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Skipper returns after false start in 2020

The skipper who travelled furthest in Australia to take part in last year’s cancelled Sydney to Hobart race is coming back for another crack.

South Australian septuagenarian John Willoughby and his crew spent eight days sailing the 11m Enchantress from Adelaide to Sydney, only to hear the bad news upon their arrival.

“We sailed in through the heads and got in at 9pm and they said ‘its just been cancelled’,” Willoughby recalled.

“I went straight into the bar and had a drink and I caught the plane out the next morning

“I was disappointed because I’d come a long way and we’d made plans, but because I’m a doctor I could sympathise with the public health aspects of it all.

“As soon as we got to the dock they told us the race was off and South Australia then chirped up that if we weren’t back across the border by midnight we’d go into two weeks of hotel quarantine at our own expense.

“We had to arrange to fly out and be home before midnight so I got on an afternoon flight at 4pm and got to Adelaide at 6pm and they said sorry ‘we’ve brought the lockdown six hours forward’.

“So we joined a conga line of people marching around Adelaide airport for two or three hours while they tried to swab us and then told us to go and isolate till we got the results.

“But I did enjoy my eight-day sail around to Sydney because I work a pretty fast-paced operating and consulting life.

“So it was nice to get out of range of phones and get into the rhythm of nature, day follows night, you see the sun rise and the sun set and sail through the dark.”

Willoughby has a shorter crossing to Sydney this time as the boat has sailed from Queensland, where some of the crew took it after the 2020 race was cancelled.

However, it was 11 months before he was reunited with Enchantress.

Willoughby is optimistic Tasmania won’t have any issues accepting boats from outside its borders this year because it has agreed to stage another major sporting event in the coming weeks.

“The premier of Tasmania got a bit excitable at the end and canned it (the 2020 race),” Willoughby said.

“But I think we’ve got back-up this year as there’s a Test cricket match accepted so he’s not likely to pull the pin when he’s got both of those there,” Willoughby said.

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