Disabled yachtswoman sails into record books

A DISABLED yachtswoman was cheered by well wishers last night as she became the first female quadriplegic to sail solo around Britain.

Hilary Lister, 37, smiled as she was applauded when she sailed into Dover harbour, Kent, and into the record books. Her spokesman Paul Taroni said: “This is an amazing triumph over adversity. Everything that went against her and all the things that went wrong, Hilary overcame to do something truly inspirational. We are all so proud of her.”

Speaking in her boat at the quayside, Lister said: “I’m hugely proud of the team, the whole team, who worked so hard for four months without a day off. It’s a privilege to be back in Dover. The killer was when the wind died just east of the entrance to the harbour but unbelievably it picked up just as I sailed in.”

She added: “We’re going to have a meal for the whole crew tonight, but we’ve got an early start in the morning.”

Lister described the highlight of her challenge as being able to see the marine wildlife at close quarters sailing alongside her.

She said: “Just seeing whales 35ft long fully breached out of the water was incredible. Two of them jumped like dolphins, it was amazing.”

One of the low points, she added, was having to spend £9,000 to buy a reconditioned engine for her ridged inflatable safety boat.

She also praised members of the Lions Club who had supported her throughout her challenge.

Just before a celebratory bottle of champagne was opened to cheers and applause, she said: “I’m so relieved to be home but looking forward to the next challenge. One thing I’ve learnt is that you can’t predict the future, we couldn’t even predict tomorrow’s weather, so I’m not ruling anything out or anything in.”

In her own words, sailing makes Hilary Lister happy and, in spite of leaving her “kippered”, gives her a reason for getting up in the morning.

The fiercely independent 37-year-old Oxford-educated former scientist from Canterbury, Kent, has suffered from the rare degenerative disease reflex sympathetic dystrophy since the age of 11.

The condition, which causes agonising bone pain, alleviated by powerful drugs, has steadily reduced her from being sporty and active to being able to make just a few head movements.

She has been able to sail, a sport she discovered in 2003, thanks to “sip-and-puff” technology with which she alters course and trims sails using her mouth and a straw.


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