Special sailing for hundreds of Hunter kids with disabilities

Children from Newcastle Middle School were among kids with disabilities who rode on the Sydney-to-Hobart yacht Kayle after it docked at Wickham yesterday. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
Children from Newcastle Middle School were among kids with disabilities who rode on the Sydney-to-Hobart yacht Kayle after it docked at Wickham yesterday. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

HUNDREDS of Hunter kids with disabilities will get to try their hand at sailing in a world record-holding yacht which has docked in Newcastle Harbour thanks to an annual campaign.

Sailors With DisABILITIES has set sail twice a day on Sydney to Hobart racer Kayle since the 54-foot vessel arrived on August 24, with more than 300 kids expected to experience sailing by the time it leaves on September 4.

Volunteer Tony Purkiss, from Merewether, has drawn on several decades of sailing knowledge since he began working with the organisation 10 years ago, after he lost significant amounts of vision in one of the Bali bombing attacks.

He said sharing the joy of the water in the specially-built yacht, which can cater for wheelchairs, has been immensely rewarding.

"The kids help hoist the sails, they all get on and have a steer if they want to steer, we try to encourage as much participation as we can, so they can really get the feel of being part of it, being sailors out on the water," Mr Purkiss said.

During the two-hour sails, the volunteers and crew have spotted dolphins and whales as an added surprise.

"They just love it. The joy on their faces is just amazing."