A deadly two-metre sea snake, freezing gusts of wind reaching 60 knots an hour and the absence of hot showers or fresh vegetables failed to stop a team of seven disabled sailors setting a new record for circumnavigating Australia.
The epic journey was so enjoyable that they will repeat it next May and have thrown down the gauntlet to other crews wanting to take them on.
Sailors with Disabilities (SWD) returned to Sydney Harbour last Tuesday aboard the 16.2m KAZ Group yacht — 37 days, 1 hour, 23 minutes and 57 seconds after it had left — taking six days and 23 hours of a four-year-old monohull record set by the Magna Data and its able-bodied crew.
Skipper, David Pescud, attributed the fast time to a crew that got better and better as time went on but admitted favourable weather conditions had also played a part.
Despite completing the 10,000kms around Australia so quickly, the trip was not without incident. “The funniest thing happened when one of the guys was fishing and pulled a huge clump of seaweed on board,” said Pescud. “He started to reach down and gather it up when a two-metre sea snake emerged and everyone just ran to the other end of the boat. We were flying along at a good speed while the whole crew was drawing straws to decide who would have to tackle the snake.
“Eventually, one guy held it down with a stick while another grabbed it behind the head with a big pair of barbecue tongs and threw it back overboard.”
The SWD team posted regular updates on the charity’s website and built up a cult following especially with children, many of whom sent them messages.
The crew reserved special mention for two young sisters in WA — one with dyslexia and the other with cerebral palsy – who followed them every inch of the way.
“What these guys have achieved is truly amazing,” KAZ boss and main sponsor, Peter Kazacos, said. “This would be an immensely brave undertaking and accomplishment for anyone, but for seven disabled people to have achieved so much demonstrates the pioneering spirit and determination that Sailors with Disabilities represents.”
The only disappointing aspect of the feat was a failure to raise its target of $50,000 towards a kidney unit for Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney.
Anybody wanting to make a donation should visit www.sailorswithdisabilities.com.