Hilary Lister

Aug 14, 2008 3 Comments by

She has done it!

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Disabled sailor achieves record

Disabled yachtswoman has become the first female quadriplegic to sail solo around Britain.

Hilary Lister, 37, was applauded as she sailed into Dover harbour, in her home county of Kent.

On arrival, she declared: “I’m so relieved to be home but looking forward to the next challenge.”

Mrs Lister began her voyage in May but had to be treated in hospital a month later, having been rescued from rough seas off Pembrokeshire.

She had delayed the start of her trip, from Plymouth, after being taken to hospital with breathing difficulties.

Mrs Lister also abandoned a similar attempt last year after being hit by bad weather, technical trouble and injuries to members of her support crew.

Her spokesman, Paul Taroni, described the journey as “an amazing triumph over adversity”.

Seeing whales – 35-foot long – fully breached out of the water was incredible
Hilary Lister

“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,” he said.

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Hilary Lister the inspirational quadriplegic sailor will arrive in Wales on Wednesday 3rd June.
She will set off from Bude in Cornwall at 14:00 Tuesday afternoon for what is the longest sail
of her solo round Britain sail.
Hilary is planned to arrive at Hobbs Point, Pembroke dock at some time between 03:00 and
06:00 3rd June depending on wind conditions.
Hilary has had to overcome the financial challenges of this year to be able to finance the
Round Britain Dream and the project is still searching for a major sponsor, remembering
that the aim of the Round Britain Dream is not only to inspire and raise awareness of
disabled sailing but to raise funds for Hilary’s charity ‘Hilary’s Dream trust’ which exists to
provide assistance to disabled and disadvantaged adults with sailing dreams.
Hilary’s dream of sailing around Britain began on 16 June 2008, when she set off from
Dover, supported by her team of 4 support boat crew and 3 land crew. The Lions clubs of
The British Isles and Ireland also lent their considerable support. In a series of “day sails”,
some in excess of 50 nautical miles, Hilary sailed the entire length of the South Coast. In
Newlyn, on 13 August, due to hold ups caused mainly by the worst weather on record,
Hilary and the team reluctantly decided to postpone the rest of the journey. To date this is
the furthest that any female disabled sailor has sailed and is an amazing achievement in
itself. This is the first time that the ‘Sip and puff’ system had been tested in such challenging
conditions. Despite the setback of having to halt the attempt Hilary demonstrated her
amazing strength of character by resolving to complete the sail starting in spring 2009,
beginning at Newlyn.

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here is the chat I had with her in April

20th March 2009

Hilary is preparing to complete the round Britain dream starting from Plymouth at the end of May, 2009. Hilary Lister, 36, will officially re-launch the “Round Britain Dream”, in which she aims to become the first disabled woman to sail solo around Britain, on stand P80 at this year’s Earl’s Court Sail, Power & Water Sports Show. Hilary first came to prominence when, in 2005, she became the first disabled sailor to cross the English Channel, single-handed. In 2007 she became the first disabled woman to sail around the Isle of Wight

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QUADRIPLEGIC FORCED TO HALT RECORD-BREAKING ATTEMPT

Hilary Lister has had to finally face the reality that she will be unable to complete her attempt to sail solo around the British Isles this year, aiming to become the first female quadriplegic to complete such a feat.

Hilary and her team have been beset by problems since setting sail from Dover on 16 June 2008, with bad weather, technical issues with the boats, and injuries to crew members all hampering progress.

Being so far behind schedule, and having reached Newlyn in Cornwall, Hilary and the team last weekend made the difficult decision to halt this year’s attempt but have resolved to complete the journey next year, in the late spring.

The feeling of huge frustration and disappointment is compounded by the fact that, despite the view that Hilary’s health or sailing abilities might be the main barriers to successfully completing the challenge, neither of these issues has proven to be a limiting factor; Hilary has once again demonstrated amazing resilience and strength of character.

Project Manager, Toby May, said: “Hilary’s boat, the Artemis 20, 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. When we have sailed we have made the passages that were planned within the rules Hilary had set herself.”

