The first female quadriplegic to sail solo around Britain arrived back at Dover harbour yesterday.
As the sun set, Hilary Lister, 37, sailed into the harbour to be greeted by cheering supporters. She had been due to arrive today, but at the last minute brought forward her final sail after adverse weather was forecast.
Speaking in her boat at the quayside, Mrs Lister, of Canterbury, said: “The killer was when the wind died just east of the entrance to the harbour but it picked up just as I sailed in. I’m so relieved to be home — but looking forward to the next challenge. One thing I’ve learnt is that you can’t predict the future — we couldn’t even predict tomorrow’s weather — so I’m not ruling anything out or anything in.”

Her spokesman Paul Taroni said: “This is an amazing triumph over adversity. Everything that went against her Hilary overcame to do something truly inspirational. We are all so proud of her.”
The Round Britain challenge began on June 16 last year, when Mrs Lister left Dover and sailed the length of the South Coast. She arrived in Newlyn on August 13, but hold-ups caused by bad weather led the team to postpone the rest of the trip.
She resumed the journey this year from Plymouth but just before the scheduled start was taken to hospital with breathing difficulties. After two hours under observation she returned to the harbour and left at dawn on May 21. Her route, divided into 40 day-long sails, took her around the tip of Cornwall and up the east coast of Ireland, the west coast of Scotland, northeast along the Caledonian Canal, and down the east coast to Dover.

The highlight of the trip, Mrs Lister, an Oxford biochemistry graduate, said, had been seeing marine wildlife. “Just seeing whales 35ft long fully breached out of the water was incredible,” she said. “Two of them jumped like dolphins — it was amazing.”
Mrs Lister has reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a degenerative disorder causing her constant pain that has to be controlled with drugs. The condition, diagnosed when she was 11, has robbed her of many functions, but she can move her head, eyes and mouth.
She controls Me Too, a 20ft Artemis 20 carbon fibre keelboat, with a “sip and puff” system of three straws linked to pressure-sensitive switches.
The technology enabled her to take up sailing in 2003, and two years later she sailed the Channel solo. In 2007 Geoff Holt became the first quadriplegic to sail solo around Britain.
The Round Britain challenge has raised £30,000 for Hilary’s Dream Trust, which helps disabled and disadvantaged adults to take up sailing.

The Times

September 1, 2009