Monday, 10 March 2014

How can British quadriplegic Hilary Lister possibly sail 850nms from Mumbai to Muscat?

British quadriplegic sailor Hilary Lister will set out on an extraordinary journey from Mumbai in India to Muscat on March 12 aiming to complete a 850 nautical mile voyage across the Arabian Sea despite not even being able to hold on tight.

Follow Hilary and Naswa's amazing story here on Oman Sail's website

Lister, supported by Oman Sail and sailing with Oman’s Nashwa Al Kindi, is paralysed from the neck down but became one of Britain’s best known sailors in 2009 when she sailed solo round Britain to set a new disabled record.

Eight months ago, she teamed up with ‘Nash’ after meeting her during a visit to Oman to give a series of motivational talks at Oman Sail.

They hit it off immediately and started to plan ‘something’ together so on March 12, this pair of trailblazers will set sail from Mumbai on a stable 28-foot Dragonfly trimaran, which has been specially adapted to take the sip and puff sailing technology Hilary relies on to control boat  speed and direction.

The 850 nautical mile voyage will take anything from 9 to 15 days with the two girls operating a watch system to ensure safe and steady progress, with Hilary undertaking most of the navigation duties.

Ever since she started sailing 11 years ago, Hilary who suffers from degenerative disease Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy has felt a strong calling to the oceans and although she has never spent more than 36 hours at sea before, this latest Mumbai to Muscat challenge is her most exciting yet.


 “This is a big challenge in terms of personal endurance and navigating large stretches of water and being responsible for myself and other people as well,” she said.

“But I can’t wait. I love the ocean and feel a huge call to it. I also feel it’s a huge privilege to make this voyage, especially with Nashwa who will be the first Omani woman to make an oceanic passage and that makes me a very privileged person.

“If we get more than 10 to 15 knots it will be a fantastic ride – we will be strapping ourselves to the boat and loving every second of it.”

Also on board will be a carer to attend to Hilary’s medical needs and Oman Sail’s Niall Myant, a qualified yachtmaster with a vast amount of experience of offshore sailing, who will help in the event of an emergency.

At worse, help could be 48 hours away but Nashwa, a 32 year-old Omani dinghy instructor who last November won the ISAF President Development Award for outstanding achievement in the development of sailing, is confident they will make it safely to Oman.

“I will be the first Arab woman to do this so if I reach Oman safely, this will be a record. I’m very excited,” she said.

“We could have between 10-20 knots which is quite strong but we are hoping most of the trip will be less but it is not predictable because sometimes the wind comes from the north and sometimes from the east so it depends on which wind will win.

“There will be no support vessel during the journey but we’ll have a radio, radar and a life-raft. If we need help, it could take 48 hours depending on where we are.

“My friends and family keep asking me why I am doing this but the truth is I love sailing and one day want to sail solo so this is a small step towards my dream.

“Also I’m doing this to inspire Omani people - if I can do this then there is no reason why Omani women shouldn’t go after their dreams,” said Nashwa who learned to sail in 2011.

The two women will take turns on watch. Hilary will have three straws in her sip and puff system to control steering, sails and navigation and when it is Nashwa’s turn, she will switch off her system and operate the boat manually.

During the day, a watch will be six hours and at night three or four hours with breaks for drinks and meals.

“We’ll have dehydrated food so we only have to add water and we have other meals that self-heat when you flick a switch,” explained Nashwa.

If successful, the Trans-ocean crossing which has been sponsored by Oman conglomerate Mistal will  be the first to be completed by a severely paralysed woman and the first to be recorded by an Arab female sailor.

The route is a direct one used from Roman and pre-Islamic times when the Indo-Oman trading links, which have been so important to the development of Oman, were first established.

Follow Hilary's progress at

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Alex Thomson on his mastwalk: never again!!

Alex Thomson is used to blazing new trails as he demonstrated when he won the Clipper Race in 1998-99 to become the youngest skipper to win a round-the-world race.

This week it was a different trail but just as cool. Despite having a fear of heights, he walked the length of his 100 foot mast as his boat Hugo Boss was heeled at a 45 degree angle somewhere off the coast of Cadiz in Spain and dived fully suited, into the water.

Within hours of the video of his mastwalk going live, 250,000 people had viewed it, twice as many as the numbers who tuned in when he completed a similarly crazy stunt walking the keel of Hugo Boss in 2011.

Thomson had to lie in a bath for an hour afterwards to calm down

He came up with the mastwalk idea last year and took it to his sponsors Hugo Boss, who have been supporting his sailing successes since 2003. Predictably, they loved it and gave him the backing to go ahead, with a team of 25 cameramen, medics  and sailors plus a helicopter for some dramatic overhead shots and a stuntman just in case Thomson froze, as he thought he might, before leaping into the water.

He trained by attending the diving centre near his home in Southampton where some members of the British Olympic diving team train and although he jumped from the 10m board he only managed a training dive from 5m before losing his nerve. 

Next thing he knew, he was perched precariously at the end of his mast about 15 metres above the sea trying to remember everything he'd learned in the pool.

“I was very nervous,” admitted the 39 year-old skipper who is best known for his attempts on the non-stop solo round the world race, the Vendee Globe. 

“I’ve been up the mast plenty of times when racing in the Vendee but I wanted to do this when the boat was fully powered up with the keel out of the water so before I set off, I was really questioning my own sanity.

“But it is good to do something challenging.

“I ran up the mainsail – I had tested a few pairs of trainers to find some that gripped well. When a boat is heeled at 40 degrees it is hard to scramble up the sail but at 45 degrees, it was a bit easier.

“It took about 16 seconds to get to the top. And then there was a massive broach and the boat tacked. I could see the gust coming and knew the boat had leaned over too far but I had enough time to get to the rig and hang on.

“We had to put a fibre sticker at the top of the mast because there are no shrouds to hang onto up there and I needed something vaguely stable that I could stand on before I went off – but it was like a flipping springboard.

“My boat captain and good mate Ross Daniel was helming and he did all the work. All I had to do was climb to the top, grow some cahunas and dive off. He had to control the boat and make sure it stayed over for long enough.

“I wouldn’t do it again. Everyone was pretty stressed and by the time we were finished, I had to lie in a bath for an hour to try and calm down. It was a lot less pleasant than I thought it would be.”

For now, the stunts are over. Thomson is now concentrating on his next race, the two handed Barcelona World Race with Spanish sailor Pepe Ribes starting at the end of this year. 

That will take three months and then his sights will be set on the next Vendee Globe in 2016.  It will be his fourth attempt at claiming sailing’s most highly prized offshore trophy and if rumours are to be believed, this attempt will be made in a brand new boat which will immediately place him as a favourite to win.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Alex Thomson: he's no Tom Daley but blessed with BIG balls

Some say Alex Thomson is more style than substance. Make your own mind up here......


And he's off.......

This looks photoshopped...!

Alex Thomson takes a stroll to the top of his mast!! What a great picture and how cool that Hugo Boss have an athlete on their books who is prepared to do these crazy stunts!! Go Alex!!

This isn't the first time he's been sleep walking.  Do you remember this??