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Disabled Sailing

Apr 30, 2009 12 Comments by

Greetings Yachties,

As I surf the web looking for yachting stories I discover our sport is the dream of many less ablebody yachties than most.

Enjoy the stories and links I have found.

At the Tullett Prebon London International Boat Show, quadriplegic yachtswoman Hilary Lister will announce her intention to compete in the 2011 Fastnet Race in a Class 40 boat.  Hilary is now actively seeking sponsors for this project.

Hilary, who is paralysed from the neck down, became the first disabled woman to sail solo around Britain in 2009, controlling her boat entirely with her breath.  This feat led to her becoming one of the four woman finalists in the 2009 ISAF World Sailor of the Year awards.

Ideas about enabling Hilary to race offshore were discussed as far back as 2008.  On completing the Round Britain Dream (RBD), Hilary and her team began giving this serious thought.  Towards the end of 2009 the feasibility of sailing in the Class 40 fleet and campaigning for a 2011 Fastnet start was examined in detail.  Key suppliers have been recruited.  Jeckells The Sailmakers have come onboard.  Raymarine and Ocean Safety will continue their support.  Simon Rogers will design the boat (Simon is responsible for Hilary’s current boat).  Harken are developing key equipment.

To enable her to control the bigger Class 40 boat an advanced sip/puff system is currently under development.  The current system (used for the RBD) uses 3 straws attached to sensitive pressure switches to control the boat. By sipping or puffing down each straw Hilary was able to control the helm, sails and her Raymarine autopilot. The system in development will allow her to control the whole boat, including reefing sails and giving access to advanced navigation functions but using the same sip/puff interface.

Whilst at the ISAF World Sailor of the Year awards in Korea, Hilary took the opportunity to make contact with the ISAF rules committee about racing a boat with a high degree of mechanical support and the RORC about entering the Fastnet race.  Hilary Lister Offshore Racing is in contact with the Class 40 class association.

Hilary is continuing to push boundaries.  To enable this, new hardware and techniques are under development.  The rules of sailing will need to be re examined.  The new boat will move the limits of what is possible under sail.

On Friday 8th January, Hilary will be on the Jeckells The Sailmakers stand (NO13E) at 14:00 to announce Jeckells and Bainbridge’s sponsorship.
On Friday 15th January, Hilary will be on the Show Stage at 15:30 to talk about her Round Britain Dream and plans for the future.

Hilary Lister

Sailing under the burgee of the Royal Southern Yacht Club, the trip will be made in daily trips, each of about 8 hours and will take about 100 days to complete.

Already the first disabled sailor ever to sail solo the 70 miles around the Isle of Wight, the only disabled sailor to sail around the Isle of Wight twice (once in 1992 and again in 1997) and the fastest disabled sailor to sail solo around the Isle of Wight (7 hours 55 minutes), Geoff will once again sail his Challenger trimaran dinghy into the record books for this epic journey.

Geoff’s Challenger Trimaran

The Challenger dinghy is a tried and tested multihull. Geoff’s pervious boat Billy has already carried him safely in excess of 1000 miles on the water and the Challenger is the obvious boat of choice for the Personal Everest Challenge.

Geoff’s new boat Freethinker is the latest mark 2a model and benefits for a lighter body and an improved steering assembly.  Unlike other Challengers, Freethinker has been modified with a suite of Raymarine electronic systems including chartplotter and tiller-pilot.

Here are some pictures taken on Wednesday 14th March on Freethinker’s first sea trials.  Despite the light airs, Geoff says that she handled beautifully and was surprisingly quick.

Sail expert Richard Lovering from Hyde Sails was aboard our support RIB and declared himself happy with the sail shape which would give a good all-round performance.

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BlindSailing World Championships Regatta Update
This article was published on Thursday, March 19, 2009
Video footage from Rotorua New Zealand

Race Day #3 was an exciting adventure packed day for all crews competing in the 2009 IFDS World Blind Sailing Championship here in Rotorua.

