A QUADRIPLEGIC yachtswoman who became the first to sail solo around Britain has died at the age of 46.
Friends and family have paid tribute to Hilary Lister, of Dunkirk near Canterbury, Kent, after she succumbed to her illness on Saturday night.
The sportswoman suffered from a degenerative condition called reflex sympathetic dystrophy that left her paralysed from the neck down.
She was able-bodied until the age of 15, when she sat down on a train platform because her legs hurt and never got up again.
Wheelchair-bound Hilary lost the use of her limbs by the time she was 27 and studying a PhD in biochemistry at the University of Oxford.
In 2009 Hilary hit headlines after she beat the odds and completed a 14-month journey to become the first female quadriplegic to sail around the UK.
The trip, from May 21 to August 31, was subject of a BBC2 documentary called A Race Against Time.
Four years earlier she broke the world record when she became the first disabled woman to sail solo across the Channel.
Incredibly, she directed her boat by sucking and blowing on three straws – referred to as “sip-puff” technology – linked to an innovative Power Assist System.
In 2010, she set out on a four-day, 100-mile journey around the Bahrain coastline in aid of disability charity Bahrain Mobility International.
She won a number of accolades for her achievements, including the Helen Rollason Award for Inspiration in the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year Awards, and Vitalise Woman of Achievement Award.
Hilary was even a contender for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 2009.
She set up the charity Hilary’s Dream Trust, which aims to help other disabled and disadvantaged adults.
Hilary underwent a number of operations and in 2016 briefly regained some movement but was never fully mobile again.
Her house was controlled with voice-activated commands and a chin switch so she could open the front door and answer the phone.
In 1999, she married local singing teacher Clifford Lister but was never able to have children of her own.
Clifford’s son Alex Lister told the Canterbury Journal: “My stepmother was the definition of an inspirational woman. I never heard her complain once about her condition or the hand life dealt her.
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“Instead, she turned a challenge into an opportunity and achieved things able-bodied people can only dream of.
“Her strength of character and desire to make the world a better place for others is a huge source of motivation for me personally.
“If I can make half the positive impact on the world that she did, I will be a very happy man.”
Andrew Pindar retold her incredible life story in a touching post on Facebook on Sunday as the sailing community paid tribute.
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