'Sip and Puff’ sailor Natasha 'Miss isle’ Lambert has conquered the biggest test of her Sea and Summit challenge to date as she completed the 60 mile rounding of Land’s End today (Thursday 7 August).
The 17-year-old, who has cerebral palsy and controls her boat by breathing through a straw in a specially-engineered bicycle helmet designed by her dad Gary, completed the longest leg of her 12 leg voyage around England’s South West coast from Newlyn to Padstow in 11 hours, arriving into the famous North Cornwall fishing harbour to warm applause on schedule at 4pm.
To complete the challenge in time, Natasha set sail at 5am - meaning a 2.30am alarm call for her and her support team - and during the sail the party had to contend with some Atlantic swell which caused some seasickness.
But never perturbed, Natasha cracked on and was buoyed by the sight of a pod of dolphins leaping nearby, their first real sighting of dolphins during the two weeks of the challenge so far.
With the path of Hurricane Bertha expected to cause some difficult conditions in the coming days, the decision has already been made to take a few rest days before the penultimate leg of the sailing challenge, from Padstow to Ilfracombe, which is another trip over 50 miles.
Mum Amanda admits she could not have been more proud of how Natasha tackled the biggest sailing challenge of her career so far. She said: “We’re really pleased that one’s done. It’s exciting going round Land’s End, but it’s such a long way and we’re quite relieved everything’s ok. I think this one’s always been in the backs of our minds; we knew there was going to be a swell and being in Atlantic waters is different to what Natasha’s done before and it didn’t disappoint! It was an early start and everyone’s really shattered now.
“Natasha says she’s loved every minute of it, which is great because she’s really enjoyed it, which was always the main thing. Coming into all these towns and seeing them from the sea is something not a lot of people get to experience and we’re really ever so privileged, it’s been a real adventure.
“Over the next few days we’re going to do lots of walking practice and getting ready for the mountain because it’s only two sails away. We’ve already looked at a few good walks around here so we’re looking forward to exploring the area.”
Sea and Summit is Natasha’s biggest challenge yet - a month-long project sailing her specially-designed 21ft yacht, Miss Isle Too, single-handed around the South West coast of England to Wales before she swaps her boat for her special walking aid, called a Hart Walker, to climb Pen y Fan, the highest peak in Southern Britain. In total she will sail around 430 miles and climb 2,907ft.
Through the Sea and Summit challenge Natasha is raising money for the RNLI, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust and the RYA Foundation, as well as the profile of sailing for people with disabilities. She has a target of £15,000 to raise by the end of her challenge.
Natasha’s coach, Phil Devereux, added: “We always knew it was going to be a long day with time pressures to hit so it was quite business like in approach. It was exposed sailing too, which she hasn’t previously had a lot of experience in. It was lovely and sunny, but Land’s End’s never flat, there’s always a bit of rolling swell and she handled that.
"She ’s taken most of the stuff she had to face in her stride, and today threw the most at her in terms of the length of the sail and she had to battle through a little bit of seasickness but she always wanted to carry on and showed real grit and determination. I’m sure she felt pretty rotten at times today, but the way she pushed through was one of my high points of the trip so far."
Phil added: “We can’t take our foot off the pedal at all though, we have two substantial sails to come to Ilfracombe then Swansea. Natasha’s grown as a sailor throughout this whole trip, not just with miles under the boat but she’s experienced coastal offshore sailing so the change in the way the water moves and the way you have to sail the boat according to that.
"We keep saying remember the stories, the highs and the lows, because we’re having a fantastic adventure to look back on."
Sailing has been Natasha’s big love since she first went on holiday with the Calvert Trust aged nine. She then started sailing at home and spent two years sailing with the Even Keel Project and her local RYA Sailability. RYA Sailability is the national programme providing people with disabilities opportunities to learn to sail and sail regularly.
Last year she sailed across the English Channel, and in 2012, the 50-miles around the Isle of Wight.
To support Natasha's challenge visit www.missisle.com
For more information on getting involved in disability sailing visit www.rya.org.uk/sailability