hoping I’ll still be able to do that one day.

“If it doesn’t end up happening though then what I have been able to do has been such an amazing journey and it’s something I will live and dream about for the rest of my life.”

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