Sailors with disABILITIES

20 year Anniversary of the 1998 Sydney to Hobart

On Boxing Day 1998 the 54th Annual Running of the 'Blue Water Classic' the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race was set to commence at noon.

Earlier that morning SWD Founder David Pescud opened the Australian Newspaper to check the weather and his ‘heart sank into his deck shoes’. As although it was a perfectly sunny Summers day in Sydney the isobaric chart forecast in the weather section showed numerous lines running across the chart and what appeared to be a ‘vacuum’ weather system in Bass Straight.

As we know now this was an ominous sign as this race to Hobart would end in tragedy, with the loss of 6 lives and 5 yachts.

The SWD Crew which was made up of approximately 50% disabled and 50% able bodied consisted in part of Paul Borg who had lost his sight as a result of a progressive eye disease, Danny Kane who suffered paralysis after a stroke, Kim Jaggar who had lost an arm in a skiing accident, Harald Mirlief who was deaf and young Travis who was a 12 year old boy with dyslexia.

After the treacherous race that has since gone down in history the SWD Crew crossed the line in Hobart at 4am on December 29th. Ninth overall and first in their division.

The crew were over the moon because of their achievement but their emotions were wracked with guilt for feeling like that because so many others were suffering after the loss of lives.

After the 1998 Hobart the rules were changed. Participants now have to be over the age of 18, therefore Travis will forever be the youngest participant and winner of the Sydney to Hobart.

“When times are tough, like the 98 storms, it’s no big deal, because disabled people are use to problems and face difficulties everyday.”

- David Pescud

Read more about SWD History Here 

*With thanks to Helen O'Neill for information from her book 'Life without Limits' the story of David Pescud.