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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 July 2005, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Disabled sailor uses 'windpower'
Hilary Lister hopes to be the first quadriplegic to sail the English Channel
Hilary Lister has been practising her sailing over the summer
A disabled female sailor plans to sail the English Channel solo by using an unusual system of suck and blow power.

If successful, Hilary Lister will become the first quadriplegic to sail the channel between England and France.

The mechanism, similar to one on her wheelchair, uses two straws connected to switches to control the boat's sails and the tiller, which steers the boat.

The 33-year-old from Kent hopes to make the Calais-Dover sailing in under six hours, before the end of August.

She already uses a sip-puff system to control her electric wheelchair, and parts have been taken from an old chair and put into a 27ft long Soling boat.

'Another dimension'

Ms Lister has been a quadriplegic for four years, due to a progressive degenerative disease, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, which has worked its way up from her ankles to her neck.

Before that she was "a sporty, tomboy type" who liked canoeing, swimming, rugby and hockey.

"Two years ago a friend said to me they knew a club where they could get me on the water," she told the BBC website.

"The minute I was on the water I felt I was flying. It is like having another dimension to you.

"Having sailed with the help of other people I then wanted to do something myself, and the idea of the channel challenge came to me in the winter of 2003-2004."

Sail adjustment

Her breath will drive a set of four switches, which can provide four different electrical outputs.

To steer to port, she will blow down the steering tube, and to steer to starboard, she will sip from this tube.

And to pull the sails in, she will sip from the sail control tube, and to blow the sails out, she puffs down this tube.

The jib and the mainsail are adjusted simultaneously, and, if necessary, both tubes can be sipped or puffed at the same time.

The challenge, which she hopes to complete between 15 and 31 August, is raising money to allow sailing opportunities for others who may be in her position.

Her boat, called Malin, is sponsored by print and electronic media company Pindar.


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