Hilary Lister in record UK circumnavigation bid

A disabled yachtswoman has departed Plymouth, Devon, in an attempt to sail around Britain by herself.

Hilary Lister, who is quadriplegic and paralysed from the neck down, is sailing solo from Plymouth to Falmouth, Cornwall, in the first of 40 day-long sails. She had been due to leave on Wednesday, but suffered breathing difficulties and was taken to hospital.

The 37-year-old from Faversham, Kent, uses a ‘sip-and-puff’ system of straws to control her boat, an Artemis 20,Me Too. The system uses three straws which are connected to sensitive pressure switches, a ‘sip’ on one straw will cause the boat to go to starboard, while a ‘puff’ will take the boat to port. The second straw controls the winch motor for both sails in a similar fashion. The third straw allows Lister to control her Raymarine autopilot, to trim one sail relative to the other and raise or lower the height of the boom.

In 2005, Lister, an Oxford graduate in biochemistry, became the first quadriplegic sailor to sail solo across the Channel. Two years later she became the first quadriplegic woman to sail around the Isle of Wight.

Lister was wheelchair-bound at the age of 15 because of a neurological disorder, reflex sympathetic dystrophy. She lost the use of her arms and hands in 1998, aged 27.

Her ‘Round Britain Dream’ aims to raise funds and awareness of her charity, Hilary’s Dream Trust, which helps adults with disabilities or in financial hardship with their dreams of sailing.