An inspirational yachtswoman aims to take the ‘dis’ out of disabled as she embarks on a world record attempt to sail solo around the UK.
Hilary Lister, who lives in Canterbury, was forced to abandon last year’s attempt due to bad weather but said she was excited about the re-launch of her Round Britain Dream this May.
If the 37-year-old completes the challenge she will become the first quadriplegic woman to have ever achieved it.
She told KOS Media: "I think the first aim is to demonstrate that people who are disabled are actually incredibly able. It is about taking the ‘dis’ out of disability.
"We all have our own strengths and weaknesses and I guess the other thing is to raise money for my Dream Trust, which is about helping other disabled and disadvantaged adults live out their sailing dreams.
"I’ve been lucky I’ve met the right people, not everyone is as lucky as me."
Mrs Lister, who was a sporty and active youngster, suddenly found herself at 15-years-old wheelchair-bound because of a progressive neurological disorder.
As she gradually lost the use of her body and was left in constant pain, she would not let it stand in the way of her ambitions and achieved a 2:1 in biochemistry from Oxford in 1995.
When she was 27 she lost the use of her arms and hands and as her condition worsened she had to abandon all her independence, which took her to an understandably dark place.
But in 2003 a friend introduced her to sailing, which she credits with saving her life.
"Sailing came along when life didn’t seem worth living anymore. Within seconds of being on the water a light switched back on inside me. I knew I had found what I was going to do for the rest of my life," she said.
Now, Mrs Lister, who lives with her husband Clifford and a chocolate Labrador called Lottie, is preparing to get back out on the water in preparation for the re-launch of her challenge on May 18 from Plymouth.
"Obviously having to finish last year was frustrating and it’s much better now to feel that we can retry and hopefully get better weather and finish the job," she said.
"I’ll be out in a boat on Sunday, which will be my first sail since last year. Then my boat goes back into the water thanks to Dover Marina and on about April 15 so then I’ll be out pretty much everyday."
Her boat Me Too an Artemis 20, which is a 6m carbon fibre keelboat designed by Rogers Yacht Design, is controlled using a ‘sip and puff’ system.
Three straws, which are connected to sensitive pressure switches, are used and a gentle ‘sip’ on one takes the boat starboard (right) and a puff on the other takes it to port (left).
When Mrs Lister left Dover in June 16 2008 for her first attempt the amazing sailor travelled the entire length of the South Coast but had to stop in Newlyn on August 13 due to consistently poor weather and gale force winds.
She has already sailed the further any woman with disabilities.
In 2005 she became the first disabled sailor to cross the English Channel, so she has a lot of experience and her next trip will take her even further afield, weather permitting, including to the North Sea, the Irish Sea and the Caledonian Canal.
Mrs Lister has appealed for KOS Media readers for help with her Round Britain Dream - a carer, two drivers and three ‘wet crew’ are needed to make up the team before the this Spring’s challenge.
If you can help email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Mrs Lister and the trip, including her own blog, visit www.hilarylister.com
Kentnews.co.uk, 28th March 2009