Disability News


Hilary Lister
Hilary Lister has been paralysed for seven years

A disabled sailor has abandoned her solo trip around the British coast.

Hilary Lister, who is paralysed from the neck down, and her support team have been beset by problems since setting sail from Dover on 16 June.

Bad weather, technical trouble and injuries to crew members meant they had only managed to reach Cornwall on a trip scheduled to take four months.

Mrs Lister, 36, said: "The fates have conspired against us but I am now ever more determined to go again next year."

The sailor, from Canterbury, has no movement below her neck and operates the sails and tiller using a "sip-and-puff" system.

Straw controls

She has been paralysed for seven years as a result of a progressive degenerative disease, reflex sympathetic dystrophy.

Mrs Lister's boat, an Artemis 20, has been specially designed so that she can operate a range of controls through just three "straws".

One works the tiller and one the sails, and the final straw allows her to select five different functions to help control the craft.

In 2005, she became the first quadriplegic sailor to cross the English Channel. In July last year she circumnavigated the Isle of Wight.

Apart from a handful of times each day when members of the support team climb aboard to feed her and administer medication, Mrs Lister travels solo.

Hilary Lister's boat
Mrs Lister is supported by land and sea crews who monitor her progress

She is supported by a six-strong crew, half of whom sail a few hundred yards behind her and half who travel on land.

She said: "We always said that every mile we sailed would be an achievement in its own right and we have to try and take some positives from this year's efforts.

"I have enjoyed the wonderful experience of night sailing and the tranquillity and sense of freedom that brings.

"I also feel incredibly privileged and proud to have been supported by such a great crew who, despite extremely testing conditions and circumstances, continued to show commitment and resilience of the highest order."

Project Manager Toby May said: "Hilary's boat has been sailed under testing conditions.

"The integrated navigation and control system is a combination of off-the-shelf items and custom-built electronics.

"As a system, it is still in development and working in what, for electronics, is a hostile environment.

"What we had not envisaged was the level of difficulty operating and maintaining the boat and her systems under the conditions we have faced.

"The weather has often stopped us sailing and this has been an added frustration."



from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/7559387.stm