If you call yourself a sailor and keep half an eye out for sailing news, there’s every chance you’ve heard of a group called Sailors with disABILITIES (SWD).
Founder David Pescud was inspired to create the group after hearing Phil Vardy, a paraplegic man, on the radio in 1994 saying he wanted to sail a Sydney to Hobart but couldn’t find a boat to take him. Being dyslexic, David had always thought about how people with differences were treated so he called Phil up and told him he had a boat.
‘I saw it as a good challenge,’ David told me. ‘We put another couple of calls out, and within minutes we had a handful [of volunteers]. So we did the training and did the ’94 Hobart. It was a one off as far as I was concerned.’ But the support was there for the program to continue, so David did it again. ‘One more time, then did two more and it went from there,’ he recalls.
Since then, and after a few more Hobarts, SWD have sailed Sydney Southports, up and down the east coast, to Lord Howe Island and have taken thousands of disabled and disadvantaged kids sailing.
With the program firmly established in Sydney, SWD have recently expanded and formed a permanent presence in Melbourne, providing opportunities for young people with disabilities to sail through their Winds of Joy programs.
Using the specially modified Farr 47 NinetySeven, SWD can accommodate those in wheelchairs. SWD haven’t been able to keep up with demand for the program and are asking for more volunteers to help crew the boat.
‘Our bread and butter are our volunteers,’ says David. ‘Ideally they have sailing experience, that’s great, but mostly we’re looking for a good attitude. We really want people who support our vision.’
You can find more details about volunteering as crew with SWD Melbourne here and you can Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.