Tell me a bit a bit about the history of Sailors with disABILITIES. Where did it all start and who came up with the idea?
1994 saw the beginning of Sailors with disABILITIES, out of nothing more than pure chance. One afternoon, as David Pescud was listening to an ABC broadcast in between the roar of power tools, doctor and paraplegic Phil Vardy made a call out that caught David's attention. He wanted to assemble an all-disabled crew and take a ride to Hobart.
It didn’t take long before David got in touch, and offered his then Adams-Radford 50 "Carpe Diem" to make the journey happen. This beginning, and everything that followed, came from simply being in the right place at the right time.
Early August of '94, Sailors with disABILITIES raced in the Canon Sydney to Gold Coast race as a practice for the Sydney to Hobart. This was the first major racing event for the crew after training along the east coast for the past six months.
On Boxing Day, 1994, SWD entered and finished in the 50th Sydney to Hobart race, supported by sponsors Aspect Computing and Comtech. This was the first time a completely disabled crew sailed in an ocean race, and while this was supposed to be their last, it instead became a pinnacle moment that defied all expectations against them.
The 19994 Sydney to Hobart was a milestone and established Sailors with disABILITIES as an organisation that is serious about changing attitudes and empowering people, both disabled and able-bodied.
In '95 Sailors with disABILITIES took part in multiple ocean races including the 51st Sydney to Hobart, in which they placed 3rd in their division. However, on Saturday 17 of June, 1995, Sailors with disABILITIES took a detour off the racing route and held a sailing and activities day for the students of Manly Warringah Special School. While the event was a one off, it was a realisation of the idea that sailing can be used as a mechanism for disabled kids to accept their circumstances and believe that they are capable of more.
Sailors with disABILITIES has some pretty solid values. Perhaps you can explain what they are and how you integrate them into your events/regattas.
Making a difference: We have a passion for improving the lives of people with disability and who face disadvantage.
Safety: We place the safety of our teams and program participants at the core of everything we do.
Quality: We strive to deliver high standards of performance in all aspects of our work.
Integrity: We have an absolute and unwavering commitment to operate in a manner that is ethical, trustworthy, respectful and responsible.
Collaboration: We take a collaborative approach that values input from our volunteers, program participants, partners, donors and the communities in which we operate.
Innovation: We actively seek, develop and implement new ways of undertaking and funding our service offering.
Tell me some of the events/stories that have stuck in your mind over the years.
Achieving a level of independence has always been a challenge for Peter who has Autism. A morning on Port Philip Bay with SWD was one small step on the road to independence.
Peter, along with 11 other students from Warringa Park School in Werribee, Victoria, joined the crew of SWD volunteers onboard the specially adapted yacht Ninety-Seven.
Due to his autism, Peter suffers from bouts of anxiety leaving him highly dependent on his family and teachers. Teaching Peter to deal with his anxiety and become a more independent young adult has been a primary focus for his teacher Sarah Miller.
"Peter refuses to do much without a teacher or support worker. As a school we encourage our pupils to find a level of independence in their lives, but this has been particularly challenging with Peter".
During his experience with SWD Peter was able to steer the boat, raise and lower the sails, and pull the ropes. These simple activities helped to give Peter the sense of personal achievement.
Immediately following the trip with SWD Peter did something he’d never done before; use public transport without a teacher or support worker.
"You might think it’s just a sailing experience, but for Peter and the other students, Sailors with disABILITIES gave them the confidence to overcome the challenges they face everyday".
SWD exists for these small changes. Everyday Sailors with disABILITIES witnesses children and young adults achieve a sense of freedom and achievement on the water that invariably changes their outlook in life.
Can anyone join, experience sailing?
Anyone with disability or those facing disadvantage.
What is your "Winds of" program? What does each one do and mean?
Winds of Joy
A half day sailing experience for anyone living with a disability or those facing adversity. Most times this journey begins when participants experience success on the boat, when they help steer and crew and they realise they don’t need to be defined or confined by their circumstances.
Winds of Change
Eight-week program for disengaged youth in danger of falling out of the education system. This program aims to equip participants with skills that can be used in their everyday life: focus and concentration, team work, and personal responsibility.
Winds of Care
A half day sailing experience for all the amazing carers who work tirelessly day in day out supporting Australians with a disability. It’s a chance for them to kick back, relax and be a world away from normal life. It’s our way of saying thank you.
How many yachts does the SWD have?
We currently have 5 wonderful boats.
See the boats here.
How do you accommodate on a yacht people that have limited accessibility?
All our yachts have been specially adapted to allow people with disabilities come on board. This includes the ability to take wheelchairs on board, higher guard rails, ergonomically designed cockpit area, and access ramps.
It must take a lot to run an organization like this. Where do you get your funding/support?