At the Tullett Prebon London International Boat Show, quadriplegic yachtswoman Hilary Lister will announce her intention to compete in the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race in a Class 40 boat. Hilary is now actively seeking sponsors for this project.
Hilary, who is paralysed from the neck down, became the first disabled woman to sail solo around Britain in 2009, controlling her boat entirely with her breath. This feat led to her becoming one of the four woman finalists in the 2009 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards
Ideas about enabling Hilary to race offshore were discussed as far back as 2008. On completing the Round Britain Dream (RBD), Hilary and her team began giving this serious thought. Towards the end of 2009 the feasibility of sailing in the Class 40 fleet and campaigning for a 2011 Fastnet start was examined in detail. Key suppliers have been recruited. Jeckells The Sailmakers have come onboard. Raymarine and Ocean Safety will continue their support. Simon Rogers will design the boat (Simon is responsible for Hilary's current boat). Harken are developing key equipment.
To enable her to control the bigger Class 40 boat an advanced sip and puff system is currently under development. The current system (used for the RBD) uses 3 straws attached to sensitive pressure switches to control the boat. By sipping or puffing down each straw Hilary was able to control the helm, sails and her Raymarine autopilot. The system in development will allow her to control the whole boat, including reefing sails and giving access to advanced navigation functions but using the same sip and puff interface.
Whilst at the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year awards in Korea, Hilary took the opportunity to make contact with the ISAF Rules Committee about racing a boat with a high degree of mechanical support and the RORC about entering the Fastnet Race. Hilary Lister Offshore Racing is in contact with the Class 40 class association.
Hilary is continuing to push boundaries. To enable this, new hardware and techniques are under development. The rules of sailing will need to be re examined. The new boat will move the limits of what is possible under sail.
On Friday 8 January, Hilary will be on the Jeckells The Sailmakers stand (NO13E) at 14:00 to announce Jeckells and Bainbridge's sponsorship.
On Friday 15 January, Hilary will be on the Show Stage at 15:30 to talk about her Round Britain Dream and plans for the future.