Born able-bodied, a degenerative condition put her in a wheelchair at the age of 15. Always an active person, she found that funding for activities became increasingly difficult to find once she reached 18. Determined to follow her dream and lead an independent life, she went on to study Biochemistry at Jesus College Oxford. While studying for a PhD, Hilary’s condition worsened; she became paralysed from the neck down at the age of 27.
She started sailing with Westbere Sailing Opportunities, based outside Canterbury, in 2003. “Within 30 seconds of being in a boat I was in love”, she remembers. The frustration of being unable to control anything soon proved too much. One day she came off the water having decided to sail the Channel, solo. UKSA and Pindar helped her to fulfil the dream that WSO had inspired, using the sip-puff technology developed for her wheelchair in 2005. She went on to sail solo around the Isle of Wight in 2007. She sailed around Britain in 2009, a feat which was judged by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) to put her in the top four sailors in the world.
The frustration that she felt being unable to control a boat was made worse by the difficulty in obtaining funding. Hilary was extremely fortunate to find a sponsor in Andrew Pindar who made it possible for her to sail the Channel. Very few people get the chance to approach sponsors for such an unusual project. She wanted to make sure that disabled and disadvantaged adults would have somewhere to turn for help and Hilary’s Dream Trust was formed.
In August 2018 Hilary succumbed to the illness that she had fought for so long. At that moment we lost a wonderful friend, an incredibly strong woman, a companion, a sister, and a daughter, but we did not lose the inspiration that she imparted to all those she met.
To view details of the major projects achieved in her lifetime we suggest visiting her (old) website www.hilarylister.com which is still available to view but will no longer be updated. She had commissioned a new website, but sadly did not live to see it through to its launch.