Home' Bowls NSW : February 2010 Contents 54 BOWLS NSW -- FEBRUARY 2010
SAILING in the annual Syd-
ney to Hobart yacht race
is nothing out of the ordi-
nary for Mark Whiteman,
a Sports Development Officer at
Bowls NSW, and an exceptional
sportsman who gives hope and
support to many disabled persons
Mark has competed in sport for
persons with disabilities since the
age of nine years, and feels that
there is nothing he can't do, or
at least have a go at.
Born with a disability (double
amputee below the knee with a
finger and bone deficiency of the
left hand), Mark has competed
in the 1992 Barcelona Paralympic
Games in track events, and the
2000 Sydney Paralympic Games in
After two months preparation
for the race, Mark was as a ready
as he could be for what lay ahead
in the big race, training every
week before the event with the
bare minimum of prior experience
Mark and the crew were selected
on the basis of their attitude and
desire to work well as a team,
and through various weekend
They embarked on the three
day epic journey from Sydney to
Hobart on Boxing Day, which tested
them mentally and physically.
This amazing experience would
not have been possible without
the support of his work colleagues,
who organised sponsorship from
Sydney Bowls Centre.
The sponsorship assisted Mark
greatly in purchasing the neces-
sary clothing and equipment.
Without the correct clothing, the
crew members would have been
exposed to hypothermia.
Manning a LYONS54 Yacht (5m
width and heavy sails), designed
especially for persons with dis-
abilities (including space for four
electric wheelchairs on the back),
Mark and his fellow crew of 14
members (able and disabled), plus
two film crew, pushed their limits
while sailing through unpredict-
able, sometimes sticky situations.
As a new challenge, the dif-
ficulties experienced were trying
at times, Mark said.
"It was daunting and I was
scared... The first night I spewed
my guts out, I was very sick... I
couldn't go downstairs into the
cabin, either...it was dark, hot and
humid and I would have been
thrown around... I was sick, so I
thought it best to stay on deck."
Complications occurred before
the race had even begun.
"We had gear problems 20
minutes before the start of the
race... and our water ballast pump
had burnt out," Mark revealed.
"...and in the middle of the Bass
Strait, the CodeZero sail wouldn't
release in the middle of the night,
which meant we had to stop for
two hours... someone had to be
hoisted all the way up there to
Mark and the crew had a great
start, starting off in the 2nd line,
sailing up on the left hand side
and passing the spectator boats
with less than five meters of water
between them and their yacht.
There was a buzz of nerves and
excitement in the air.
Working as a team was crucial
for the yacht to sail smoothly.
Failure in teamwork had affected
previous Sydney to Hobart races,
and had shown that team work,
like Mark mentioned, "...was very
"If we hadn't worked as a
team we would've gone bottom
up." But having no problem with
being part of a team, because of
experience in team sports before,
Mark said he likes working as part
of a team, "big time!"
Exhausted but with a sense of
achievement, Mark and his fellow
crew members sailed into Hobart
where they were placed 29th in
line honours, and 2nd in their
"I would recommend it to
anyone. You learn skills that are
All-round sportsman embarks
on an epic sailing adventure
By ZINZI OSBORN
Mark's involvement with the
yacht race focussed attention
on his lawn bowls career and
the sport in general.
Sydney Bowls Centre also
gained valuable exposure as
This publicity will be further
enhanced with the SBS telecast
in March and April.
transferrable to anything in your
life, including social and work life.
"I still can't believe I've done
it," Mark declares while contem-
plating what he considered to
be an extraordinary and surreal
"I might do it again, every
three years or so. It's a big com-
mitment, especially around that
time of year.
It's not really up to me, though,
although if I was asked (chosen)
again," Mark light heartedly jokes,
"I wouldn't mind a bit more notice."
Focusing on perfecting his bowl-
ing skills, Mark has more plans
this year, with winning his bowls
competitions being on the top of
his priorities list.
While sailing isn't a priority,
Mark will continue to sail with his
Sydney to Hobart crew members.
"I would like to learn more
about sailing and I believe it's
necessary to put back in what
you get out."
As well as endeavouring to sail
leisurely, perhaps competing in
social competitions such as Twi-
light, and going up north to take
disabled kids out on the LYONS54
yacht, are among the things that
• To see the story behind Mark and
his fellow crew members battling
the waves during the Sydney to
Hobart yacht race, tune into SBSONE
to watch 'dis-Able bodies Sailors
on 18 and 25 March, and 1 and
8 April at 8:30pm. (Official press
release: http://tiny.cc/HwcJQ, or
see the official webpage for the
• Pictorial to be included next issue
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