Hilary and the team have been overwhelmed by the support, assistance, and good wishes of all they have met on their journey so far; harbour staff, local service providers, members of the general public and, not least, the Lions Clubs of British Isles and Ireland. The Lions have been incredibly helpful and supportive throughout, having to deal with frequent, often last-minute, changes of plan and providing invaluable assistance around the route. Immense thanks go to all concerned, not only those whose efforts we were able to acknowledge in person, but those further around the planned route who we have not managed to get to.

Hilary said: “I am obviously extremely disappointed and incredibly frustrated that we have not been able to complete the sail this year; it seems that the fates have conspired against us but I am now ever more determined to go again next year. 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. I have also been overwhelmed by the support provided by my fellow Lions; it was always a pleasure upon entering a strange port to find a local Lion or two amongst the welcoming party – often at some ungodly hour. I would like to thank them for their patience and hope we will meet the remaining clubs around the route next year. We have also generated significant public and media awareness of the event and the charity, Hilary’s Dream Trust, and I would like to personally thank everybody who has kindly made a donation”
Hilary’s efforts have continued to be supported by her launch partners, Artemis and Pindar, and sponsors and particular thanks go to the Rogers Yacht Design team, to Steve Alvey, and to VizualMarine who have helped at short notice and often at great personal inconvenience. Special mention must also go to Raymarine, Ocean Safety, Marathon Leisure, and Musto, for their technical and product support, and to other project supporters Kent Sports Development Unit, THB Clowes, Olive Group, Glenn Gilbert at Cobra CMS, OneSails, Grapefruit Graphics, and others. Without their invaluable assistance, Hilary would not even have made it this far and we know they will be as disappointed as Hilary and the team that we have had to halt this year’s attempt. We sincerely hope that they may be able to continue to support us next year.

The up to date news and status of the project will continue to be posted on the website at www.hilarylister.com and we will need to maintain our fund-raising efforts to promote the charity, Hilary’s Dream Trust.

Despite the huge disappointment, Hilary remains philosophical: “I was under no illusion that this was going to be easy and the trials and tribulations of the past few months have certainly tested our resolve. Over the course of the next few months, we will be taking what we have learned and preparing for next year’s trip around the remainder of the coast of Britain – salt encrusted and a little wiser.”

- END -

About Hilary Lister
Having famously entered the record books in August 2005, when she became the first ever quadriplegic to sail solo across the English Channel, Hilary originally planned to take on the round Britain challenge in 2007, but a combination of technical and other issues prevented her from doing so. Undeterred, she undertook another record-breaking challenge when, on 24 July 2007, she successfully solo circumnavigated the Isle of Wight thus becoming the first female quadriplegic to do so.

As well as marking an incredible personal achievement, by taking on the round Britain challenge Hilary aims to:

• Raise awareness for disabled sailing
• Show that disabled people can live exciting and challenging lives
• Challenge people to rethink their views on disability
• Encourage everyone to live their dreams
• Raise money for ‘Hilary’s Dream Trust’

For more information visit

About Hilary’s Dream Trust
The charity has been established (registered charity number 1124146) to facilitate the sailing dreams of those with disabilities or significant disadvantages. Hilary recognises that she has been incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunity to realise her sailing dreams; she wants to help as many others as possible to become aware of and have access to opportunities to realise their own dreams. Hilary will be looking to raise money throughout the round Britain sail and all funds raised in excess of those required to cover the costs of the project will go to the charity.

About Lions Clubs of British Isles and Ireland
Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest volunteer service organisation; an international network of 1.3 million men and women in 202 countries and geographic areas who work together to answer the needs that challenge communities around the world. MD105 is the Lions organisation for British Isles and Ireland through which the various Districts, Regions, Zones, and Clubs are organised.

Hilary Lister Progress Report

Day 34 – Saturday 19 July: Hilary’s next sail has been deferred for another day as the winds are against her. She now plans to leave Salcombe on Monday.

Day 33 – Friday 18 July: Hilary arrived safely in Salcombe at 06.35 this morning. Weather forecasts suggest that Hilary will not be able to sail again until Sunday at the earliest.

Day 32 – Thursday 17 July: Hilary plans to leave Brixham tonight at around 23.00 and hopes to arrive in Salcombe at around 07.00 on Friday morning. Update: Hilary left on time as planned.

