Sixteen year old Natasha Lambert was born with atheroid cerebral palsy, which affects her limbs as well as her speech and confines her to a wheelchair. On Monday 1 July, she is leaving her wheelchair behind to embark on an incredible challenge entitled The French Connection which will see her sail her 21ft Mini Transat, Miss Isle Too, across the English Channel completely by herself using just her mouth to control the boat. She is raising money for the RNLI, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust and Wetwheels Solent.
Natasha, who lives on the Isle of Wight with her family, is predicting the 25 mile voyage, which starts in Bologne, France (9am TBC) and finishes in Dover, will take her around seven hours. Without the use of her hands, she sails the yacht with her mouth using a ‘sip and puff’ system - operated by a straw inside a mountain bike helmet - which has been engineered by her father.
'Natasha can’t walk across the room unaided and yet on Monday she will be sailing from one country to another', explains her mum Amanda.
'When she is sailing Natasha is able to experience freedom and excitement and most importantly make decisions which she is unable to do in her everyday life. She’s also grown in confidence and has made loads of friends. For her it’s all about leaving her wheelchair on the pontoon and feeling free, she says it’s wicked!'
Last year Natasha’s sense for adventure inspired her to sail solo around the Isle of Wight raising over £17,000 for charity. This latest challenge sees her sailing across the Channel for the very first time and she has been out on the water training hard for the past few months, with her coach Phil who will be joining her onboard for the voyage.
Gary Lambert, Natasha’s farther will also be playing his part as the driver of her safety boat.
Gary said: 'From the moment she first experienced sailing as a passenger in a dinghy, Natasha fell in love with being out on the water. Since then she was determined to find a way to be able to sail herself and as a family it has become a huge part of our lives. I am immensely proud of Tasha. Every time she goes out on the water I’m proud of her. She surprises me every time she gets to another mile stone. I’m proud of her determination, her skill and her courage'.
Natasha started sailing through RYA Sailability which supports opportunities for people with a disability to experience sailing and to sail more regularly. For more information visit www.rya.org.uk/sailability.
To find out more information about Natasha Lambert and to sponsor her challenge visit Miss Isle.