Being hit in the face by a flying fish was 'a hilarious moment'

British quadriplegic sailor Hilary Lister and Omani Nashwa Al Kindi sailed into the record books last week with two new trans-ocean records.

Hilary, aged 42, and Nashwa, aged 32, spent nine days aboard a 28ft Dragonfly trimaran, covering 850 nautical miles

across the Indian Ocean.

Their voyage started from Mumbai, India on Tuesday 11 March and generally took them upwind with winds

reaching no more than 10-15kts, and an average boat speed of 5-6kts.

A 36-hour stop to refuel and carry out a repair to the Code

Zero sail delayed their overall finish time but they crossed the finishing

line in Oman on 19 March before the official welcome took place at The Wave, Muscat on 20 March.

A huge gathering turned out to honour the two women who now hold

records for the first ever severely paralysed woman and the first Arab female

sailor to make a trans-oceanic crossing.

Hilary, who suffers from a

degenerative disease – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – and who is paralysed from

the neck down, had previously set a record for a solo round-Britain disabled voyage in 2009.

The duo sailed with their ‘guardian angel’ Niall Myatt and Hilary’s carer Lisa Blacklocks.

Hilary said: ‘Niall Myatt’s role was tough. As a sailor his brief was to stay out of

everything… something I certainly couldn’t do yet! His experience and

advice were absolutely indispensable however.

‘We would have been

foolhardy to go to sea without someone of his calibre onboard. How he

survived nine days at sea with three women who (in Nash’s words) are

definitely slightly “Cuckoo-bananas”, I will never know.’

She added: ‘I am

obviously 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, sailed a specially

adapted Dragonfly.

A sip and puff sailing system

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.

Hilary added: ‘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


‘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.”

She described a voyage highlight: “Being on the ocean

at night was simply sensational. I will never forget the amount of

phosphorescence. The boat looked like it was lit up from underneath and, when I

put my hand in the water it was still glowing five minutes later.

‘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.’

Hilary’s teammate, Nashwa hopes that becoming the first Arab female to set a new sailing record will inspire other women to follow their dreams.

Nashwa, who is a dinghy

sailing instructor at Oman Sail, only started sailing in 2011 but instantly

adapted to sport and 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.

She said: ‘I am very happy and proud to achieve this goal. It was always my dream to sail

offshore in a big boat.’

Nashwa’s ‘ultimate goal’ is to sail solo

around the world.

Commenting on the trip’s most

memorable moments, Nashwa added: ‘I will always remember the little chit-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.’

The record-breakers thanked the

Navy and Yachting Association of India who played a big role in the logistics

of the boat’s departure from India, particularly Captain Jaiswal and Malav

Shroff. Oman Air’s spacious business class seats were also complimented for

allowing Hilary to travel comfortably from Muscat to Mumbai before embarking on

the journey.

Read Hilary’s blog

Picture credits: Lloyd Images