Disabled take to the water at Bewl to celebrate Hilary’s life

Pam Mills

Hilary’s Dream Trust held their taster day to help 16 adults with physical disabilities or financial hardships to experience the sport.

The charity was established in 2008 by Hilary Lister, who suffered a degenerative condition called reflex sympathetic dystrophy that left her in a wheelchair aged 15 and paralysed from the neck down by the age of 27.

But thanks to donations allowing her to buy specialist equipment, she has been able to set sail on long journeys and started the trust to allow others to do the same.

It was the first such experience to be hosted at Bewl, but sadly Hilary was not able to see it as she passed away on August 18, aged 46.

Organiser Kim Mason, a friend of Hilary’s and a trustee of the charity, said: “It was amazing, the participants were so brave.

“Some of them were nervous about going on to the water, but they plucked up the courage and had a great time – they even wanted to have a second go.”

She added: “I watched people who don’t move so quickly on the land suddenly moving swiftly across the water.”

The Mariners of Bewl sailing group volunteered their time to help the participants into the boat and across the water.

Even though some of the participants were in a wheelchair, all played at least some part in the boat’s movement.

Hilary, who lived in Dunkirk near Faversham, controlled her boat using sip-and-puff technology.

She sailed solo around the Isle of Wight in 2007 and then around Britain two years later, a feat which saw her ranked fourth in the world by the International Sailing Federation.

Until now, the Kent-based trust had concentrated on providing financial support and information for projects.

Beneficiaries are asked to raise money or awareness for the trust so others receive the same help.

Ms Mason said the popularity of the first taster day might lead to similar events being held in the future.

She added: “We want to keep Hilary’s legacy going. We can’t predict what the future will bring – but members of the public have been inspired by Hilary and we want to help people get their first flavour of sailing.

“We want to give them the opportunity to live their dreams.”

Disabled groups learned to sail with Hilary’s Dream Trust in memory of Hilary Lister

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