David Pescud, co-founder of Sailors with disABILITIES (SWD), today announced the group's most ambitious project to-date.
At a press conference held at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, Pescud announced that he and six fellow SWD members will circumnavigate Australia non-stop and unassisted on the group's Lyons 54' yacht, KAZ.
In doing so, the crew aim to beat Kanga Birtles' unofficial time of just under 44 days, set in 1999 and therefore create an official World Record for both able-bodied and disabled crew.
The crew, which comprises David Pescud (Skipper), Phil Thompson, Kim Jaggar, Harald Mirlieb, Allan Grundy, Albert Lee and Brett Pearce, plan to circumnavigate in an anti-clockwise direction, due to weather patterns at this time of year, and will leave sometime in May when the conditions are favourable.
Of Pescud's crew, Mirlieb, Grundy and Lee are all original members of SWD and as such, were part of the first disabled crew to ever enter the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race. Another original member, and part of that crew, Vinny Lauwers, has since set the record for the first paraplegic to sail around the world single-handed, non-stop and unassisted. [Ed Note: Vinny Lauwers was a nominee for the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards in 2000 - for further information click here]
In 1998, Pescud and his crew were one of only 44 yachts of the original 115 starters to finish the tragic Sydney-Hobart race. They finished 9th in line honours and won their class. Along with this latest '03 Project', these accomplishments send a message to all disabled people, 'anything is possible if you set your mind to it.'
The World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC), based in the UK, will sanction the attempt. Officially, the governing body, represented by John Brooks, will time the start and the finish at Sydney's South Head, although the crew will depart from between the Opera House and Admiralty House, giving family, friends and onlookers ample opportunity to wave them on their way in a spectacular setting.
Meteorologist to the yachting fraternity, Roger 'Clouds' Badham, will keep KAZ on track with daily weather reports. Many have depended on Badham in the past, including America's Cup teams, Olympic teams, Around the World Single-Handed record holders, Kay Cottee and Jesse Martin, and numerous others.
Conditions permitting, KAZ will be in regular communication so everyone can track their progress, including numerous schools Australia wide that are keen to get involved in the exploits of the crew.
Pescud said the crew were also sending an environmental message to all Australians, and for their part, will retain all rubbish onboard their yacht until the finish. They have been working with their Patron, 'Mr Clean Up Australia', Ian Kiernan, to make the trip as environmentally friendly as they can.
Pescud, who is passionate about SWD and all it stands for, said today, 'this trip is about telling everyone with disabilities they can do it. That is what it is about for me. If we can break a record on the way, great, but I want us to have fun - I want us to come home friends - still talking to each other.'
He went on to explain, 'The crew for this venture have been chosen for their compatibility and particular sailing skills, but the compatibility is extremely important. We have an all-Australian crew on an Australian designed and built boat, owned by an Australian, sponsored by an Australian company, circumnavigating Australia - you can't get more Australian than that!'
'We couldn't have done this without the long term commitment of our sponsors KAZ - they have been and are, behind us all the way, 100%, and we also have our Club, the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, right behind us, and thank them for the support they give SWD, especially with this venture,' he added.
Prior to announcing the circumnavigation of Australia, Pescud also launched his biography 'Life Without Limits', written by Helen O'Neill and published by Random House. It will be available in all major bookshops throughout Australia from May.