Eight Bells: Hilary Lister

Published on August 20th, 2018

Hilary Lister (GBR), the first disabled woman to sail solo around Britain, has died at the age of 46 on August 18, 2018.

Paralyzed from the neck down, she became famous after she used the “sip-and-puff” system for steering and controlling a yacht’s sails by blowing and sucking through plastic straws.

Hilary became the first quadriplegic person to sail across the Channel in 2005 and then the first quadriplegic woman to sail around the Isle of Wight in 2007. Two years later she sailed solo around Britain.

From Dunkirk, near Canterbury, Kent, she was born able-bodied but had the degenerative condition reflex sympathetic dystrophy, which meant she used a wheelchair from the age of 15.

She went on to study biochemistry at Jesus College, Oxford, but during her studies her condition worsened and she became paralysed from the neck down at the age of 27. Lister started sailing with Westbere Sailing Opportunities in Canterbury in 2003, and said: “Within 30 seconds of being in a boat I was in love.”

She won the Sunday Times Helen Rollason award for inspiration in 2007 and was awarded other accolades, including a Cosmopolitan superhero award and the Royal Cruising Club’s seamanship award in 2005. In 2009, Hilary was short-listed for the Rolex World Sailor of the Year.

Andrew Pindar, a generous supporter of the sport, had aided Hilary in her exploits. “As we got to know her more and more, her bravery and zest shone through,” noted Pindar. “In 2014, an Ocean crossing beckoned as she sailed from Mumbai to Muscat, with a necessary crew this time, on Albert Whitleys Dragonfly trimaran, with a sip and puff system installed by Roger Crabtree.

“At the end of the 2014/2015 Volvo Ocean Race, skipper Sam Davies and the all-girl crew of SCA invited her for a blast on their Volvo 65 yacht, a day none of them or Hilary would ever forget.

Hilary’s Dream Trust supports disabled and disadvantaged people in taking up sailing.

Source: The Guardian

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