The fleet raced in strong 15-18 knots of fair wind! This was exciting stuff as the Noelex 25’s kicked up their heels and took off in the fresh breeze with a stiff chop on the lake.

Four races were sailed yesterday making a total of 7 completed. In the B1 Division-Norway leads the pack with Italy close by and the USA Carroll Center Team in 7th place.

In the B2 Division New Zealand Leads the way with USA, from California in 5th Place. extended her lead with 4 straight wins yesterday to have a 7 point buffer over B2- Canada. Japan follow closely 1 point behind!

In the B3 Division- Great Britain has a commanding lead followed by Team New Zealand, and then USA Carroll Center team in third place only 2 points behind. The USA Carroll Center team skippered by Jason Wallenstein with crew Mark Bos and guides, Bill Rapp and Lisa O’Connor had a mishap in Race two with blind crew Mark Bos falling overboard as the bopat was rounding a mark in 18 knot winds. Mark was uninjured but the incident lost valuable time falling back from 2nd to 4th in that race. The Team appeasrs to be sailing well and has adjusted ot the new style of boat.

The teams will have a lay day today giving them an opportunity to rest up and see some of the beautiful attractions in Rotorua, NZ.

By Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff

Matthew Chao could not see the sunlight dancing on Boston Harbor today as he worked the tiller on his sailboat, steering the sloop through a gentle but cold breeze.
“You learn how to feel the wind,” said Chao, a decorated helmsman and racing champion.

His 28 years on the water have helped him fine tune that feel for the wind, a skill that he has developed more acutely than other sailors. Chao is completely blind.

The four-member team on the sloop today was from the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton. After three years of practice, they set out today from the behind Boston Harbor Hotel for their last sail before heading to New Zealand for the Blind Sailing World Championship Regatta next week.

The Carroll Center is sending two teams to the regatta, with each crew consisting of two blind sailors and two sighted guides who help with navigation. The sighted guides are not allowed to touch the sails or the tiller.

The blind can excel at sailing when they get “in harmony with the wind and the waves and the boat,” said Arthur O’Neill, a vice president at the Carroll Center who started the SailBlind program there in 1979.

“Sailing is an activity that doesn’t really require vision, except for safety to see where you are going,” O’Neill said. “The actual making the boat go with the wind is all done by feel. It’s the feel of the wind, the direction of the wind, the feel of the wind on the sails.”

Photo: David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

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Sailing for People with Disabilities

Yachting New Zealand has recently formed a committee for sailors with disabilities to ensure that all sailors have the opportunity to participate in the sport and compete internationally. This committee will be charged with responsibility for both sailors with physical disabilities and blind sailors. It incorperates the interests of both SailAbility and the Blind Sailing Association. Both of these organisations however maintain their independence and the purpose of the committee is to add value, where Yachting New Zealand is able to do so, to the programmes these organisations already have in place.
Blind Sailing

Blind sailing in New Zealand has been active for the last 20 years.Most commonly, the visually impaired sail keel boats in the 20 – 40ft range with limited assistance from sighted crew. They are encouraged to involve themselves in all aspects of sailing a boat, from helming and trimming through to activities like anchoring and cooking while cruising.

Blind sailing is most active in the upper North Island, both competitively and socially. Groups sail regularly in Auckland, Rotorua, Tauranga, Taranaki and the Bay of Islands. Annually, there is a 2-3 day sailing school, designed both to introduce newcomers to sailing and to further develop the skills and experience of people returning for more. There is also a national championships for those with a competitive streak and the opportunity to compete internationally.

New Zealand is particularly proud to be hosting the 2009 World Blind Sailing Championships 12-21 March 2009 at Rotorua. Please visit the event site at

SailAbility in New Zealand provides opportunities for physically disabled young people & adults to learn to sail, or just to experience being on a sailing boat. Originally set up by Dr Peter Cairney in 1991 as ‘Sailing For The Disabled Trust’, SailAbility NZ is part of a worldwide movement. Their aim is to provide people with disabilities the opportunity to sail in safety and to experience adventure and freedom – building mobility, self confidence and pride through achievement.

