Sailing to New Heights

This November, Natasha Lambert will be embarking on her biggest challenge yet – sailing across the Atlantic Ocean.

Natasha’s love of sailing was immediate. It started on a lake in England when she was nine years old and only grew stronger as she got involved with a local sailing academy back home on the Isle of Wight. However, because Natasha was born with athetoid cerebral palsy and is unable to use her hands, she could not sail the boats herself.  Nevertheless, she was determined to find a way to sail independently. 

In 2009, Natasha’s parents gave her a life-changing gift – a converted model yacht which allowed her full control using her mouth and a ‘sip and puff’ system – assistive technology that uses air pressure to send signals to a device through the user by inhaling (sipping) or exhaling (puffing) through a straw in the user’s mouth.  The sip and puff system works by using one short sip of breath to move starboard (right), quick puffs to turn port (left) and a click of the tongue to control the sails. This system is described as “life-changing” by her mother.

This got Natasha thinking – if she was able to control a model boat, why not a real one?

The following year, Natasha’s family bought a real sailboat and her father Gary spent the next 6 months installing and testing a sip and puff system that he had designed himself in order for Natasha to have full control of the yacht. Their hope is to one day have this same system commercially manufactured to enable others with disabilities to sail.

Since then, Natasha has led many sailing trips which have raised money for charity, including for the charity she helped create, The MissIsle School. This charity provides affordable sailing tuition to young people with physical disabilities who would benefit from the sip and puff method of sailing. She was even awarded the British Empire Medal in 2015 as recognition of her fundraising achievements. 

This past July, now 23-year-old Natasha set sail from Cowes, Isle of Wight, to Gibraltar to begin the first leg of her transatlantic voyage on her newly adapted boat, Blown Away, in the hopes of raising £30,000 (approximately $50,000 Canadian) for charity. Although COVID-19 restrictions initially presented as a challenge, the rest of her incredible journey is still scheduled to begin in November.

Natasha’s journey, like those we have celebrated in our previous blogs, highlights the amazing potential of children living with disabilities when provided with sufficient support and adaptive equipment to reach their true potential.  At Pacific Medical Law, it is our mission to help children living with cerebral palsy achieve their full potential by providing them with fair compensation for their disability when it was caused or contributed to through medical negligence.  We are here to help. Call us for a free consultation – we can provide information about supports and resources in your community as well as legal advice regarding your child’s rights for financial compensation. 

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Nicole Douglas

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