Please select your home edition
Edition
Festival of Sails 2017

Paraplegic yachtsman finds freedom through Sailors with disabilities

by Polly Taylor on 31 Oct 2013
Vinny Lauwers - Paraplegic Sydney to Hobart yachtsman Polly Job
It takes immense bravery and determination to sail non-stop, unassisted around the world. What if you’re also paraplegic? And what if you decide to build your own boat? Are you staring down the barrel of the impossible?

Seemingly not for one gutsy Australian, Vinny Lauwers. After an abusive childhood and a motorbike accident no-one thought he would survive Vinny found himself confined to a wheelchair. Sailing was Vinny’s escape – heading away from shore with the wind blowing through his hair he discovered the freedom many sailors before him have relished.

The voyage to sailing around the world started over a bottle or two of red wine with a number of the founder members of Australian Charity Sailors with disabilities (SWD).

The chat ended in the decision to enter the 1994 Rolex Sydney to Hobart race with a disabled crew. Lots of people thought they were crazy… and lots of people were proved wrong. The SWD team successfully conquered the might of Bass Strait and found a new sense of pride as they discovered who they were along the way. (And just for the record SWD are still competing in the race)

Over the coming years Vinny sailed regularly with SWD building his knowledge and skill and clocking up the miles he needed to achieve his dream.

In the words of SWD founder David Pescud
'Vinny came on board with some knowledge of boating and yachting. It was an absolute pleasure to help him reach the next level. Vinny was like a sponge - we couldn’t feed him information fast enough. And throughout the steep learning curve and rough seas, Vinny was a wonderful shipmate – a great person to have in your team.


I will always remember one Mooloolaba to Airlie beach race, coming on deck with the Adams 15 flying down a wave at 15 knots, and Vinny at the wheel grinning from ear to ear - a natural borne yachtsman totally in his element!'

Vinny was named the World Disabled Sportsperson of the Year 2001 after he became the first paraplegic to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world.

The journey took 233 days. Unbelievably Vinny broke his back again during one incident. It took incredibly strength to dig deep and keep going through that.

In Vinny’s words
'I never thought I couldn’t make it… but I did have to ask when things went wrong is someone going to have to risk their life to come out to get me?
Sailing round the world experience allowed me to come to terms with myself and put life into perspective. The troubles of the world and everyday life in society faded away. I am incredibly grateful to Sailors with disabilities for passing on their knowledge and inspiring me to believe I could do it'

Vinny Lauwers is now a successful motivational speaker who encourages people not to be defined by what they can’t do but what they can.

Sailors with disabilities have launched an innovative fundraiser for this year’s Sydney to Hobart yacht race. The Faceboat website (http://www.faceboat.org.au/) allows members of the public to upload a photo of themselves or a loved one to the site which will then be printed on the side of their Sydney to Hobart racing yacht.


For more information please See the Sailors with disability website
And for more information on Faceboat please see - Faceboat Website

Harken AUS HL Snatch Block 660x82Festival of Sails 2017 660x82Naiad/Oracle Supplier

Related Articles

Aon Youth Sailing Worlds - Ups and downs. Winners to underdogs
2016 Aon Youth Sailing Worlds will see the return of inaugural girl's 29er winners who are back to defend their title The 2016 Aon Youth Sailing World Championships will see the return of the inaugural girl's 29er winners who are back to defend their title, but they know it won't be easy.
Posted today at 12:43 am
World Sailing Cup Final - Live video coverage from Melbourne - Day 2
The Medal Races on Sunday 11 December will draw the 2016 Sailing World Cup Melbourne Final to a close. The Medal Races on Sunday 11 December will draw the 2016 Sailing World Cup Melbourne Final to a close. The deciding races will be streamed live on World Sailing TV on YouTube. Coverage started at midday local time or 0100UTC
Posted on 10 Dec
Vendée Globe – Day 35 – Lost weekend
For Thomson and Armel Le Cléach'h the leaders of the race, Sunday morning should provide some time to regroup mentally For Alex Thomson and Armel Le Cléach'h the leaders of the race, Sunday morning should provide some time to regroup mentally, to snatch some rest, to thoroughly check their boats and to somehow prepare for the next battering.
Posted on 10 Dec
RORC Transatlantic Race – Day 15 – Maverick blasts into Grenada
Infiniti 46, Maverick, skippered by Cotterell crossed the finish line outside Camper and Nicholsons Port Louis Marina. Infiniti 46, Maverick, skippered by Oliver Cotterell crossed the finish line outside Camper and Nicholsons Port Louis Marina, Grenada. The British yacht, with radical side foils is provisionally the winner of IRC Canting Keel and currently placed second overall under IRC
Posted on 10 Dec
Full day of competition at the Sailing World Cup Melbourne
Every class made it out onto Port Phillip Bay on the penultimate day in conditions very different to the last two days. Finally every class made it out onto Port Phillip Bay on the penultimate day in conditions very different to the previous two days. Flat seas and sou’west winds struggling at five knots in fact made the going hard for the Invited and Olympic opening session that began at midday.
Posted on 10 Dec
Extreme Sailing Series™ to go down to the wire after penultimate day
The battle for the ESS™ title took a new twist today as Red Bull Sailing Team squeezed in between Alinghi and Oman Air The battle for the Extreme Sailing Series™ title took a new twist today as Red Bull Sailing Team squeezed in between Act 8 leaders Alinghi and overall table toppers Oman Air on the penultimate day of the 2016 season finale in Sydney.
Posted on 10 Dec
Aussies medal at Sailing World Cup - Melbourne
Australians have won Gold in two classes, Silver and Bronze on the penultimate day of SWC Melbourne 2016 Australians have won Gold in two classes, Silver and Bronze on the penultimate day of SWC Melbourne 2016, the final event on the World Cup circuit for 2016. Rio 2016 Silver Medallists, Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin won the medal race today to take the Gold in the Nacra 17.
Posted on 10 Dec
Andrea Francolini images of CYCA Trophy Passage Series
Many thanks to Andrea Francolini for providing these images of CYCA Trophy Passage Series - Race One. Many thanks to Andrea Francolini for providing these images of CYCA Trophy Passage Series - Race One.
Posted on 10 Dec
All to do on final day of Extreme Sailing Series for Team Oman Air
Points proved elusive for Team Oman Air on the third day of racing in Sydney as the Act 8 leaderboard was rejigged ahead Points proved elusive for Team Oman Air on the third day of racing in Sydney as the Act 8 leaderboard was dramatically rejigged ahead of the crucial final day of the 2016 Extreme Sailing Series.
Posted on 10 Dec
Meet the 2017-18 Crew - Daniel Clifton
NSW, Australia, Computer Operator Daniel Clifton never dreamed he would one day be a part of the Clipper Race. Growing up in the country in Forbes, NSW, Australia, Computer Operator Daniel Clifton never dreamed he would one day be a part of the Clipper Race.
Posted on 10 Dec