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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.


the realisation

Somewhere in that area, there was a realisation of our acceptance into the mainstream. The beginning of the understanding of the achievement. It was the catalyst that made us believe in ourselves.

For SWD it’s not about the title, it’s about the experience that members share together.

The 2004 Sydney to Hobart saw SWD withdraw from the race, due to a disconnection between the crew and the boat technology south of Eden. This sort of defeat was not seen as a failure by the members of SWD, but more so a learning curve, and an opportunity to reconnect for future challenges.

Placing people in this environment creates a new approach to solving problems. This empowers them to become the resource and the solution. SWD is the catalyst.

SWD + NRMA insurance Regatta 2005

For Sailors with disABILITIES, 2007 was a fantastic year. The crew won their division and division overall in Rolex Sydney to Hobart.

SWD are recognised for their International Day of the Disabled on the 3rd of December, 2008 - the objectives of this day was to raise awareness through celebration of disabled kids on the water with sporting heroes, and to build community spirit and fellowship amongst sports people.

The consistent media presence of Sailors with disABILITIES slowly and gradually brought them into the spotlight, following closely behind the entire purpose of the organisation and their mission to shift perceptions.

SBS: DisAble-Bodied Sailors

Documentary aired October 2010

"In the months leading up to the dangerous Sydney to Hobart yacht David and his core crew of disabled sailors initiate a new group of keen but unaware contenders with a multitude of disABILITIES, including missing limbs, broken backs, degenerative diseases and stroke suffers to sailing. They learn the ropes of sailing in a baptism of fire through storms and swells, and in wet and wild conditions. But there are just a few spots available on the boat."

The documentary series DisAble-Bodied Sailors has received two 2010 Samsung Mobile AFI Awards nominations - Best Documentary Series and Best Cinematography in a Documentary.

Sydney - Hobart 2009

“We teach children that it is okay to dream. I hope that children can see it’s possible to be disabled and still participate.”

Just a few of the many kids and youth activities run by Sailors with disABILITIES in the early 2000s.

Click on an album to explore more on Flickr.

David Pescud at the National Disability Service Innovation Awards.

The culmination of achievements both on and off the boats began to make clear a shift in thinking, as the point when what Sailors with disABILITIES were doing became accepted into the mainstream and recognised.

“It’s been a massive journey for me. It’s been empowering. I’d retired, built a boat to go sailing around the world, and then this happened. Some of the stuff I've seen over 20 years is astonishing. Now, I’m thinking about changing society. We owe it to the next generation to leave the world in a better place.”