Grinning 'sip and puff' sailor Natasha 'Miss Isle' Lambert declared herself happy after successfully completing the 25-mile first leg of her Sea and Summit Challenge from Cowes on the Isle of Wight to Poole, Dorset today (Thursday 24 July).
The 17-year-old, who has cerebral palsy and controls her boat by breathing through a straw in a specially-engineered bicycle helmet, enjoyed a memorable welcome into Poole Harbour with a number of boats from the RNLI Lifeboat College and Poole Sailability escorting her in.
Through the Sea and Summit challenge Natasha will sail 430 miles and climb 2,907ft to raise money for the RNLI, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust and the RYA Foundation, as well as the profile of sailing for people with disabilities.
And it was the RNLI College that provided Natasha's final destination for the day, the place where she and her support team had undertaken sea survival training as part of their preparations for the month-long challenge.
Earlier in the day Natasha departed her hometown of Cowes, and was waved on her way by the latest group of young people sailing on an Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust four-day trip as the boats passed each other in the Solent.
Almost eight hours later, sailing in temperatures pushing 30 degrees, she was back smiling on dry land, having dealt admirably with the heat and light winds.
Mum Amanda said: "It's nice to get day one out of the way. It's been such a big build up with so much planning that to see Tash out there enjoying her sailing is what this whole challenge is about.
"The weather did us a favour in many ways; the fact it was such a nice start, and quite a gentle sail, enabled us all to find our feet a bit and get into the swing of it all. She really enjoyed it."
Phil Devereux, Natasha's coach, added: "We managed the heat well, that was definitely the longest she has ever sailed in such hot temperatures. She took breaks with the helmet off so she could get some cool bits and pieces over her head and around her neck, and she took plenty of drinks so it was a success.
"It was a nice leg for her to begin, sailing out of her home waters made it relaxed and 25 miles wasn't enormous, so although light winds made it a longer day it will stand her in good stead for tomorrow and onwards."
As part of her nine-month preparations for Sea and Summit, Natasha with dad Gary and Phil spent an afternoon using the state-of-the-art training facilities at the RNLI College.
Dave Whiddon, Lifeboat Trainer, took the group through their sea survival training in the pool where all the RNLI crews do their training too.
He explains: "We did capsize drills, so looking at the dangers of Tash getting trapped underneath the boat and the best ways to deal with it, Man Overboard and the best options to get her back onboard, and general emergency procedures.
"We had all our risk assessments in place and everyone knew what we needed to achieve out of it. We are delighted to be supporting her in this project."
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.
Anna Moreland, Chair of Trustees Poole Sailability, said: "Natasha is a wonderful ambassador for Sailability, showing how the grassroots small clubs can give that first opportunity to people with disabilities to try sailing. All of us at Poole Sailability wish her every success."
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. She will then swap her boat for a special walking aid to climb Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons, the highest peak in Southern Britain.
Last year she sailed across the English Channel, and in 2012, the 50-miles around the Isle of Wight.
Sea and Summit Challenge - Stand by to Go reception video
How can I support Miss Isle?
Whether you want to send Natasha messages of support or would like to donate to her fundraising there are a number of ways to get involved:
Facebook: Miss Isle Community
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