Sailors with disABILITIES
Name: Tony Purkiss

Nickname: Biggles
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Age: 55
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Lives: Newcastle
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Disability: Blindness
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Career: Facilitator at TAFE NSW. I teach Cert IV in Business Management (Front Line Management)
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Likes: Sailing--cruising as well as racing, Tasmania, clean living in quiet places, sharing time with family & friends.

Dislikes: Busy & noisy places such as Sydney, adults on push bikes riding on the footpath, cars that park across the footpath.

Joined SWD: 2007

Position on Yacht: Mast


Sailing experience:

Tony has sailed over 80,000 nm over the past 35 years including in 11 Sydney to Hobart races. He has crossed Bass Strait 25 times. He has sailed in 24 Sydney to Gold Coast races and raced or cruised to Lord Howe Island 15 times.

Tony has also cruised and delivered motor & sail boats to New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, New Zealand & every state in Australia except WA & NT.

He was one of the people winched out of Bass Strait by helicopter in the ’98 Hobart race.,while sailing on another team and boat.

We interviewed Tony about the Sydney to Sydney Challenge and this is what he had to say: 

What’s exciting about being part of SWD’s Sydney to Sydney Challenge for you?


It’s a challenging distance across the Tasman, for anyone, let alone being part of a team who have various disabilities.To be part of a team of disabled sailors. It inspires me to see how they all perform as individuals and how we all perform together as a team. To attempt a challenge as big as this, to try and set a world record is just awesome.

I’ve sailed with some of these guys and none of these guys. It’s a mixture of youth and experience and I have a good feel about the whole thing.


What’s your role on the boat?

The mast. Hoist ‘em up and drop ‘em down. Hoist ‘em up and drop ‘em down. I hope there’s not too many hoists, therefore not too many drops, but yeah but whatever’s needed to get the best out of the boat.

I think this is a very strong boat. I’m very happy. It’s certainly up to the challenge. Between all of us we’ll get the job done.

What would you like to say to someone who looks at this and thinks, ‘I can’t do it.’?

I’d say give it a go. There’s nothing you can’t do, especially if you’ve got the support of an organisation such as Sailors with disABILITIES. There’s no challenge that you cannot overcome. And it is a challenge. If you’ve got a disability, it’s not a problem, it’s a challenge. If you address that challenge in the right way, with the help and support of others, you can achieve your goal, whatever that may be.

It might be going out on the harbour for half an hour. That might be the start of your goal to progress to the Sydney to Hobart race. Nothing’s out of the question if you put your mind to it and you get the strong support of an organisation such as SWD.

Support SWD in the ASX Thomson Reuters Foundation raffle and help raise funds to do more work with people with disability.