Inspirational sailor Natasha Lambert, 17, had a send off to remember as legends of the sport Dame Ellen MacArthur and Geoff Holt MBE were amongst the guests at a special 'Stand By To Go' reception to mark the beginning of her incredible 2014 Sea and Summit Challenge in Cowes today (Wednesday 23 July).

Natasha, who has cerebral palsy, is tomorrow (Thursday 24 July) scheduled to embark on her 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.The teenager, who last year sailed across the English Channel, does not have use of her hands and sails her yacht using her mouth only to operate a 'sip and puff mechanism' mounted inside a cycling helmet that was developed and engineered by her electrician dad, Gary.

Joining Ellen and Geoff at the reception were members of Natasha's family, including mum Amanda, dad Gary and younger sister, Rachel, her coach Phil Devereux, who accompanies Natasha on the boat, plus other friends and project supporters. 

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. 

All three charities were in attendance, with Debbie Blachford, RYA Sailability Manager and Mark Southwell, Lifeboat Operations Manager, Cowes RNLI Lifeboat Station, joining Ellen, who was there on behalf of the Trust.

Ellen said: “It’s been a fantastic day and I’m absolutely thrilled to be here to wish Tash well on her incredible adventure. She really is an inspiration to all of us and I think what she’s about to undertake is a monumental challenge but she’s totally up for it and I’m sure she will succeed. 

“At the same time as doing this challenge, she will be making massive differences to real lives. That’s testament to the kind of person she is, she’s a role model for all of us.”

Mum Amanda said: “It will be fantastic to stand on top of that mountain, look around and think how far Natasha’s actually come both on this journey but through her life as well. We get told lots, and I think this drives Natasha on, that she might not be able to do much in her life or achieve things. To stand at the top of that mountain and think ‘Look at me!’ will be incredible.

"It's taken months to prepare and Natasha’s had to work really hard with Phil in the sailing but also in her physical fitness with the walking too. It will be huge achievement. Natasha’s helped by other people all the time and this is something she can do herself to help other people, it feels worthwhile."  

Natasha said: "I’m good, really excited! It’s better to be able to help people otherwise it would be boring. I can’t wait.”

Sailing has been Natasha’s big love since she was nine when she first went on holiday with the Calvert Trust. She then started sailing at home and spent two years sailing with the Even Keel Project and her local RYA Sailability.

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
Twitter: @miss_isle 

VIDEO: Epic Sailing Challenge About To Begin

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