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The story of SWD.

21 Years of Sailors with disABILITIES: Sailing into social change – a narration the extensive history behind Sailors with disABILITIES, referencing the organisations growth and achievements from 1994 – 2015. This website highlights moments within SWD’s evolution that exemplifies their mission; to inspire optimism and redefine possibilities for the disabled and disadvantaged of all ages.

Sailing is the catalyst for change, providing the opportunity for personal growth for those involved. They have tasted and experienced the rewards of this organisation achieving things they thought to be impossible. By defying social constructs SWD will take you on an exhilarating journey, this is their story.

This website was created by Elle McCalman, Sophia Lau, Tania Andriasian, Thomas Ricciardiello and Vincent Salinos.

21 Years of Sailors with disABILITIES:

Sailing into social change.


the beginning

We'd like to ask you to accept the challenge of allowing your imagination to wonder what might be possible, because in 1994 it was said that “A bunch of cripples and dyslexics couldn’t sail the Sydney – Hobart Race.”

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 inbetween 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.

“I’m not religious, but sometimes I think...”

- David Pescud

In 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.

“They were fantastic and willing to do everything required of them during the race. This race has proven the ability of disabled people to cope with hard ocean conditions.”

- David Pescud

After heading north to Southport, then Mooloolaba, then Airlie, then Hamilton Island, all eyes were set on Hobart.

“In '94, that had never been dreamt of being done before. This was space travel. Back then, when we walked in here and said I was going to take a bunch of disabled people to Hobart and race, they said, “No, you’re not.”

- David Pescud

Sailors with disABILITIES arrives in Hobart. 1994 Sailors with disABILITIES arrives in Hobart. 1994

SWD arriving at Hobart with Carpe Diem

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 '94 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.

This is the story of a particular way of thinking. A pathway that defies social constructs by not accepting the limitations of the disabled as put upon by themselves or society.

On delivery back from Coffs Harbour

“All our races are actually with abled-bodied sailors. There aren’t too many disabled sailors out there. That’s what we are hoping to do, put people with disABILITIES on the map.”

- Allan Grundy, March 1995

1995 Sydney to Hobart crew

In '95 Sailors with disABILITIES took park in multiple ocean races including the 51st Sydney to Hobart, in which they placed 3rd in their division.

However, on Saturday the 17th of June, 1995, SWD 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.

First kids programs in Queensland, 1996

Kids program in Airlie, 1996

Cards and thank-you's from the kids programs

“Disabled people can go sailing without having to go on a special boat. They just decide they are going to go sailing and they make it work.”

- David Pescud