Kirk Watson 1415 Views

Kirk Watson's Story

Kirk Watson is an accomplished sailor. His first sail down the Australian coast was at the tender age of 7 in a 32 foot motor sailor... and he's been on the water every spare moment since. Kirk sharpened his sailing skills through years of successful racing on Pittwater.

So his progression to skippering a 54 footer in the 2013 Sydney to Hobart yacht race might seem par for the course... except for one small detail.

Kirk is legally blind.

Watson started losing his sight in his 20s through retinitis pigmentosa a condition affecting around 1 in 3000 Australians. And now at 40 he cannot see at all. Many people allow a disability like blindness to define them. Not Kirk.

Kirk Watson is an accomplished sailor. His first sail down the Australian coast was at the tender age of 7 in a 32 foot motor sailor... and he's been on the water every spare moment since. Kirk sharpened his sailing skills through years of successful racing on Pittwater.

So his progression to skippering a 54 footer in the 2013 Sydney to Hobart yacht race might seem par for the course... except for one small detail.

Kirk is legally blind.

Watson started losing his sight in his 20s through retinitis pigmentosa a condition affecting around 1 in 3000 Australians. And now at 40 he cannot see at all. Many people allow a disability like blindness to define them. Not Kirk.

'I might not be able to see but I can still run on the beach, swim in the waves and feel the wind in my face. I don't need see the sails of my boat to know that it's over powered. Like any good yachtsman I can feel what the yacht needs.

And from there skippering is just management.

I may not be able to see anything but I know everything that's happening. If I can't pick up information I need using the senses I have, one of my crew will let me know what's going on.

We have a tight management structure on board. We know what peoples' strengths are and we make the most of them. We're just like any crew preparing for the race - we have lots of factors to consider and my lack of sight is just one of these factors.

'In racing terms we had a great race. We went a long way east before heading South which gave us a bit more current and pressure than the other boats and put us in a very good position.

Then heading right we picked up a great Nor Easter.

Going over towards Flinders Island we stayed close to the coast to take some of the wave action off.

Through the front we came through bit of pressure and a bit of wave action which we handled fine.

And we had a good rounding of the Tasman light and a fabulous sail up the Derwent.'

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Kirk Watson

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