Between the two established SailAbility Branches in Auckland and Wellington, and a few other private owners, there are many boats sailed that are designed specifically for the use of people with disabilities. These include the Paralympic Class SKUD 18 and international 2.4. Additionally, NZ has a wide range of ’Access’ Dinghies including the Access Liberty, 2.3 and 303.

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Gold for New Zealand at the 2009 IFDS World Blind Sailing Championship

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The SKUD 18 is a lead-assisted skiff. With a tube-launched asymmetrical spinnaker and a modern high performance stayed rig, the boat is an exciting addition to World and Paralympic Competition. Able-bodied and disabled athletes alike will enjoy this platform – and more severely disabled sailors will welcome the ability to compete on an equitable level.

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The Weta is not specifically designed for disabled people. If you are foolish, in certain conditions you can capsize it but it will not sink and it is fairly easy to right it. However if you observe normal safety considerations this is a very well behaved dinghy and a delight to sail.

The dinghy can be sailed with or without seating and almost any kind of seat can be fitted without any modifications to the craft itself, you simply fix your seat to the existing hike eyelet. The steering is equally easy to convert and can be done in many ways.

Both seat and steering can be designed to be fitted or removed in less than 2 minutes.

Martin 16 Sloop: Sophisticated Design

The Martin 16 is an advanced and sophisticated design. She was designed using the same AUTOSHIP Computer-Aided Design programs used for America’s Cup winners. The Martin 16 features design innovations that make her unique in her field:

* Easily-driven, narrow, long hull for performance and control.
* Dry and comfortable due to the high freeboard and forward helmseat with spray-deck and special spray-damping flange.
* Stability is provided by a computer-designed lead ballast pod at the tip of a deep, high-performance lifting keel foil.
* The cockpit features an adjustable, ergonomically designed helm seat forward, with a second seat aft to accommodate a passenger, instructor or crew helmsman when sailing double-handed.
* A unique “joystick” controls the responsive, transom-hung rudder.  The joystick can be located in either the front seat or rear seat, when sailing double-handed.
* Optimum control with minimum sheet load is obtained with “vang-sheeting” for both mainsail and boomed jib. The main sheet and jib sheet are led to a double cam cleat directly in front of the helmsperson.
* Sail controls are led to consoles within easy reach of the helmsperson.
* Unsinkable — designed with 1100 lbs. of foam flotation, the Martin 16 is unsinkable — even with the hull totally flooded!

‘Verity K’


Named in fond memory of Sir Cyril Kleinwort,
‘Verity K’ is unique in the world being purpose designed and built


“Verity K” was built to test the special equipment required, and disabled peoples reactions to proper sailing, she is 35 feet long, has a deep, safe centre cockpit, a very strong splayed bilge Keel, full ocean-going capabilities but still has under 5 foot draught, for use in the French canals and ease of docking. She has all modern equipment fitted, including, full galley, central heating, fridge, satnav, self-steering, and an extensive range of safety devices.

The most startling aspect of the design is the ease of access. There is a gangplank concealed in the hull that comes out onto the quayside to allow a section of the hull and deck to roll out. This gives wide easy access to the cockpit for anybody including wheelchair users. The cockpit is also the subject of considerable redesign, the starboard seating has been removed and the helm is fitted to the rear cockpit wall. This gives ample space for wheelchair users to work in the safety of the cockpit and also allows access to the lift fitted in the doorway to the saloon. The lift area also has steps for able bodied .

