Quadriplegic sailor's solo voyage around Britain suffers setback

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The Independent Online

It has been a frustrating end to the week for the round-Britain quadriplegic sailor Hilary Lister. After departing in ideal conditions from Dover Harbour on Monday, the weather and a last-minute technical hitch have conspired to leave her behind schedule on her extraordinary 12-week voyage.

The solo yachtswoman, 36, controls her high performance keelboat, Artemis 20, with pioneering technology that allows her to move the sails and rudder by sucking or puffing a straw.

High winds forced her to abandon her sailing plans for the day on Thursday and yesterday, as Ms Lister was towed out to sea off Brighton to begin the third leg of the journey, part of the navigation system broke away from the main boom, forcing her to return to shore where members of the support crew were trying last night to find a welder to fix the problem. She was hoping to catch the late tide and be back on the water by 1am.

Ms Lister's spokesman, Tony Leppard, said she remained in good spirits despite the setbacks. "She is fine in herself and really happy," he said.

"All the team is in bright spirits and looking forward to getting going again. The team still hopes to arrive in Portland [in Dorset] on Monday."

Ms Lister has been suffering from a rare degenerative disease, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, since the age of 11. An accomplished sportswoman and musician, she studied biochemistry at Oxford before her scientific career was cut short by her illness. She lives with her husband Clifford, her former music teacher, in Kent.

She is raising money for her charity Hilary's Dream Trust which seeks to provide boating opportunities for disabled people.

She also suffers debilitating pain and can stop breathing at any time. She has told her support team that she should not be resuscitated should her heart stop. Her progress can be tracked at www.hilarylister.com.