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Quadriplegic sailor Hilary Lister sails into the record books again

by Adam Tanous 20 Mar 2014 07:23 PDT 20 March 2014
Hilary Lister and Omani Nashwa Al Kindi have sailed into the record books aboard a 28ft Dragonfly trimaran to claim two new trans-ocean records © Lloyd Images

GAC Pindar ambassador and quadriplegic sailor Hilary Lister today (20 March) set a new trans-ocean record by becoming the first paralysed woman to complete the 850 NM sea voyage from Mumbai in India to Muscat, Oman. Her sailing partner, Omani yachtswoman Nashwa Al Kindi, also set a record of her own as the first Arab woman sailor to complete the trip.

The pair sailed into port at the end of their voyage which started from the busy port on the western coast of India and crossed the Indian Ocean.

Back on dry land, Hilary says the hardest part was getting off the boat: "I never wanted to get off!"

She adds: "We had a few challenges, but for me it's all about pushing yourself to the limit. It's meeting those challenges that gives me so much pleasure.

"We had some fun moments too. There were dolphins and whales along the way – and I even got slapped in the face by a flying fish. And at night, the sight of phosphorescence on the water and clear starry skies is absolutely beautiful."

It was the latest in a series of challenges that Hilary has set herself. She first made it to the record books in 2005, when she sailed the English Channel, and again in 2009 when she sailed solo around Britain.

Hilary and Nashwa's arrival in Muscat was well-timed, as the port is currently playing host to some of the elite of competitive sailing whilst it hosts the 2nd Act of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series. The GAC Pindar team, skippered by Australian Seve Jarvin, is among the crews vying for a place on the leader board.

Nashwa Al Kindi and Hilary Lister set records (from Oman Sail)

British quadriplegic sailor Hilary Lister (42), and Omani Nashwa Al Kindi (32) have sailed into the record books aboard a 28ft Dragonfly trimaran to claim two new trans-ocean records.

Although they crossed the finish line in Oman last night, the official welcome took place at The Wave, Muscat earlier today. A huge gathering turned out to honour the two girls who now hold records for the first ever severely paralysed woman and the first Arab female sailor to make a trans-oceanic crossing.

The 850-nautical mile journey across the Indian Ocean started from Mumbai, India on Tuesday 11 March and took nine days to complete. The course generally took them up wind with winds reaching no more than 10-15kts, and the average boat speed was 5-6kts. They did however, encounter a 36-hour stop to refuel and carry out a repair to the Code Zero sail, which delayed their overall finish time.

Lister, who suffers from a degenerative disease – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – and who is paralysed from the neck down, can now add this record to the already impressive solo round Britain disabled record she set in 2009.

Lister commented: "I am delighted to have set this record with Nashwa. It was a truly amazing journey, particularly the arrival into Oman. More than anything, however, this trip has highlighted that longer offshore legs are a lot easier for me than shorter legs where I am constantly getting on and off the boat."

The team, powered by Oman Sail and sponsored by Mistal and United Engineering Services, with support from Oman Air, GAC Pindar, Harken, Ocean Safety and Raymarine, were sailing a specially adapted Dragonfly. This boat incorporates a unique sip and puff sailing system that sends signals to a device using air pressure. By inhaling or exhaling into a straw Lister is able to steer, trim sails and navigate.

Lister continued: "Thanks to Roger Crabtree's simple 'plug and play' sip and puff system, I think we proved that a long distance oceanic passage is highly achievable. This particular creation means I can transfer it from one boat to another, which has inspired me to think about future challenges. In the short term, however, it will be a case of trying to help other people with similar difficulties to me, get on the water by making this system available."

Commenting on the highlight of the voyage, Lister said it has to be the phosphorescence: "Being on the ocean at night was simply sensational. I will never forget the amount of phosphorescence.

"The funniest moment I had was when a flying fish hit me slap, bang in the middle of the face. It was a hilarious moment, and we still laugh about it now. As well as the serious sailing, we had a lot of fun."

Lister's teammate, Al Kindi believes that becoming the first Arab female to set a new sailing record will hopefully inspire other women to follow their dreams. Al Kindi, who is a dinghy sailing instructor at Oman Sail, only started sailing in 2011 but instantly adopted the sport. In a short period of time she was recognised as the "Coach of the Year" in Oman Sail's Sailor of the Year Awards 2013, and presented with the ISAF President Development Award 2013 for outstanding achievement.

As she stepped ashore she said: "I am very happy and proud to achieve this goal. It was always my dream to sail offshore in a big boat. I am sure, and I hope that what we have done will be an inspiration for Omani and non-Omani women to go for their dreams and goals. For me personally, it has strengthened my ultimate goal, which is to sail solo around the world one day."

Commenting on the trip's most memorable moments, Al Kindi said: "I will always remember the chats I had with Hilary on deck at night. She is a good, experienced sailor and she taught me a lot and she is my biggest inspiration."

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