You might have thought being quadriplegic would prevent you from participating in sport, not least one that requires manoeuvring a yacht
Time Out Bahrain staff
Who introduced you to sailing? A friend, who I had no idea sailed, came in and said would I like to go sailing one day, and since I hadn’t been out of the house in three months it seemed like a sensible thing to say yes to. I was down at the lake two weeks later. The toughest bit was getting out of the house.
How long did it take before you realised sailing was definitely the sport for you? It took about 30 seconds. Before I was disabled I was very sporty – I played hockey and rugby: anything that involved contact and had a ball in it was high up on my list. I went into a wheelchair at the age of 15 which was a big shock to the system having captained every sport there was. And I eventually got onto the paralympic swim squad, so I have tried other sports, but nothing grabbed me like this one.
Solo sailing can be a scary experience, but it must be petrifying for someone with a severe disability? People sail because you feel free when you are on water. It can be scary, but when you push off from the pontoon you have an incredible feeling of freedom because there is nothing you can do about what is going on in the office. You have got to deal with which set of sails to put up...
Was going sailing solo a choice that you made? I sail solo partly out of necessity, because that is what has been available. When I’m on the water I still need people to see me and give me my meds. There has to be a support boat.
The boat you sail was designed specifically for you. How does it work? It is quite simple to use, although it is not a simple set up. It involves three straws. One works the tiller, so you puff to go to port and sip to go to starboard. The second one works both of the sheets together so you can let the sails out by puffing and pull them in by sipping. The third one is a kind of menu switch and it lets me choose from a whole mixture of different options, such as go onto auto pilot and take ten minutes off to have something to eat.
What has been your greatest achievement to date? I think getting round Britain was the biggest thing. It was a long slog in a ridiculously small boat and a lot of people worked very hard to make that happen. And I am very, very lucky with my friends and in the people that support me, because it is not something that you do for the money, trust me. We did a month’s training, and then it took three months to sail round the UK.
What do you think will be your greatest challenge when sailing around Bahrain? The greatest challenge will be the heat. Although the warmth will be very nice, at the same time I will be sitting in a seat which is well insulated. That might actually be a bit of a challenge, so I am hoping that there will be a bit of a breeze. Though it will probably be breezeless, knowing my luck.
Have you been to the Gulf region before? No, but my brother lives in Dubai. I am really looking forward to coming out because it is a new part of the world and it is nice to travel around – I don’t get the opportunity that much, so it is nice to see different places.
You are giving a motivational talk to members of Bahrain Mobility International while you are here. Sum up what you will say. Really it is about saying anything is possible – you have to want it badly enough. If you have a dream you can go for it. You make your life worth living.
What’s next? After Bahrain I am hoping to go ocean racing. There is the Fastnet coming up in 2011. It would be nice to make that. But in order to go racing we have chosen a boat that is not only the right size, but also allows us to control the costs. The Fastnet is not a solo race, but has a minimum of three on it. Most races are either double handed or crewed. Hilary Lister is sponsored by Team Pindar. Her launch date is currently set at April 14, and she is expecting to take around three days to circumnavigate Bahrain. For more information, and to get further details on Hilary’s motivational talk at the BMI, contact Team Pindar general manager Harry Apiafi on email@example.com.