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Grace Kennedy - Racing to Hobart

Grace Kennedy was born with Spina Bifida and has been confined to a wheelchair all her life.grace kennedy races to hobart

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's Grace's story in her own words.

"After so much work this year and the build up to the race, I felt pretty overwhelmed at the start line, if I'm honest.

There were boats everywhere and we were racing against them! It was incredible to be part of such an iconic race at such a young age.

Once we were out of the heads and into clear water, we went East a long way before turning South.

This was a great tactic, because once we turned, we could take advantage of the 'Nemo' current and some good wind pressure and gain a great position.

My job on board is at the cockpit.

I'm either pit one or two pulling up and down head sails and spinnakers and dealing with the jib sheets when we tack.


Stand-out moments

A lot of the race is blur to me but there are stand out moments I will remember forever.

At once stage we ripped a headsail and I really enjoyed helping Brad repair it. We sat down below in the middle of the ocean repairing a ripped sail - very cool.

And near the end, when we were coming down the Derwent River on the home stretch, David Pescud cracked open a bottle of rum.

I had my glass in my hand and a wave rocked a wave the boat. I was desperately holding onto the rail with one hand and holding my rum with the other hand. There were lots of jokes cracked about 'My life or my rum!'

Also the team let me steer the boat over the finish line - that was an amazing feeling.



sailors with disabilites yacht racing sydney to hobart

The friendships I've made with the whole crew are very special.

It was lovely to know there were people out there looking after me when I was scared. You get very close to people when you spend four days at sea to hobart swd

There were some pretty tough moments. For example, on the night shift, crawling around on deck is difficult. You can't see and you're trying to feel your way around obstacles, not knowing where you are.

It was freezing cold, but I was well prepared with thermals (and spares) and a great set of Helly Hansen gear.

I had different moments. At the start I was freaking out and getting used to the crashing of the waves, but by the third day I was watching the waves roll under the boat.


Scary moments

When the rough seas pounded us, it was very scary. The boat slides down the waves then crashes with a big bang, depending on the waves.Sydney to Hobart MWF - Grace Kennedy

It was scary not knowing if the next day we would be across Bass Strait or still in the middle, wondering if we would survive it.

It was lovely to have the sea of faces on the side of faceboat supporting me - even throughout the dark, moonless nights, I knew I was safe, and that the faces of family, friends and total strangers would guide me to Hobart.






Have I changed?

Well, I think I am a bit more assertive. Mum asked me if I needed a hand to get ready yesterday. The new Grace replied,

'Mum. I've just been at sea for four days. Do you think I need help to get ready?'

What's next?....

Well, I'd love to do more sailing but for a couple of weeks I'm going to have a rest. Then it's back to college in Feb finish my HSC this year." Read more about the build up to the race


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Grace would like to thank the following for their support: the local Community Bank, St Georges Basin Country Club, Ladies Auxilliary, Classic Home Improvements, and Helly Hansen, who supplied all her sailing gear.

A huge thanks to the staff, students, and P&C at Vincentia high. Also, a big thanks to the entire crew, whose encouragement, support and belief in Grace really made the journey the success it has been. Not just for Grace, but for her core and extended family and her local community.


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