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75th Rolex Sydney Hobart Wrap Up

Skipper David's wrap up of our participation in the 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race as well as 25 years of us sailing in this epic ocean race

Twenty-five years ago, a bunch of men and women sat in a pub in Hobart town, looking back on the adventures of 1994 and what had been achieved. Remembering the 60 knot SW gales from the Sydney to Gold Coast race, the surprise of the south east trades in the Mooloolaba to Airlie race and then the Lord Howe Island ocean race, all leading up to the 50th Sydney Hobart Race in 1994. There were so many firsts that year.

Sitting in the airport today, my mind wanders back to those intervening 25 years and of the race just completed. It's probably a good time to have a review of SWD achievements to date. Like I said, 1994 had many firsts. Our next challenge came in 1998 when 90 knot cyclonic winds tested our crew's metal. That team, Travis - a 12 year old dyslexic kid, a blind guy from Victoria, Kym - an arm amputee, Harold - a deaf guy, Danny - stroke victim, ABs (able-bodied persons), and newbies... The seamanship this crew displayed in that race was typical of the standard set; the success due to significant training programs.

Setting the World Sailing Speed Record in 2003 for the circumnavigation of Australia, non-stop and unassisted - seven sailors with disabilities, breaking the former record by 6 days. The success of this was due to planning, commitment and the idea that we had to take on the Southern Ocean in the middle of winter (because we needed the winter south-east trade winds to get over the top of Australia).

So when people talk about the real challenges of the Southern Ocean, it was an SWD crew that accepted her on her terms and dealt with it. In conjunction with our racing program we have developed inclusive sailing programs that range from Mackay in North Queensland down to Hobart in Tasmania, a base in Melbourne and Sydney, creating the opportunity for beginners that have never sailed before to progress towards the possibility of joining our team in the Sydney Hobart Race, or perhaps just experiencing the wind and movement of the yacht, and sharing it with your friends. 12 months ago we restored a wooden boat with a group of young trainees and took it to the Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart - another first. 

Photo: yacht Carpe Diem in Constitution Dock, Hobart after completing the 1994 Sydney Hobart Race - the first disabled crew to sail this race

Photo: sailing in the 1995 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race on board David Pescud's yacht Carpe Diem (David is behind the helm in this image)

 2019 will certainly not go down as our greatest Sydney Hobart Race, or maybe it will. How do you measure success from an SWD perspective? Obviously, as a yachtsman, going fast and getting on the dais is a good thing. But from SWD's perspective, this may well have been one of my best Hobarts. We tried something new - which is what SWD does. So what was the 2019 race like? It's kind of funny about big races. They seem to take forever to get to the 10 minute starting gun, there is this conversation about whether we should take the right or the left, what's the best area of the harbour, four start lines going on, just get the boat out through The Heads and away.

This year it was quite a chaotic affair with a north-east breeze, multiple rounding marks to identify, and we all found ourselves stacked on the left-hand side of the race course. I don't think I have heard so many water calls in a big race before. Six boats on starboard and the leeward boat calls, "Water"! Six boats then tack onto port in unison. I didn't think much of it at the time, but it was pretty cool! Aim of the start - clear the ocean mark and head to Hobart. You could feel the tension as the boat turned south to Van Diemen's land. I could hear the newbies wondering what would become of us during our first night at sea. We set a hounds asymmetric spinnaker.

To say that first night was interesting would be an understatement! I think we dropped out of the race for 4 hours. Sunrise found us heading south, around Batemans Bay, with some significant sail handling issues to be addresses. We had dropped the sails down to the main and the big jib top, which was very manageable and gave a lot of the crew the opportunity to steer.

I should introduce the crew to you; starting from the bow with Ilter, the two mast men were Duncan and Jordan, Cathy, Jodie and Bridget were on strings and trim, Mike and Andrew on heady trim and steering, Jen on heady and spinnaker trim, Craig was navigator, watch captain and steerer, Mark was watch captain, boss trimmer and steerer, Steve and Kirk were on main sheet, Mitsu and Mak on pumps, and yours truly doing something... Editors note - Click here to read crew profiles on our website

So where are we first morning? 35 miles behind where we should be... Do we pull out or go on? I must admit, after the previous night's performance the thought of withdrawing crossed my mind. The weather forecast was good, and this type of decision has to be put in the context of your environment, and the team were taking ownership of the situation... so Cape Rhouel and Organ Pipes, here we come! That night saw us crossing Bass Strait with 30 knots of NE - Mark tipped out at 20 plus knots boat speed.

