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Setting sail -

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Setting sail

Broadcast: 22/12/2010

Reporter: Bronwyn Herbert

A group of sailors with disabilities has been gifted a half million dollar yacht - making them
eligible to compete in the prestigious Rolex Cup.

Transcript

HEATHER EWART, PRESENTER: Known as the 'Everest of sailing' the Sydney to Hobart race challenges
the most seasoned of yachtsmen on what can be a treacherous ocean voyage.

Most of the focus is on the big maxi-yachts competing for line honours. But a unique crew of blind
and deaf sailors is also commanding attention.

The charity organisation, Sailors With Disabilities, has been gifted a half-million dollar fast
yacht, making them eligible for the first time in the prestigious Rolex Cup.

Bronwyn Herbert reports.

DISABLED SAILOR: For us you know, Sailors With Disabilities to sail the boat to the maximum of its
handicap so the maximum of its potential is a bit of an eye opener for the world to say that
disabled people can do this.

DAVID PESCUD, SKIPPER: I've got people with bits missing all over the place you know, you can go
downstairs any time and there's prosthetics in bunks you know, but to be truthful, I never see it,
these guys sail the boat and they sail the boat well. Yeah, so I mean they're tough.

BRONWYN HERBERT, REPORTER: The charity Sailors With Disabilities has competed in 16 of 65 Sydney to
Hobart races, but this year marks an important first for the crew. The gift of this new fast yacht
named 'Wot Eva' means they'll be challenging for the main Tattersall's Cup for the first time.

KIRK WATSON, SAILOR: Previously we've rated performance handicap, so racing that, you know it's
based on the boat and the crew where IRC is based on the boat.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Kirk Watson was born with a degenerative eye disease that blinded him as a
teenager, but it hasn't slowed his passion for ocean racing.

KIRK WATSON: On target now.

BRONWYN HERBERT: He's considered a salt dog, having sailed for 20 years, including eight Sydney to
Hobarts. His guide dog Tiller regularly hops on board for the ride.

KIRK WATSON: Pretty hard for me to communicate with the deaf blokes because you know, they can't
hear me, I can't see them (laughs), so that makes for some interesting times.

BRONWYN HERBERT: A new recruit is 29-year-old Tom Murphy. He thought his hearing disability would
ruin any chance to ever crew in a competitive team.

TOM MURPHY, SAILOR: I was a bit negative at first about finding a competitive crew and a big boat
that would be able to adopt me and adapt with my hearing impairment and find a good way of
communication.

Fortunately with Sailors With Disabilities, actually it's not a problem. They've had hearing
impaired people in the past.

BRONWYN HERBERT: The sailors rely on sign language and constant communication. They've also adapted
by doing jobs that suit their own skills.

TOM MURPHY: It doesn't matter if you're actually hearing impaired when in a 30, 40 knot wind
because nobody can hear anyway. So even people you hear normally use a lot of hand signs, like turn
and hold, so I guess in that way I feel comfortable and I see it doesn't matter, really.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Skipper David Pescud, who is dyslexic, has an enviable track record. He's made it
to Hobart 19 times, including the treacherous year of 1998 when six sailors died and 66 boats
didn't finish.

DAVID PESCUD: We'll be pushing just as hard on this boat as we were on the old boat.

GARRY LINACRE, CRUISING YACHT CLUB: He's got a very, very great amount of talent and skill in
bringing together people with disabilities and moulding them into a crew and he's been doing it for
a number of years and sometimes I stand there in awe of what they're doing.

BRONWYN HERBERT: The surprise gift of a new state-of-the-art boat is what gives these sailors fresh
firepower.

DAVID PESCUD: A good comparison would be the other boat is like a V8 Commodore, that type of car -
big, fast, but a bit heavier.

This one's like a Formula One, Grand Prix sort of boat. Yeah, it's the business, you know. This is
the one that they race them all over the world.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Graeme Wood, the founder of Internet group Wotif says he donated the yacht because
he was so inspired by the crew.

GRAEME WOOD, WOTIF.COM FOUNDER: The Sydney to Hobart is a pretty tough race for able bodied people,
especially those prone to sea sickness getting belted around for two or three days at a time. So
going there when you're blind, missing a limb or two, that is extremely inspirational. So that was
the main reason.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Crew members say they have a point to prove and skipper David Pescud says he knows
the team will give everything.

DAVID PESCUD: They deliver every day. You get up every day and pull your pants on with one arm, you
know and just that's a matter of thought, so when I say change head sails in the middle of Bass
Strait at three o'clock in the morning, up they go, job gets done and move on.

TOM MURPHY: We want to send out a message to all the yachting community that it doesn't matter
whether you're disabled or not you can get a good result, no matter how you are, whether you're
hearing impaired or deaf or missing a leg or an arm.

Hopefully with a quick, fast boat we can get a good result.

HEATHER EWART: Bronwyn Herbert reporting.