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2015 Landrover Sydney to Gold Coast Yacht Race

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Sailors with disABILITIES participated and completed the 2015 LandRover Sydney to Gold Coast Yacht Race with a crew of fifteen on
board Kayle, a 52ft Lyons grand prix offshore racing yacht purpose built for disabled people. 

According to the CYCA, "the 384 nautical mile race has attracted fleets of between 70 and 80 yachts each year, with entries coming mainly from New South Wales and Queensland, but also from Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and New Zealand. In 1997, a record fleet of 86 boats took part."

Heading out of Sydney


This year, SWD finished 41st overall, out of a fleet of 62, and 12th on handicap in the PHS Division with a time of 03:01:05:38 on July 28th, at 02:05:38 AM, or 2.05 AM in layman's terms.


After arriving in Southport, Mark Thomson, long-term crew volunteer and veteran of several Sydney to Hobarts said, "Our race result is a fair reflection of how we raced, but not of what we achieved. We have one crew member with Friedreich's Ataxia, a rare inherited disease that causes nervous system damage and movement problems, two crew who are amputees, one person with vision impairment, one who was was in a wheelchair, one with MS, and John Whitfeld as a first-time ocean racing skipper with SWD." 


Mark Thomson doing final safety checks on the RFD/Crewsaver safety equipment on Kayle pre-race.

Mark Thomson


When asked about the crew's achievements, SWD Founder, David Pescud, who did not join the race for the first time in many years, reflected on the success of the crew: "What a great way to start the 2015 sailing season off: with a brand new skipper, John Whitfeld, a new crew and a great, great success story--getting everybody to Southport safely. How proud we all are here in Sydney of our new team. They're getting ready for Sydney to Hobart and this was the first part of their training program. They're all there in the warmth, now, and we're here in the cold and they're feeling pretty proud of themselves, and so they should be. It's a pretty tough 384 mile race and sailed in trying conditions. We're very pleased with the outcome and looking forward to a great result in the Hobart race this year."


John Whitfeld, SWD's new ocean racing skipper, checking out the luff of the sails.

John Whitfeld Skipper


Kim Jaggar, Principal of Sydney Boy's High School and expert yachtie, front, and Greg Pugh, behind, saying G'day to Occasional Coarse Language in the race.



Greg Pugh (above, back), who has Multiple Sclerosis and was a participant in Oceans of Hope, a Danish initiative that sees a yacht crewed by people with Multiple Sclerosis circumnavigate the planet, said: "This race had been a great training exercise for many of our crew with limited ocean racing experience. We are now definitely a different crew from the one that started the race. Next up is to add a little lump and bump to it with the view of going to Hobart. It was a great race, even with damaged ribs (for me)."  

For many in the crew, this was their first ocean yacht race. After the race, Mark Ralph, a volunteer crew member who has sailed both Sydney to Hobart and Sydney to Gold Coast, sent us a text saying: 

"The weather Gods were extremely kind to us. It was great to share the experience with, I think, seven crew who were doing their first ocean race." 

Mark Ralph in the bottom left-hand corner in yellow with fellow crew mates during the race.

Gold Coast Crew


The CYCA introduced the Land Rover Sydney Gold Coast Yacht Race in 1986 as 'the great winter escape', taking advantage of the completion of the Gold Coast Seaway. The race has become a mainstay of the ocean yacht racing calendar in Australia and a litmus test for the Sydney to Hobart racing crews. 


Kristi Foster, who has been sailing with SWD for a number of years, said, "The race was a great learning experience for everyone. Some of the team had never been out overnight. I enjoyed the challenge of the race on my body." 


Kristi broke her back when she was twenty-one years old. Sixteen weeks after surgery to repair her spine she was in a car accident and broke her back again, and her neck. She's also been diagnosed with MS of the spine. To be a volunteer crew member with SWD, traveling 10 hours in each direction each weekend from Coffs Harbour to Sydney to train with the crew, and then to participate in this race is an awe-inspiring achievement. 


Saturday morning, a few hours before the 1 pm start, the full crew gather on Kayle. Kristi is bottom-right, at the front, with a cap and a big grin. 


Harry Atkinson, a twenty-four year old who was given the honour of steering Kayle over the finish line, had this to say about his experience: "The most inspiring and highlight of my Sydney to Gold Coast experience was seeing the look on Paul's wife and his son's faces when they saw him come out of the airport. It was more than an offshore yacht race. It was more than trying to go as quickly as we can. It's about creating change, making people believe that they can do whatever they want to do and inspire able and disabled people to never say I can't."


Paul Palmer, who has Friedreich's Ataxiahanging over the stern and being a complete inspiration to the crew in his first ocean yacht race. 

Paul Palmer


SWD thanks the SWD on-board crew and photographers, Harry and Kristi, who took the images which helped SWD win Day 1 of the Landrover Sydney to Gold Coast Yacht Race photography competition and show our community around the world what it's like to be on board during an ocean yacht race. The crew did a great job working together not only to sail a 384 nautical mile race, but to raise the profile of SWD's work and programs and inspire others to give it a go. A selection of images from the race follows below.

Winning photos



Preparations on the morning of the start of the race. 


Julia, the school Administration Manager at Cambewarra Public School, shows off the school hat. "Hi kids!"



Jim Igoe steering, Mark Thomson watching on while young Harry does his thing. 

Jim Igoe on the wheel



And sometimes we're blessed with these scenes, reminding us of the bigger picture!

Sunset off Kayle


You can help us make "I Can Steer from My Wheelchair" reality!

Click: I Can Steer from My Wheelchair

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