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