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Life-shattering event sends 'rookie' couple sailing the world

by Asia News Network/Sail-World Cruising on 31 Mar 2014
Hydrus and her ’rookie’ crew - on a steep learning curve SW
We all have different reasons sailing - the competition, the fresh air, the sense of freedom, or merely the love of the sea in all its moods. A few of us even give up everything else to sail away into the sunset. But what does it take for two NON-sailors to decide to sail around the world? The answer: some life-shattering event, as happened to Singaporean non-sailor, Ng Yong Seng.

Nine years ago, doctors told Seng that he had stage four blood cancer. He had more than a hundred tumours in his body, the biggest of which was in his lung and was the size of a large orange.

Ng was ready to give up hope – they call stage four the last stage for a reason, he thought. But his then girlfriend and now wife Wong Siew Wheng insisted he would pull through.

And he did.

Now, the 35-year-olds, who call themselves Seng and Wheng, are about to set off on what they hope will be the adventure of their lives – a round-the-world trip by sailing boat.

Ng’s near-death experience is what has motivated them to pursue the sailing version of their childhood dream. 'I told him when we got together that he had to take me around the world,' said Siew Wheng near the Marina Country Club where their S$44,000 (RM114,300) vessel, named Hydrus, was undergoing maintenance.

The couple first met as classmates when they were 14, and began dating three years later, when they joined the same sea sports club in junior college.

In the second year of university, at the age of 26, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Nine months of intense chemotherapy and radiation later, doctors pronounced him free of cancer cells.

For him, it was a second shot at life. For her, it was the end of alternating between crying as she watched him in pain and gently chiding him to 'Be a man'.

They tied the knot in 2011, and three years on, enjoy a successful life.

But now, not forgetting the dream, Ng has just taken leave from his job last month, and Wheng stopped teaching after the last academic year - so they could conduct 'practice trips' to Tioman and get the Hydrus prepared for departure in May.

It is an ambitious – and risky – plan as, by their own accounts, they are sailing 'rookies'. It is sure to be a big learning curve, as they only bought their sailing boat last year, and the longest stretch they have clocked on it is a couple of hours bobbing in Singapore waters.

They have put aside S$150,000 (approx $120,000) of their savings for the two-year trip, which will first take them to Indonesia and Australia’s Christmas Island.

Then it will be over to South Africa, the Caribbean, French Polynesia and New Zealand before coming home. Then they hope to start a family before hitting 40. That is, if all goes according to plan.

There is much to will them on, as accomplishing their goal is their way of giving hope to other cancer survivors. 'We want to show them they, too, can pursue their dreams,' said Siew Wheng.
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