It was a dream come true for 59-year-old novice sailor Katie Alexander yesterday when she was hoisted onboard the Trans-Pacific 52-foot yacht ‘Wot Eva’ to race in her first ever Melbourne to Geelong Passage Race.
Diagnosed with a rare muscle wasting disease that affects less than ten in a million people, Katie from Point Lonsdale has only been sailing for 18 months and undertook nine hours of intensive physiotherapy every week for months, to prepare for the big race.
“I’ve never been a sporty person, but when I was first introduced to sailing it just grabbed me,” she said.
“Given my physical limitations with deteriorating muscle strength and numbness in my hands and legs, I just feel an enormous sense of freedom and peace when I’m out there on the water. It has truly been life changing!”
Katie is a national Ambassador for Rare Voices Australia, the national peak body for 2 million Australians living with more than 7000 rare diseases, and a founding member of the Geelong leadership team of the Making Waves Foundation which helps children and young people with experiences of disability and disadvantage to sail.
Despite yesterday’s challenging racing conditions and 30-knot winds, Katie and the ‘Wot Eva’ crew of 15 completed the race which opens the annual Festival of Sails regatta in three hours and 20 minutes.
“It was nothing short of amazing! It certainly was hair-raising at times, but I was just so excited to be part of the crew on an ex-Sydney Hobart yacht and so grateful that I could be on board because of the help I get from the Making Waves volunteer crew and supporters in learning different ways of sailing and adapting,” she said.
“I literally couldn’t do it without them, and now I’m now hooked for life!”
Now firmly committed to sailing twice a week at the Royal Geelong Yacht Club, Katie is passionate about using her newfound skills and leadership role with Making Waves to introduce more young people facing challenges to sailing.
“I now know first-hand how sailing and the teamwork that underpins being part of a crew can help people like me focus on what’s possible, and the thrill of being able to achieve something that might have previously seemed impossible.” she said.
“And of course, we always welcome any donations to support our work and help us reach even more young people!”
Story by Leigh McClusky