Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

Quadriplegic Sails Solo Round The UK

13 Oct 2009This is the story of one of the most inspirational women I have ever heard of.

She was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy when she was around the age of 15; this is a debilitating disease that causes total paralysis. Hilary Lister, now 37, can only move her mouth, head and eyes.

Despite this, she has managed to sail solo around the UK in three months on a 20 foot racing yacht named ‘Me Too’, using a sip and puff system that controls the vessel. With three straws set up near her mouth, they allow her to steer and control the yacht by as simply as blowing into and sipping on the straws, alternating between the three, depending on what she requires them to do. The sip and puff system was designed by a Canadian man by the name of Steve Alvey.

Hilary previously held the record for the first quadriplegic person to sail solo across the English Channel. Now, she has set a new world sailing record as the first quadriplegic woman to sail solo around the UK.

When she says solo, she stops every night with the help of her support team, who follow her coordinates all the way. Other than them helping her reef (being towed into shore), she does everything else. When the team comes to help pull her into shore, she makes sure she is dropped off at the exact same spot the next day, just so she is not given any advantages.

Her boat is equipped for such disasters such as if the yacht was to capsize, her chair that she sits in, has a flotation device attached to it so she would pop back up for her support team to rescue her.

Hilary was welcomed yesterday by a cheering crowd as she sailed into Dover Harbour, Kent, which is her home town. She said she couldn’t believe she had done it and will be more relieved once she has had time for it to sink in.

Her trip raised $30,000 for her charity called Hilary’s Dream Trust, which raises money to help other paralyzed people who want to reach their dreams of sailing.

To view the video of Hilary’s journey, click here http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8231041.stm .

It makes you aware that if someone who can only move her head, can sail around solo for three months, it is possible to achieve almost anything!


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