After a fast passage across Bass Strait, sunrise found us south of Eddystone Light. One of the things people may not understand is the decision-making process that is going on constantly on a racing yacht. In this case - do we close the coast early? Or do we stay out wide? And what about that patch of no wind in front of us? It is at these times that access to good weather information becomes paramount. Back to the race, and by now we were handling mast head spinnakers and handling them well. I was pleased with the decision to proceed. Struggling around Tasman Light in next to no breeze saw some nice sail trim as we gybed and gybed and gybed... After being becalmed off Port Arthur, the crew worked us back into the breeze line. We felt our teammate Bear's presence, with his wet weather jacket flying from the stern pushpit. Duncan was on the wheel for the finish, with a honking SE coming up Storm Bay to send us home - he will always be part of SWD's future. 

So where will our 25th Hobart Race go in SWD history? It has to rate as one of our best races for the following reasons. Firstly, SWD did in 2019 what it does very well, and I believe that it is our strength - we took a disparate group of people on an adventure and got there, nothing broken, a few bruises, and that's what we are about. Secondly, we had fun, and too much fruit cake!! Thirdly, it was lots of people helping lots of people to achieve their personal goals. It's amazing any time you have an opportunity to share in a person's life journey.

So who are these people who started the race and ended up as a crew?

In no particular order or significance:

  • Steve - a mad Irishman/Pom, dealing with some significant health issues, he brought compassion, understanding and skill to the crew
  • Kirk - humour, skill in bucket loads and too much fruit cake!
  • Mike - enthusiasm, skill and commitment
  • Craig - detail, professionalism and compassion
  • Mark - skill, amazing work ethic and support
  • Bridget - skill, sharing and experience
  • Cathy - skill, sharing and experience
  • Jen - skill, sharing and experience with a smile
  • Mak - enthusiasm, one of the best grinders I have seen for a while, and a good listener
  • Mitsu - kind, hardworking and a team player
  • Jodie - enthusiastic, always ready for a job, and committed to the project
  • Duncan - I am going to say one thing besides his obvious enthusiasm, he gets what SWD is on about!
  • Ilter - bucket loads of enthusiasm, energy and commitment
  • Jordan - watching him grow through the journey was indeed exciting
  • Andrew - quiet confidence, and his skill was impressive

It would be remiss not to mention three people who added significantly to this campaign:

  • Renee - her level of commitment and work ethic is inspirational
  • Kathy - standing down due to a war injury at the last minute, we expect to see you back in 2020
  • Brett - behind the scenes work and training in the lead up, but had to pull out due to a broken wrist (Footpath - 1, Brett - 0). However, you will be pleased to know he rang me yesterday and said, "I've got an idea" - of course I hung up immediately!

So that was the crew of the 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart, and that's what it takes to make a successful team.

So where will our 25th Hobart Race go in SWD history? It has to rate as one of our best races for the following reasons. Firstly, SWD did in 2019 what it does very well, and I believe that it is our strength - we took a disparate group of people on an adventure and got there, nothing broken, a few bruises, and that's what we are about. Secondly, we had fun, and too much fruit cake!! Thirdly, it was lots of people helping lots of people to achieve their personal goals. It's amazing any time you have an opportunity to share in a person's life journey.

So who are these people who started the race and ended up as a crew?

In no particular order or significance:

  • Steve - a mad Irishman/Pom, dealing with some significant health issues, he brought compassion, understanding and skill to the crew
  • Kirk - humour, skill in bucket loads and too much fruit cake!
  • Mike - enthusiasm, skill and commitment
  • Craig - detail, professionalism and compassion
  • Mark - skill, amazing work ethic and support
  • Bridget - skill, sharing and experience
  • Cathy - skill, sharing and experience
  • Jen - skill, sharing and experience with a smile
  • Mak - enthusiasm, one of the best grinders I have seen for a while, and a good listener
  • Mitsu - kind, hardworking and a team player
  • Jodie - enthusiastic, always ready for a job, and committed to the project
  • Duncan - I am going to say one thing besides his obvious enthusiasm, he gets what SWD is on about!
  • Ilter - bucket loads of enthusiasm, energy and commitment
  • Jordan - watching him grow through the journey was indeed exciting
  • Andrew - quiet confidence, and his skill was impressive

It would be remiss not to mention three people who added significantly to this campaign:

  • Renee - her level of commitment and work ethic is inspirational
  • Kathy - standing down due to a war injury at the last minute, we expect to see you back in 2020
  • Brett - behind the scenes work and training in the lead up, but had to pull out due to a broken wrist (Footpath - 1, Brett - 0). However, you will be pleased to know he rang me yesterday and said, "I've got an idea" - of course I hung up immediately!

So that was the crew of the 75th Rolex Sydney Hobart, and that's what it takes to make a successful team.

Will SWD be on the start line in 2020? Well, that's up to you and our crew...

Well done shipmates!

David Pescud

Founder, Sailors with disABILITIES

Click here for more information on our 25th Sydney Hobart Race, and to see photo galleries, videos and audio content

Sailors with disABILITIES wishes to thank all our sponsors, supporters and donors who make life changing sailing experiences happen through us. Our programs would cease to exist without them and our wonderful volunteers.


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