Class 40 boat to be modified

Quadriplegic yachtswoman Hilary Lister has announce her intention to compete in the 2011 Fastnet Race in a Class 40 boat and 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 World Sailor of the Year awards.

Ideas about enabling Hilary to race offshore were discussed as far back as 2008 and 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 and Bainbridge – 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/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/puff interface.

The team reports that the ISAF rules committee has been contacted about racing a boat with a high degree of mechanical support. RORC and the Class 40 class association have also been consulted about entering the Fastnet race. 

In a statment, Hilary acknowledged the support of Andrew Pindar, KCC Sports Development Unit. Also the following; Raymarine, Harken, Ocean Safety, Jeckells Sailmakers and Rogers Yacht Design.