Hilary Lister, a quadriplegic who became the first disabled woman to sail solo round Britain in 2009, has died aged 46, her charity Hilary’s Dream Trust announced on Monday.
Lister – who was born able-bodied but suffered from the degenerative condition reflex sympathetic dystrophy – became paralysed from the neck down aged 27.
The Oxford University graduate started sailing in 2003, and said: “Within 30 seconds of being in a boat I was in love.”
Lister, the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year in 2007, became famous after she used the “sip-and-puff” system – using straws in her mouth – for steering and controlling a yacht’s sails.
She became the first quadriplegic to sail across the English Channel in 2005 and went on to sail solo around Britain in 2009 and also traversed the Indian Ocean.
The International Sailing Federation (ISAF) judged that her 2009 solo feat put her in the top four sailors in the world.
”It is with deep regret that Hilary’s Dream Trust announces the passing of its founder – Hilary Lister – an inspiration to many, a recipient of many accolades and a record holder of many sailing achievements,” read the statement from the charity on her website.
Her stepson Alex Lister – who said she had not been “well for a while” – paid tribute, telling the BBC: “She turned the suffering she was experiencing into an opportunity.”
Reflecting on her crossing of The English Channel he said: “People thought she was nuts but she went out and did it and she was on cloud nine.” – AFP