The interior can sleep five people in three separate cabins. For comfortable and safe sailing, a minimum crew for the yacht should be one able-bodied qualified sailor and then one able-bodied person for each disabled person on board. Verity K was designed as a family sailing cruiser and remains so even with the redesign

Entry to the saloon is via a stairway, which has a wheelchair lift built into its sides. The design of the hull allows a very spacious saloon and there is space for a wheelchair to turn and use the galley, table, seating and navigation equipment. There are harness fix-points at each of these stations and throughout the yacht.  The foreward cabin, is suitable for disabled persons who do not need to use a wheelchair all the time. The saloon will convert to two berths and the rear cabin is wheelchair-friendly.

The head is in the corridor to the aft cabin and is easily wheelchair-accessible with room for a wheelchair and assistant if required. It has a holding tank for a marina. There is enough space in the aft cabin to turn a wheelchair. Although the berth height is a little above wheelchair seat-height, it should cause no problems with transfers  Apart from all the normal safety equipment, Verity K’s splayed bilge keel allows her to remain up-right if beached or grounded, this and her deck stepped mast will allow her to sail or motor in places, difficult for yachts of similar size. Below decks has been designed with wheelchairs in mind and the extra space adds to the comfort of these already superb craft.

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Mobility Cup 2009

Celebrate 10 years of providing health, wellness and fun to disabled Ontarians, the Disabled Sailing Association of Ontario is proud to bring back the Mobility Cup to Toronto!

also Mobility Cup 2009 is happy to host The North American 2.4mR Championship

The North American 2.4mR Championship will be held September 1st  – 4th. The 2.4mR is the only class in the world that demonstrates the all inclusive attitude, everyone sails together, able bodied and disabled…… no handicaps! The 2.4mR is the single person discipline for the upcoming 2012, 2016 Paralympic Games. To find out more about the 2.4mR go to We are very excited to host the North American 2.4mR Championships alongside the Mobility Cup…..this is a first and hopefully will bring more sailors out to experience the joy of being on the water.

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This exciting, sophisticated single-handed boat has been used by sailors of all ages and abilities since the mid 80’s. Although predominately in Europe it is now built in North America and Australia. Owing to it’s design, where the sailor sits facing forward and all controls are led back to the cockpit, it was soon realised that the boat was particularly suitable for use by disabled sailors. At the same time it attracts top class able-bodied helmsmen. This was one of the reasons why ISAF (then IYRU) agreed that the 2.4 should be recognised as an International Class in 1992.

The boat was demonstrated during the 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona and it was hoped that a single-handed class would be accepted for the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. However, owing to restrictions in the overall numbers of athletes in the Atlanta games, this did not occur. Initially, only three person crew boats were to be included in the Sydney Paralympics but the authorities were eventually persuaded by the International Foundation for Disabled Sailing in conjunction with the International 2.4 Class Association to include a single handed class.

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2.4 home

Kiel Week History

On July 23, 1992, 20 yachts start at the first regatta.  This is the hour when Kieler Woche or Kiel Week was born.  Kiel Week is the greatest sailing event in the world and the biggest summer festival in Northern Europe.

As a regular event during the last week of June, the Land Capital of Schleswig-Holstein transforms itself into a pulsating international meeting place.  Politicians and diplomats, scientists and artists, sailors and sportspeople from about 70 nations allow themselves a tryst in the cosmopolitan city on the Fjord.  This international flavor and its way of bringing people from different countries together make the Kieler Woche an event which attracts worldwide attention.

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Hilary’s adapted seat

Accessibility is a big part of Vizual Marine’s business and philosophy. The standard Artemis 20 seat has a canting system to assist the sailors to remain level whilst the boat heels over, This is what makes the boat accessible and easy to sail by both wheelchair users and able bodied sailors. This same thinking is behind Hilary’s seat.

Hilary’s adapted seat, designed by Vizual Marine in conjunction with Hilary’s friend, engineer Vivian Thompson, is also on a canting system suspended on a stainless steel A frame that allows Hilary to remain upright and to move in time with the boat.

“I needed a boat which provides enough weather protection without keeping me entirely enclosed. The Artemis 20 fits the bill perfectly.” Hilary said. “A large part of the pleasure I get from sailing is the joy of being out in the elements.”

