This Brave Teenager Is Sailing To Hobart For The First Time – Without Her Wheelchair

Grace Kennedy, 19, explains how she feels before setting off in her first Hobart race aboard faceboat Sailors with disABILITIES.

The Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht got underway in spectacular fashion at 1pm today, with race favourite Wild Oats XI leading the fleet out through Sydney Heads.

Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards took first points in the tussle with rival Perpetual Loyal when it appeared that the 100ft supermaxi was forced above the first mark by Wild Oats XI, before they both peeled away to go around it. The move allowed a smaller 80ft Hong Kong boat, Beau Geste, to take second place around the mark before Perpetual Loyal’s superior boat speed took it back to second as the 94-boat fleet settled in for the 1000km trek south, tacking into a southerly breeze.

The start of the 2013 Rolex Sydney to Hobart

Perpetual Loyal has subsequently raised its protest flag, in a move that will undoubtedly reignite tensions between the two teams. When Loyal skipper Anthony Bell beat Wild Oats XI by three minutes to win the 2011 race in his previous boat, Investec Loyal, he had to survive a protest that he’d used a media helicopter to spy on Wild Oats XI.

[UPDATE: Perpetual Loyal has withdrawn its protest].

Another supermaxi, Ragamuffin, owned by veteran yachtsman and developer Sid Fischer, is also fighting for the lead, while former line honours winner Brindabella, broke the start and was forced to restart.

While conditions are light to begin the wind is expected to strengthen to gale-force, leading to massive 12-metre seas on Saturday, while the smaller boats are crossing Bass Strait.

While the conditions will be challenging, the 16-member crew of the 16-metre Lyons 54 faceboat Sailors with disABILITIES should be up for the challenge, having previously survived and won the 1998 race, the toughest yet.

On board the boat in her first Hobart is Grace Kennedy, 19, who has spina bifida and is normally in a wheelchair. She left it behind this morning as she climbed about the boat, skippered by Kirk Watson, who is legally blind and competing in his 9th race.

Sailors with disABILITIES (SWD) was founded by David Pescud to help disabled and disadvantaged young people and SWD has competed in 16 Rolex Sydney to Hobart races.

faceboat Sailors with disABILITIES is already showing its ability as one of the first 20 boats out Sydney Heads and currently leads its division.

SWD is still ‘seeking sponsorship for the boat’, which costs just $25, tax deductible, and donors will have their photo on the hull of the yacht for 12 months.

Business Insider will continue to monitor and report the progress of faceboat Sailors with disABILITIES as she races to Hobart.

The supermaxis jostle for position in the race up Sydney Harbour

Here’s SWD founder and faceboat Sailors with disABILITIES owner & navigator David Pescud on the weather they face, including big seas in Bass Strait.