Quadriplegic sailor challenges elements again

Fundraiser aims to sail solo around the British Isles aided by 'sip and puff' controls

As a quadriplegic woman with a life-threatening degenerative condition which limits her to just a few head movements, sailing solo around Britain was always going to be an awesome task for Hilary Lister.

So when she had to call off her attempt last year, after three months of appalling summer weather and technical difficulties, there was sympathy but perhaps little surprise.

However, the same indomitable spirit that first sent the 37-year-old Oxford-educated biochemist out on to the water means she refuses to leave a challenge half-met. In May, she will set sail from Land's End, again attempting to circumnavigate the British Isles and to become, in the process, the first disabled sailor to conquer the Irish Sea.

"When I finished last time I felt pretty lousy really," Ms Lister admitted at the weekend as she began preparations for part two of the challenge to raise money and awareness for her charity Hilary's Dream, which aims to get disabled people sailing.

She acknowledges that her condition has deteriorated over the winter months. "Dying is a possibility," she says. "It is not unlikely. I have a degenerative disease, so at some point I will stop breathing. The whole of my family think it would be great if I was on the water when it happened. That is where I am happy."

Ms Lister is able to sail thanks to recently developed "sip-and-puff" technology which allows her to alter course and trim sails using her mouth and a straw. She also has a support team which delivers her on and off the water each day.

Returning to "normal" after calling off the last voyage was not easy: "Life carried on in a quite bizarre way because you have come back from this incredible experience and suddenly you are stuck back on the sofa again.

"If I am at home I get put on the sofa by one carer at 9am and taken off by another carer at 7pm and put to bed."

In between she tries to keep mentally alert by writing letters, organising her next adventure and avoiding daytime television. The fiercely independent former scientist has suffered from a rare degenerative disease, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, since the age of 11. It has steadily robbed her of her physical powers and causes agonising bone pain, alleviated by powerful drugs.

Last year it was the weather and the equipment that were problematic, she said: "We have learnt a lot since, such as salt water and electronics don't mix."

Raising sponsorship in the midst of the credit crunch has also proved a challenge, though she says she is lucky enough to have at least one deep-pocketed supporter who acts as her "backstop" when the financial going gets tough. She says she has been overwhelmed by messages of support and was particularly moved by emails from one severely disabled little girl. "It is a huge honour to be seen as an inspiration to whoever, really. I have my down moments like everybody else. But today is a beautiful day," she said. "The sun is out and life is good right now."

Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsSchool leaver's pic YouTube video features staging of a playground gun massacre
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

PHP Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: PHP Develope...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star