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Woman hopes to become first quadriplegic to sail solo over English Channel

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LONDON, Aug 22 (AFP) - A British woman who is only able to move her head, eyes and mouth said Monday she aims to become the first quadriplegic to sail solo across the English Channel on Tuesday.

Weather permitting, Hilary Lister, 33, plans to set sail from Dover, southeast England, at 6:00am (0500 GMT) and arrive in the French port of Calais five-to-seven hours later -- the longest, lone trip by a quadriplegic.

Lister, who has battled with the degenerative disease since her teens, said: "It has been my ultimate ambition to sail alone across the English Channel."

She began the sport in 2003 and said it had given her fresh hope at a time when she had been tempted to end her suffering.

"The Channel Challenge has quite literally saved my life and sailing has given me a sense of freedom I never thought would be possible again," Lister said in a statement.

Lister, who lives with her husband Clifford, 47, in Cantebury, will have to overcome physical and mental discomfort to navigate her specially designed vessel -- a 26-foot (7.9-metre) Soling keelboat, named Malin -- across the busy shipping route.

Without the use of her arms or legs, Lister will employ a so-called "sip and puff" method to control the sails and steer herself along. This involves two straws, which she literally either sucks up or blows down.

Through completing the mission, the sails woman said she hoped to raise awareness about disabled sailing as well as funds to allow more people with disabilities the chance to participate in the sport.

Pindar, an international print and electronic media company, is sponsoring the challenge, while the UK Sailing Accademy has provided training and made alterations to Lister's boat.

Lister will be followed by a support vessel run by Pindar as she makes her way across Channel.



COPYRIGHT 2005 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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