When David PESCUD and his six crew members from sailors with disABILITIES left Sydney on May 25 to circumnavigate Australia on their Lyons 54' yacht, KAZ, their one wish was to finish what they started, to sail around Australia, non-stop and unassisted.
It was also to make the public aware that disabilities do not stop people from achieving their dreams, but quietly, their dream was to also break the existing race record - and a dream was all it was, until this afternoon.
At 15.04.16 (3.04.16pm) today, AEST, KAZ and her crew crossed the finish line between North Head Light off North Head, and Hornby Light off South Head, to write themselves into the world record books as not only the fastest time recorded for a circumnavigation of Australia for a monohull yacht, but the first disabled crew to successfully circumnavigate and break the existing record for this journey, which prior to today, had been held by an able-bodied crew.
The sailors with disABILITIES story is one of true grit and determination in the face of disbelievers and knockers in the past. Today, as in past endeavours, this group of dedicated, experienced and determined sailors did what many able-bodied sailors have been unable to do - they completed a circumnavigation in record time - the previous record of 43 days 19hrs 29min 55sec,was set by Australians, Jeremy Pearce and Kanga Birtles in October 1999, on a 60' monohull yacht.
KAZ and her crew shattered that record this afternoon, finishing in 37 days 1hr 23min 57sec., shaving over six and a half days off the prior record. They came ashore looking remarkably normal and composed, as if they had just gone out for a day sail.
Their Final Night At Sea
Today was particularly frustrating to Pescud and his crew - they found themselves with little breeze in the early hours of this morning, only able to get two and half knots of boat speed that eventually picked up by one knot, in drenching rain with grey skies - not exactly what they had in mind for a spectacular finish.
Eventually, around midday, they found the elusive wind, 15-20 knots worth, but more frustration, the wind oscillated, making it difficult to sail under spinnaker, which would have given them greater speed. Instead they pulled up their carbon jib-top headsail, and at times reached speeds of 12 knots to eventually make it to their finish point and glory.
An emotional David PESCUD (owner/skipper of KAZ) said on crossing the finishing line "I feel humbled, fantastic, unbelievable - 6500 nautical miles and we're here."
On breaking the race record, he commented, "it's an amazing feeling, when we crossed the line my guts went up and down a hundred times when I realised what we had done."
Out on the Harbour to greet KAZ and her crew, John MESSENGER, Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA), where KAZ races from said, "this is a fantastic effort and what a great achievement, for them, for our Club and for disabled sailors around the world. David Pescud and his crew have put Australia on the map in terms of disabled sailing, they are leading the way for others, I feel very proud of what they have done."
Greeting family and friends back on dry land, Pescud, close to tears said, "we had a good team on the boat, a good sponsor, a good weather guy (Roger 'Clouds' Badham) and a good team of people behind the scenes helping us. This is the business end of town, and the KAZ crew meant business. I really thank the guys for putting up with me, and for giving everything they had during this trip, I am so very proud of them."
At the presentation at the CYCA, sponsor, Peter Kazakos for KAZ, told those assembled, "this is tremendous and a huge undertaking. David Pescud is a very gutsy guy, and under his leadership these guys have proved you can achieve anything you want to. KAZ is so proud to sponsor such inspirational people."
Following his comments, John Messenger presented each of the seven crew, David PESCUD (severe Dyslexia), Phil THOMPSON (arm amputee), Kim JAGGAR (arm amputee), Al GRUNDY (polio), Harald MIRLIEB (deaf), Albert LEE (double leg amputee) and Brett PEARCE (Spina Bifida) with individual commemorative plaques.
Speaking of their epic voyage, Phil 'Bear' THOMPSON, an experienced offshore yachtsman commented, "it was so cold in the Southern Ocean, it was the first time in my life I have ever seen people wash dishes with gloves on - that's how cold it was! It was 10 degrees below deck, with humidity causing condensation inside the boat."
Of their slow progress today, Thompson said, "this morning was an absolute shocker, the worst. We have been chasing the dreaded sou-wester since Cape Leeuwin, but couldn't find it. We were lucky though, we didn't break anything major out there, only silly things happened, like a batten falling out of the main, and knots undoing themselves. We had new high-tech snakeskin sheets, they were just fantastic, no wear at all."
Asked about the best and worst of the trip,"the hardest was the Southern Ocean, it was really really cold. The best was rounding Maatsuyker Island at Tasmania, it was just awesome, wonderful, spectacular. We were in close and saw the lighthouse, the first land we had seen since Cape Wessel. We did see an oilrig too, and Brett was convinced there was a McDonald's there and wanted us to stop. The top of Australia was awesome too, I had never been there before, so that was something special.
We didn't flog KAZ around the course, we sailed a little conservatively because we wanted to finish our trip and to preserve and protect the boat for longevity, and that worked well. It will be hard being back home, we are all so used to our watch systems, it will be hard to get out of the habit of getting up every three hours or so, making coffee, waking people, checking what's going on, yes, it will be hard for a while,"
And what is next for KAZ - "we'll probably race in the CYCA Winter Series race this Sunday and then we have to plan the northern circuit races, starting with the Sydney-Gold Coast race,"