Sip & Puff

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.

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Saturday, 9 August 2008

Hilary Lister, who is paralysed in all four limbs, controls her boat by operating a special device with her mouth

The quadriplegic yachtswoman Hilary Lister looks set to run out of time in her quest to sail solo around Britain, after enduring a series of technical difficulties compounded by the summer’s poor weather.

As she prepares to round Land’s End next week – the toughest and most dangerous part of her voyage – the former Oxford scientist insisted she would not be deterred from completing her circumnavigation, even if she has to pick up where she leaves off next year.

Ms Lister, 36, has already used all her contingency days and has until the end of September to reach her starting point at Dover, Kent, before sea conditions deteriorate with the onset of winter storms.

This means she must make her way up the Irish Sea and cross Scotland along the Caledonian Canal before braving the North Sea in the autumn – a difficult enough task even for able-bodied sailors.

“It has been very frustrating,” she said yesterday as she waited for yet another front to blow in from the Atlantic. “You sail the boat and then the weather closes in. Then something needs fixing and then the weather closes in again.”

Ms Lister suffers from a rare disease called reflex sympathetic dystrophy, which has paralysed all four of her limbs. The only movements she can make are with her head, eyes and mouth. She controls her boat using “sip and puff” technology which allows her to alter course and trim sails using her mouth.

At present, she is forced to sit it out in a campsite in Newlyn, Cornwall, where she arrived on Sunday, while her support team attend to yet more repairs to her craft. The boat has been dogged with problems to its keel during her passage along the south coast since setting out on 16 June. Next week will be crucial: she must make her way around Land’s End, where sea conditions are often difficult.

Despite the technical and meteorological problems, however, she said she was pleased that she had confounded those who doubted she would be able to withstand the physical challenges posed by solo sailing.

“The problems have not been the ones we would have expected; that my health would not be good enough and that I would not be up to it as a sailor,” she said.

As well as enjoying the media attention to raise the profile of her charity, Hilary’s Dream, which aims to encourage disabled and disadvantaged people to take to the water, she has relished the tranquillity of the night sails. “It is wonderful. There is no one else out on the water, the stars are out and it is just very peaceful out there,” she said.

From here

Follow Hilary’s 2nd attempt here

“I first thought of doing the Atlantic when I got back from my trip around Great Britain in September 2007. Everyone was asking “What next?, What next?”. I didn’t reveal my plan then, not even to my wife, I wanted to continue to enjoy the experience of Personal Everest. It was the right decision. It would be another 6 months before I drummed up the courage to tell Elaine, but by then I’d already met with Mike and asked to borrow his boat.  He said “yes” so getting Elaine’s approval suddenly became all the more urgent”.

Aged only 16, Geoff had sailed the Atlantic Ocean twice and, by his 18th birthday, he had sailed it for a third time.  To sail the Atlantic again, more than 25 years later, only this time as a quadriplegic, will be to achieve a dream considered unthinkable when he first lost his livelihood as a yachtsman in 1984.

“But more than achieving a dream. In so doing, I can give something back to the sport I love so dearly. Not only are we raising funds for the Ellen Macarthur Trust, but it will hopefully inspire a new generation of disabled sailors”.

In the winter of 2009, quadriplegic yachtsman Geoff Holt will set sail in a 60ft, purpose-built, wheelchair-accessible catamaran on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.   The 3,000 mile journey will take him up to a month to complete, across some of the most hostile waters in the world.

In completing his Challenge, Geoff Holt will become the first quadriplegic to make the journey, unassisted in every aspect of the sailing.

Follow Geoff here

Legally blind North Fort Myers man to sail around the world

BY CRISTELA GUERRA • • March 23, 2009

In May 2007, Scheppe was mugged by a teenager on his way to a convention for the Florida Federation of the Blind in St. Petersburg.

On March 11, he got justice – and the freedom to pursue a dream: to be the first blind person to sail nonstop around the world.

