Kirk Watson is an accomplished sailor. His first sail down the Australian coast was at the tender age of 7 in a 32 foot motor sailor... and he's been on the water every spare moment since. Kirk sharpened his sailing skills through years of successful racing on Pittwater.
So his progression to skippering a 54 footer in the 2013 Sydney to Hobart yacht race might seem par for the course... except for one small detail.
Kirk is legally blind.
Watson started losing his sight in his 20s through retinitis pigmentosa a condition affecting around 1 in 3000 Australians. And now at 40 he cannot see at all. Many people allow a disability like blindness to define them. Not Kirk.Read more
Australian born Chinese Albert has no legs but that doesn't stop him from being the fastest guy on the boat. With arms strengthened by international standard wheelchair racing, Albert can shoot through gaps that other able-bodied sailors have to clamber through - and with his low centre of gravity, Albert is never at risk of being 'man overboard'.Read more
You could have knocked me down with a feather because right before me was Elvis Presley, looking remarkably well since his death 30 odd years ago. Maybe it's not all plain sailing on the Nothern Campaign!Read more
Grace Kennedy was born with Spina Bifida and has used a wheelchair for mobility all her life. In 2013, at the tender age of 19, she crewed in one of the world's toughest ocean races - the Rolex Sydney to Hobart. Here is Grace's story in her own words...
Peter Behr began volunteering when he was 18 years old. His personal obligation to help others kept him affiliated with various sailing clubs and organisations including the Scouts, school P&C associations and most recently, the SES and SWD.Read more
David credits SWD with giving him a better appreciation of what people can achieve. Being an SWD member has shown him first-hand that the human spirit is more powerful than the body.Read more
What is it about childrens' laughter?... It has to be the most infectious thing. Recently, on the Northern Campaign, I had the opportunity to see a second and third element contribute to and enrich that sound of laughter. Making it three dimensional, maybe even four - the laughter, the sun, the sea spray and the movement of the boat all coming together, just to the east of Mackay harbour.Read more
Put yourself in David Pescud’s shoes in 1993.
You’re 46. Thanks to your own hard work and business savvy (and despite profound dyslexia) you’re financially bullet proof and able to retire.
You’ve just built a 50 foot yacht and you’re all set to take off for an idyllic life of cruising the oceans…
Sounds wonderful right?...
So why do you stop, take a massive u-turn, create a non-profit organisation called Sailors with disABILITIES and volunteer the next 20+ years of your life working tirelessly for it?
Brett Whiteley lost his right leg and arm in an accident in November 2013. He started sailing with sailors with disABILITIES in February 2014 and is now training hard each weekend with the SWD Hobart team and hoping to earn a much coveted place in the gruelling race. In June 2014 Henri Lloyd very generously supported Brett's campaign by donating a full set of Henri Lloyd Offshore Elite gear to Brett.Read more
I can say without doubt we had a win with every single one of them. The smiles we coaxed out of the kids and their teachers/carers made the personal and group effort very worthwhile. In all my time with SWD, recently and in the past, I have never felt that I and the crew have achieved so much success with a diverse range of youngsters with disabilities.Read more
Northern Campaign Skipper Mark says working with SWD has opened his eyes to what can be achieved. He is amazed at how an activity like sailing can benefit people so greatly, particularly those living…Read More
Brett was just 44 when he lost his right arm and leg in a head-on collision with a ute. The ute was overtaking and didn't see Brett coming the other way. A few short months later, he was out racing with…Read More
I have an inherited disability called CMT (Charcot Marie Toothe Syndrome) which is a neuro-muscular condition affecting mainly the legs and hands to varying degrees. I have weaknesses in my calves and…Read More
Grace Kennedy was born with Spina Bifida and has used a wheelchair for mobility all her life. In 2013, at the tender age of 19, she crewed in one of the world's toughest ocean races - the Rolex Sydney…Read More
David credits SWD with giving him a better appreciation of what people can achieve. Being an SWD member has shown him first-hand that the human spirit is more powerful than the body.Read More
I had never been on a yacht before but I realised I could put sails up, pull on ropes, and make things do things. As it turned out sailing opened up a window... which opened a door... which opened a bigger…Read More
Kristi Foster broke her back when she was just 21. Then just 16 weeks after surgery to repair her spine, she was in a car accident and broke her back and neck again.Read More
Kirk Watson is an accomplished sailor. His first sail down the Australian coast was at the tender age of 7 in a 32 foot motor sailor... and he's been on the water every spare moment since. Kirk sharpened…Read More
After participating in the Try Sail day, Chelsea came home and could not stop talking about it. It was such a wonderful time, and she felt secure and stable on the bigger boat. Every time she sees a boat…Read More
Mark enjoys his association with SWD for many reasons. In his words, the crew "don't get inflated syndrome by big-noting their achievements - despite their significance." Put simply, "SWD is a really…Read More