Blind sailors girdling the earth


Sydney : With two years gone already, they are way off the pace of most other round-the-world sailors. But American couple Scott Duncan and Pamela Habek still have a chance of getting their names in the record books.

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They are legally blind. Habek has 10 percent of normal vision and Duncan just half that. They can't get licences to drive cars but they can sail a boat.

A 10-metre yacht called Starship is equipped to cope with disability. It has a global positioning system modified to read out information, magnifiers for charts, and even colour-coded rigging.

The couple are not beyond accepting help when their single-masted vessel nears port and the traffic gets busy.

"The rules we set for ourselves are that we will accept the tow at that point, but otherwise the whole rest of our journey is done just with Pam and myself and no sighted people on board," Duncan told Australia's ABC Radio when the Coastguard helped the Starship dock in Sydney.

In the wide blue yonder they feel no different from other sailors. "In the middle of the ocean, I think it's very equalized once you know your boat," said Duncan.

They expect to get back to California and complete their global circumference before the end of the decade.

They reckon the trip from New Zealand to Australia was more challenging than their run across the Pacific.