Dated: 06/02/2013

A number of South African crew members are joining the 55-m tall ship Lord Nelson at the V&A Waterfront to set sail on a week-long voyage as part of the Norton Rose Sail the World Challenge on Wednesday afternoon. The ship will return to Cape Town on 12 February.

The South African voyage crew members joining today include:

Tetraplegic Capetonian Russell Vollmer, 55, who was the first South African to take part in the sailing events at the Paralympic Games at Sydney 2000 and is a former commodore of the Royal Cape Yacht Club. Vollmer, who has lived as a quadriplegic since the age of 19, became disabled when he broke his neck in a diving accident in 1976 while serving with the South African Navy. Vollmer’s participation s sponsored by international legal practice, Norton Rose.

Versha Rowjee, 41, who has congenital spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. Originally from Mokopane in Limpopo, Rowjee now lives in Johannesburg where she works as an accountant. The experience will be the latest of Rowjee’s personal challenges, which to date have included quad biking and scuba diving.

David Kapelus, 49, director at Norton Rose South Africa, who is sailing on Lord Nelson on the seven-day voyage out of Cape Town. Kapelus has used a wheelchair since a diving accident when he was 18 years old in 1983. “I’m completely excited – it’s going to be a fantastic experience. These opportunities don’t come around often, if ever,” Kapelus said.

Capetonian Brandon Davids, 23, who is profoundly deaf and a student of the Whisper Boatbuilding Community Project, a fiberglass laminating skills development programme for the deaf. The charity, based in the Epping area, is one of the members of SASLA (South African Sail Training for Life Skills Association). Davids joined Whisper in 2011 as one of the charity’s first 15 students.

BACKGROUND: Lord Nelson was built in the UK and first set sail in 1986. The bespoke features on board, including hearing loops, wheelchair lifts, integrated Braille instructions and speaking compasses, allow a disabled sailor to contribute to the voyage just as much as an able-bodied crew member and their interdependence creates a community aboard the ship for the duration of the voyage – a bond which remains long after the crew is back on dry land.

During her inaugural 23-month circumnavigation, Lord Nelson, will log four Equator crossings and visit 30 countries on seven continents. More than 1,000 people will have the opportunity to participate during this 50,000-mile voyage.

The Norton Rose Sail the World Challenge started from Southampton in the UK on Sunday 21 October, buoyed by the resounding success of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and is due to return to the UK in September 2014.

Spaces are still available to sail on legs of the Lord Nelson in the Norton Rose Sail the World Challenge. No sailing experience required. For more information visit:

Limited interview opportunities available on Lord Nelson at Quay 6, in front of Table Bay Hotel, V&A Waterfront. Contact Anna Wardley on 074 6866045.

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