Hilary, who was a typically active teenager, became wheelchair-bound at the age of 15 due to a progressive neurological disorder. Despite the gradual loss of the use of her body from the neck down, and constant pain, Hilary continued her education, achieving a 2.1 in Biochemistry from Oxford and going on to study for her PhD. At 27, she lost the use of her arms and hands. Five years later Hilary went sailing on a local lake with a friend, and credits that event with saving her life.
“Within seconds of being on the water, a light switched back on inside me. Life didn’t seem worth living anymore until I discovered sailing.”
Above – Hilary setting out from Dover on her way to Eastbourne
Now 36, Hilary’s dream of sailing around Britain started when, supported by the Lions clubs of the British Isles and Ireland, she set off from Dover with her four support boat crew and three land crew. Hilary controls her boat – an Artemis 20 – using a ‘sip and puff’ system developed by Steve Alvey of Calgary, Canada, where a system uses three straws connected to sensitive pressure switches. A gentle ‘sip’ on one straw makes the boat go starboard, whilst a ‘puff’ will take the boat to port. A second straw controls the winch motor for both sails in a similar fashion. The third straw allows Hilary to control her Raymarine autopilot.
The aim of Hilary’s ‘Round Britain Dream’ is not only record breaking, but to raise funds for, and awareness of, Hilary’s charity; Hilary’s Dream Trust which exists to facilitate adults with disabilities or in financial hardship to reach their sailing own dreams. Keep up with her progress here