Day 31 – Wednesday 16 July: Hilary left Portland at around 07.00 this morning and arrived in Brixham at 19.00. All being well, she will sail again tomorrow.

From Wheels to Sails

Hilary’s active lifestyle was curtailed when she was diagnosed with a degenerative disease during her teenage years. Life as a quadriplegic, housebound, seemed to be worthless and there were dark moments when Hilary contemplated putting an end to her life.

Then Hilary was introduced to sailing by a neighbour.

Hilary’s first outing in a boat was in September 2003, at Westbere Sailing Opportunities, near Canterbury, Kent. The WSO is a remarkable group of people who immediately see through the gadgets and disability and find the real person.

From her first moment in the Wayfarer boat, Hilary fell in love. Secured on a garden chair with a board down her back and another one under her legs, she was sailing. She was hooked and knew immediately that sailing was now going to become a large part of her life.

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Sailability Profile

How do you sail a boat if you can only move your head?

The first sip-puff system used on a boat was developed in Canada for the small Martin 16 keelboat.

All functions, including setting the sails and steering the boat, are controlled by the sailor’s breath. By sucking or blowing down two straws, one to sheet in and out the sails, and one to move the rudder from side to side, the helmsman is able to control their boat entirely independently via a series of motors and winches.

The sip & puff interface is a chest-mounted control stalk. The stalk positions two pneumatic straws within reach of the sailor’s lips.

All functions, including setting the sails and steering the boat, are controlled by the sailor’s breath. By sucking or blowing down two straws, one to sheet in and out the sails, and one to move the rudder from side to side, the helmsman is able to control their boat entirely independently via a series of motors and winches.

The sip & puff interface is a chest-mounted control stalk. The stalk positions two pneumatic straws within reach of the sailor’s lips.

Hilary’s in control

When she’s on the water fair weather or foul – Hilary’s in control. Seated in a custom seating module that maintains her body position and comfort, Hilary controls everything on her thoroughbred Artemis 20 – with her breath through an innovative Power Assist System. A “control stalk” positions three pneumatic “straws”, ready for her breath commands as a “sip” or a “puff” semaphore. These straws are connected to sensitive pressure switches on a computer, programmed to do exactly what Hilary needs to do. The control computer and its graphic displays are housed in a watertight module mounted in front of Hilary, like the instrument panel on your automobile. A gentle “sip” or “puff” on one of these straws is interpreted by the control computer to update the status display and then activate electric servo motors that change the course of the boat, trim one of the sails or control the navigation computer.

Hilary’s Round Britain route requires long passages across open water, where keeping the boat on course is demanding for any sailor. Raymarine have provided a state-of-the-art ST4000+ “autopilot” and GPS navigation system that will maintain a compass course heading, or follow a GPS track under her control. Hilary’s Power Assist System provides access to the sophisticated ST4000+ pilot through sip and puff commands. A “puff on the MODE straw is like clicking a mouse on your computer, toggling the function of the system, so Hilary can reprogram the destination of the Raymarine navigation computer.

About the Power Assist System

Hilary Lister’s Power Assist System was developed by Steve Alvey of Calgary Canada. Alvey is a lifelong sailor, innovator, engineer and businessman. In 1994, the untimely accidents of two childhood “sailing buddies” inspired Alvey to get them back on the water and in control of their own boats. Over the past 12 years, Alvey has contributed tirelessly to making the sport of sailing accessible to sailors with severe disabilities. Alvey has formed and organized public accessible sailing programs across Canada and the USA (www.ablesailnetwork.ca), developed and marketed accessible sailboats and innovative assistive technologies (www.martin16.com), and is a promoter and organizer of Mobility Cup – Canada’s International Regatta for Disabled Sailors (www.mobilitycup.org). Alvey’s Power Assist Systems and seating systems make sailing accessible to thousands of men, women and children around the globe, from novice to Paralympic sailors. Alvey is a technical delegate of the International Foundation for Disabled Sailing (IFDS), where he developed a new competitive sailing format accessible to severely disabled sailors, now an event in the 2008 Paralympic Games.

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