The 29-year-old North Fort Myers resident was born with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic eye disease. He can only see what is directly in front of him, as if looking through a tunnel.

That day almost two years ago, Scheppe saw the teenager’s face, but felt a hard punch to his jaw.

Legal blindness has never stopped Scheppe. It didn’t stop him from fighting back that afternoon. It also didn’t stop him from identifying his attacker in a police lineup two weeks later.

Mike “Mike-Mike” Watts, now 16, was sentenced by a Hillsborough County judge to five years in prison for the robbery and assault. And Scheppe has closed that chapter.

In August 2010, he plans to embark on a six- to eight-month, 24,000-mile journey.

From where on the East Coast he will cast off he hasn’t pinpointed, but Scheppe talks about the trip like it’s a walk in the park rather than months at sea.

“I love adventure,” he said, smiling. “And it’s a feat no one has done.”

To have his trip count as a record, Scheppe cannot use an engine. He can only stop if he needs to make repairs. He has to depart and land in the same place, according to rules from the World Sailing Speed Record Council.

He also cannot travel through canals such as the Suez or Panama. It will just be ocean, open seas and the potential for up to 40-foot waves.

Due to the disease, Scheppe can see very little at night, but he expects to enjoy his nights as well as his days.

“It’ll be peaceful,” he said. “With the wind blowing through the sails. I see the moon kind of like a spotlight.”

This “spotlight” will guide this explorer around South America’s horn and across the Pacific.

Scheppe plans to christen the ship the Blind Victoria, after Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s ship, Victoria.

Steve Olive, executive director of the Edison Sailing Center, is leasing Scheppe the boat. He admires the young man’s determination – but questions his wisdom.

“Anybody that does that trip solo has to have a couple of screws loose,” Olive said. “Several races that go around the world are crude, and most take two to three weeks to stop and repair their damages.”

Olive said nice days will be rare. Scheppe might have a moment to reflect, Olive said, but the rest of the time he’ll have to train himself to sleep in 20-minute increments.

“It’s really intense and he’ll have to work toward it,” Olive said. “On a boat, there’s always stuff to do, especially during a storm. He might go 24 hours without sleeping.”

Scheppe learned to sail with his father, Steve Scheppe, 56, of Casa Grande, Ariz., when they lived near Lake Norman in North Carolina and later on Lake Michigan.

The technical aspects of sailing were altered to teach someone who learned by adapting. The younger Scheppe didn’t see his father tying a knot on the boat, but felt his way through it by practice.

“As a sailor, it’s easy to look up and see if there is a good wind day,” Steve Scheppe said. “But rather than seeing the sail, he realizes that bump, bump, bump that sounds like a rug when you shake it out is the sail when it isn’t getting enough wind.”

Kris Scheppe’s mother, Arlene Chic, 58, said they would never tell her son, “No, you can’t do that.”

“We always let him try,” she said. “He had to prove to himself that he couldn’t do it.”

It’s this mentality that inspires, said Marion Gwizdala, president of the East Hillsborough Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind in Tampa.

“All too often when blind people achieve average things they’re portrayed as extraordinary,” Gwizdala said. “But, his goal is extraordinary, even beyond the comprehension of most people who can see.”

Scheppe lives the life of a sailor. His boat Morgana is docked in Marina Town in North Fort Myers. He owns his own business -Kristopher A. Scheppe Computer Consulting Services – and he takes it one day at a time.

His daily mantra is a familiar one; they’re the words of Mark Twain:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

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  4. Yachting May Part 14 says:

    […] quadriplegic sailor Hilary Lister has commenced her attempt to sail around Great Britain. Hilary and her team had to make a really […]

  5. Yachting News May Part 15 says:

    […] more disabled sailing here […]

  6. Yachting News 20th August 2009 says:

    […] more disabled yachting here […]

  7. Yachting News 30th September 2009 says:

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  8. Geoff Holt says:

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