Skip to content

Volunteer Profile: Jacqueline Ann Wilson

< Previous    

This is the first in a series of interviews with Sailors with disABILITIES volunteers. In this interview you will meet Jacqueline, a crew and on-water program volunteer with SWD.

Click here if you're interested in volunteering with SWD

What is you background?

My parents emigrated to Australia from England when I was two years old. They both worked to raise a family of five children without the usual familial network.

I have two amazing children, both of whom I am very proud. My son, Josh, is twenty-four and my daughter, Jess, is twenty-two. I also have an adorable granddaughter, Edie, born in February this year.

In 2010, I was diagnosed with a chronic back condition. Sailing has become one of my favourite treatment therapies. I started sailing in races on Jervis Bay in 2011. My two mentors in sailing are both former Commodores of Jervis Bay Cruising Yacht Club: Anthony James Byrnes and the late Peter James Dallaway. I feel truly blessed. Every time I step on board a boat I remember the first lesson that Peter taught me:

“One hand for you, one hand for the boat.”

Jac with children in our Melbourne outreach campaign in March this year. 

Jacqueline Ann Melbourne

I participated in the Hamilton Island Race Week in 2011 and 2013, and Geelong Race Week 2012. This included the delivery of a Farr 1020 from Jervis Bay to Port Phillip to enter the inaugural Farr 2010 National Championship—we were runners-up!

What made you want to volunteer with SWD?

Whilst watching the Sydney to Hobart, 2013, my friend and mentor pointed out the SWD entry, WotEva. I was intrigued to know how people with such difficulties could work together as a crew to participate in this ocean race. So I rang SWD and I was invited to come along to the CYCA to participate in a race on Kayle, a 52ft Lyons grand prix offshore racing yacht purpose built for disabled people.

The people I met in that race were unique. The more I volunteer with SWD, the more amazing people I have the privilege of meeting.

Did a connection with disability, disadvantage or sailing influence you decision to volunteer?

Initially it was my connection with sailing that influenced my decision to volunteer. However, I have worked as a Learning Support Officer in a high school in the UK helping young people overcome the constraints of disability and disadvantage. Also, during my school years my best friend had progressive hearing loss and I helped her in any way I could, as friends do. So I guess the journeys of my life have lead me to volunteering with SWD.

Jac and the children in our first Melbourne Winds of Joy sailing programs head towards Kayle to head out on the water.  

Jacqueline Ann 3

What key activities have you undertaken on the boat as a volunteer crew member with SWD?

The key activity I have undertaken is engaging with the children and people, both young and not so young—the sailors with distinctive abilities. Besides that, I have learned about safety on board, how to work the bow, helming, and jib and mainsail trim. This is a true voyage and pleasure for me.

Jac working the bow on a corporate sail day last year. 

Jac Ann on bow

What are some of your achievements, personal and skills-based, since you began with SWD?

Being part of the crew delivering Kayle to Sandringham Yacht Club on Port Phillip Bay and participating in two weeks of the Victorian Initiative—SWD’s inaugural outreach program in Melbourne. Engaging with the children and youth from special schools was a joy to me. Their determination and zest for life is truly inspiring. 

Being part of the crew returning Kayle from Port Phillip Bay to the CYCA in Sydney, its berth.

In terms of racing, training on the bow on Kayle during the CYC Winter Series 2014 was a highlight.

And as for as safety goes, assisting SWD to research the purchase of defibrillators as part of the safety equipment on board initiative was also a highlight.

Currently I am training on Kayle, aspiring to participate as crew in the next Sydney to Hobart.

Jac, left-side, front, with the black cap and the full crew of Kayle before the start of the Landrover Sydney to Gold Coast Yacht Race. 

Gold Coast Race Crew

Jac and Mark Ralph on Kayle before the start of the Sydney to Gold Coast Yacht Race last Saturday. 

Jacqueline Ann 2

What have you enjoyed most about volunteering with SWD?

My greatest joy has come from engaging with people of all ages and levels of ability. I love my life!

What have you found the greatest challenge about volunteering with SWD?

I have a fierce independent streak and, even with my back problem, I do find it difficult to ask for assistance. With SWD I have discovered that all of us, however able-bodied or able-minded we are, need someone to reach out a helping hand every now and then and it is okay to ask for help. In terms of sailing, the greatest challenge was the delivery of Kayle to and from Port Phillip; that was five days at sea and the weather was not always nice. But we did it and we were a cohesive crew, supporting each other.

What have you found surprising?

That I am competitive! Sports, at school and since, were not something I enjoyed. However I have discovered my competitive streak in sailing with SWD!

What are the benefits of volunteering with SWD?

While helping to create change for others, I’m creating change in myself.

What would you say to anyone considering volunteering on the water with SWD?

Do it!

“The greatest revolution of our times is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” William James.

As a volunteer crew member with SWD, we are encouraged to look, listen, sense and be aware of our surroundings and circumstances, to voice our observations and assessments. In return, these are listened to with respect, even if they are completely wrong. What a wonderful way to learn about sailing, about myself and about life.

As I said above about the benefits, I have learned that as your help create change for others, you, in turn, are creating change for yourself.

What would most people not know about you that they would find surprising to know?

That I can do as I am told. That I do have a competitive streak!

Jac living it up!


We wish to thank Jac for being so candid and generous with her time with SWD and her responses in this interview.

If you're interested in volunteering like Jac does, don't let the big yachts deter you. Anyone can learn how to do the basics to volunteer in our youth programs. We do have training programs for all levels, and the old hands help the new hands along the way. The yachts are just the vehicles we use to work with children and help create transformative experiences. You can be a part of that volunteer network here. 

RFD Australia P/L logo

Share this with your friends

Making Waves Foundation test

Social Links