Disabled sailor Natasha Lambert has become the first person to sail across the Atlantic using just sip and puff technology to control her boat.

Natasha Lambert, 23, has become the first person to sail across the Atlantic using just sip and puff technology to control her boat.

The skipper, who has quadriplegic athetoid cerebral palsy which affects her limbs and speech, left from Gran Canaria with her crew as part of the 2020 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) fleet.

They crossed the finish line this morning at 10:39 GMT after 18 days, 21 hours and 39 minutes at sea, and covering 2,808 miles.

Natasha sailed the Nautitech Open 46, Blown Away – the largest vessel ever converted to use sip and puff technology.

Her father Gary designed the specially adapted system, using open source software, and incorporates a sip-puff system that utilises a single straw, allowing Natasha to control the helm and the sails.

Nautitech Open 46 leaving as part of the ARC fleet in November 2020

Blown Away crossing the start line in Gran Canaria. Credit: WCC/James Mitchell

‘It’s really difficult getting around the boat for me when the wind is strong, but it is funny too, lots of laughter. It takes three people to go up and down the stairs with me using a hoist, I think everyone has bruises now! Anyway, it’s great and I am loving it all,’ commented Natasha on her crossing.

Natasha runs her own charity, the MissIsle School of Sip Puff Sailing, which which offers sip and puff sailing trips to other young people.

The charity’s secretary, Tony Reeve, said: ‘We believe that Natasha, in completing this challenge becomes the first and youngest female quadriplegic skipper to cross the Atlantic using the only boat to be adapted to use the sip puff technology developed for this purpose. Huge congratulations to Natasha and her team.’

Natasha’s mother, Mandy said: ‘Tash loved the trip and didn’t want it to end, really enjoyed all aspects. She really enjoyed helming from standing up. It’s fantastic to be here in St Lucia, a great welcome on a really beautiful morning. We arrived at sunrise, 0639 hrs local time.’

The family now plan to spend time in the Caribbean, visiting local communities and schools with the aim of teaching them how to use sip and puff technology.

Natasha Lambert, who is from Cowes, was also hoping to raise £30,000 during the challenge for three charities – the RNLI, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust and the MissIsle School of Sip Puff Sailing.

Donations can be made here.

‘Thank you to all the kind donations from businesses and individuals who have helped us toward our fundraising goal,’ said Natasha’s mum, Mandy.

Natasha Lambert began sailing at the age of nine.

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In herMini 6.50 MissIsle Too, which also has sip and puff controls, she has sailed solo around the Isle of Wight, across the Channel from Boulogne to Dover, and from Cowes to London.

She has also climbed up the 2,907ft/886m Pen Y Fan peak in the Breacon Beacons and the 4,085ft/1,245m Cairn Gorm mountain using a specially adapted Hart Walker.

During these challenges she has raised over £50,000 for charity, and was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2015.

She was named Young Sailor of the Year by the Yachting Journalists’ Association in 2013.

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