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 http://yb.tl/hillarynashwa