Close the about page and return to the Sailors with disABILITIES website

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.


the doing

The future is our greatest challenge. A part of that will be our children and their vision. They have began to expand their boundaries. Coming to this conclusion shaped the vision of Sailors with disABILITIES from the late 90's onwards.

What they thought was going to be a one off event turned into a multitude of sailing trips for disabled kids that would run for longer then Sailors with disABILITIES ever anticipated. Through these programs, SWD bring together children and young adults to become part of the working crew. The idea behind them is to integrate disabled, private school and disadvantaged children into society and educate children about the importance of humans in life.

“Our school days contribute more things that you would imagine possible. On these days I am reminded that there is a place and purpose for us all, we just have to look for it.”

- David Pescud

The 1998 Sydney to Hobart started in gorgeous weather. The fleet had an exciting race towards the Heads out of the Harbour before turning right for the most exhilarating ride along the NSW coastline. This was to become a human toll exceeding anything we knew in the history of any sailing event held in the Southern Hemisphere.


Sydney to Hobart

“When times are tough, like the 98 storms, it’s no big deal, because disabled people are use to problems and face difficulties everyday.”

- David Pescud

The treacherous race of '98 saw Sailors with disABILITIES at 9th overall and 1st in their division. Alongside the crew was 12 year old Travis Foley, the youngest sailor in the race.

After joining Sailors with disABILITIES for a day trip with Dalwood Home, followed by a night sail in July and the race to Southport, Travis was invited to take the pilgrimage to Hobart. While this was their best Hobart placement, the tragic loss of six sailors during the race didn't make the '98 Sydney to Hobart one of celebration.

Building Kayle (late 1999 - mid 2000)

Throughout the period of the late 90’s to early 2000’s, Sailors with disABILITIES tirelessly raced in everything from Sydney to Hobart, Southport, to Mooloolaba to Airlie beach, stopping off at countless special schools up and down the east coast on the way. The consistency and strength of their will to just have a shot and ignore the societal expectations around them began to create a quantum shift. This was the era of their doing; the conveyance of an idea carried year after year.


Sailors with disABILITIES circumnavigate Australia.

In 2003, Sailors with disABILITIES successfully completed a non-stop circumnavigation of Australia, grabbing the world record for a non stop, unassisted circumnavigation around Australia by a monohull, as well as the world record by a disabled crew for a non stop, unassisted circumnavigation around Australia in 37 days.... and 1 hour.

“In '94 when we went to Hobart...we went to Hobart! We didn’t think it was a big deal. We’re just a bunch of boof-heads going to Hobart. In real terms, it was a really big deal. “What’s the big problem?" We thought. We’re just going to jump on a boat and sail around Australia. Same deal. It wasn’t until after that did we start thinking about it."

“That was pretty special, I wanted to put SWD on the record books. It took 12 months’ preparation. Seven guys. We had Al Grundy (polio), Kim Jaggar (amputee), Brett Pearce (spina bifida), Harald Merlieb (hearing impaired) Phil Thompson (amputee) and Albert Lee (double amputee). They were extraordinary. It was fast, it was tough, we faced crushing cold.” When it was asked what was the worst disability someone faces on the water, Pescud scrunches up his ocean weathered face and thinks long and hard before replying: “Bad attitude.”