Natasha – My Story
Hi, my name is Natasha Lambert. I am 20 years old and have Athertoid cerebral palsy. I live on the Isle of Wight. I love sailing my boat Missisle off Cowes in the Solent. It’s absolutely wicked- its been converted so I can sail by breath, via a sip puff system.
Where it all began
I went on a family holiday to Calvert Trust and sailing was one of the activities, I loved all of the activities but where I live sailing is a big sport and so thought it would be easy to carry on when I got home… but I soon found out it wasn’t!
There were no boats we could find that had supportive seating or controls I could use. As I can’t use my hands my Dad had to start work adapting a boat for me. My Mum and Dad have no sailing experience so it was all new to them.
My Dad is pretty amazing at figuring things out for me, and realising how good I was at using a straw reliably to drink from he made the control system – sip-puff controls – the 1st for a model boat….
Every week I sailed my model boat on Ryde boating lake and I got pretty good at it. Dad and I had a race. Guess who won? ME!!
Moving on to a real boat!
“If you can sail a model boat, you can sail a bigger boat.” Dad said, so he then set about buying a second hand keelboat and converting it. Starting off designing a tilting supportive seat and adding electronic controls so I could steer the boat. So was born ‘Miss Isle.’ She’s my gorgeous first boat. I love her. It worked. I could sail her !!
Sip… Starboard (to the right)
Puff ….Port (left)
I started sailing on the River Medina at first then eventually out to sea, in the Solent, as my experience grew. The first time I sailed solo was absolutely fantastic!! I felt completely free!! Making decisions myself on where to go! This is my favorite sail of all time and it was from Cowes to Southampton and back. An experience I will never forget….
There are some hazards of sailing in the Solent – Tankers! There are some big ships and it can get very busy with ferries, cruise ships and allsorts of other craft, you need to keep focused and alert. Sometimes there can be pretty big waves come off some of them. Often there are sailing races and so you need to be aware of the course and not to get in their way and also have to be aware of the tide and the changes in weather.
I have been sailing now for seven years. I have taken on some big challenges and raised thousands of pounds for charity by completing them. These include;
Sailing round the Isle of wight in 12 and a half hours (2012)
Crossing the Channel between France and England (2013)
Sailing from Cowes to Wales (525 miles) and climbing a mountain (Pen y Fan) (2014)
Sailing from Cowes to London (2015)
Sailing round Scotland and climbing Cairn Gorm (2016)
and this year…….sailing across the Irish Sea, and sailing from Belfast to Dublin
This year I am fundraising for the RNLI who are a great support, and also for a Charity my family and I have started to help others with needs like me to sail via the sip-puff system: www.MissIsle.org.uk
I would love one day to sail across the Atlantic. This summer I am due to set out on the 17th July (weather permitting) and cross The Irish Sea. Then sail down the coast from Belfast to Dublin.
Natasha’s advice to anyone thinking about sailing is to definately have a go…..everything is worth trying, as you’ll never know if you don’t. Sailing is as safe as any sport. Picking the right day and conditions, starting out on a calm lake or river , there are lots of places all over the country from cities, and towns, London, Birmingham to countryside and coasts, though RYA Sailability centres or come and sail with me on the Isle of Wight!
If you know anyone who would like to try sailing and perhaps needs a supportive seat, and find using their hands difficult, maybe sailing by breath is the answer, and through our little charity we could hopefully help. Please take a few minutes to have a look at the Miss Isle website
Sailabilty is the RYA’s national programme enabling people with disabilities to try sailing and take part regularly. It’s the perfect sport to feel tranquillity and freedom on the water, or progress your skills and become competitive. Find out more here