MANY people can’t sleep the night before Christmas but Vincentia resident Grace Kennedy won’t be getting much sleep the night before Boxing Day.
Her dream will come true on Boxing Day when she takes part in the iconic Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Grace is an integral member of the Sailors with disABILITIES yacht.
Each member of the crew has some form of disability and Grace is one of the crew’s rookies.
She will be no doubt thinking about many things before race day – hopefully one of them will be how she overcame so much adversity in her life.
Born with spina bifida, Grace has no use of her legs.
She also had to battle infections when she was younger, which could have resulted in death.
So it’s no wonder she is pretty calm about taking her place in this great race.
For weeks she has been training for race day.
“I am physically and mentally prepared for the race,” she said.
Grace won’t let the crew down.
Her mother Nicki was sitting close by when the question of Grace’s safety and that of the other crew members was raised.
Both were quick to say they had no safety concerns at all.
The tragic 1998 race - when the fleet was hit by savage winds and deadly seas and of the 115 starters only 44 vessels finished - was mentioned.
Mrs Kennedy said the Sailors with disABILITIES yacht was one of the safest around and many of its safety procedures, after 1998, were adopted by the race organisers.
You also get the impression that Grace is a bit of a thrill seeker.
One of the special spectacular sights during a yacht race is when the crew is sitting on the side of the vessel trying, in novice terms, to balance it – something Grace loves.
“We were doing a railing exercise once and I looked down and a dolphin was swimming near my feet,” she said.
But sailing is not all glamour and dolphins.
Grace, as one of the crew’s rookies, has to do her fair share of unglamorous tasks and was even pumping out old undrinkable water from one of the tanks recently.
Crew members will be kept busy with three hours on duty and three hours off.
The one thing Mrs Kennedy is worried about is Grace suffering from fatigue.
“They have a crew of disabled people so if someone needs six hours off I am sure they will understand,” Mrs Kennedy said.
The 19-year-old luckily does not get sea sick.
“There is always a first time,” she said.
Grace uses a wheelchair, but she will need to find another way to get around on race day as her chair won’t be on-board.
She found the perfect role model in double amputee Albert Lee.
“Albert had done the race four times and he has been giving me tips on how to get around. I am happy to take any advice I am given,” Grace said.
Another of her allies on the boat is Sailors with disABILITIES founder David Pescud.
Mr Pescud is a long time Grace Kennedy supporter and has wanted to get her on the boat for years.
Meanwhile, proud Mrs Kennedy looked at Grace with overwhelming pride as she spoke of the mountain of support the champion sailor had received.
“Steve Glenday (Vincentia High School principal) spoke about the saying, ‘it takes a community to raise a child’ – he said that Grace was an example of that child,” she said.
Mrs Kennedy would like to thank all the businesses, groups and individuals who have helped Grace achieve so much.
Mrs Kennedy, her husband Phil and a group of supporters will be waiting for Grace when the yacht arrives at Constitution Dock.
It will not matter where the yacht finishes because Grace and the rest of the crew are already winners.