Disabled teen sailing 400 miles - in boat she controls by puffing down tube

Yahoo News.
The 'sip and puff', shown on the left, allows Natasha to control and steer the boat by sucking and blowing into a tube (SWNS)

A teenager with cerebral palsy is sailing over 400 miles in a specially developed boat which she controls - by blowing through a tube.

Inspirational Natasha Lambert, 17, uses a 'sip and puff' system, which her electrician dad designed, after she took a shine to sailing.

Natasha is halfway through a month-long challenge that will see her sail over 430 miles from the Isles of Man around the South West of England and onto Wales.

Once she arrives in Wales she will climb 2,907ft up Pen Y Fan - the highest peak in Southern Britain - using a specialist walking aid.





 

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Natasha was born with athetoid cerebral palsy - severely hindering her speech and use of limbs and confining her to a wheelchair.

But while on holiday, the teen realised she enjoyed sailing and so dad Gary spent weeks researching a system which would allow the gutsy teen to sail solo.

Gary decided that a breath control system would be the best solution, and set about designing the 'sip and puff', which is based on a straw mounted inside a cycling helmet.

The mechanism allows her to control and steer the 21ft long boat by sucking and blowing into a tube.

He said: ‘We found there was no commercial technology that she could use so we started to think about what Tash could do and breath control seemed like the most viable solution. Pneumatic switches and photocells were the way forward.’

After developing the technology, Gary found a sailing coach, Phil Devereux, to train Natasha ahead of her challenge.

He is the only person on board with Natasha, but she controls the boat on her own.

Gary said: ‘We have a lot of faith and trust in Phil. The guy knows sailing and if anything went wrong, he would be the first to know.

‘It's intense, being together week in week out, but so far neither of them have got too cross with each other so it's going well.’

Phil added: ‘The joke among the team is that I'm her butler - because the majority of my job is to pull the sails up, get her food and water, and keep her cool.

‘So if the boat doesn't go in the right direction, it's because Natasha hasn't steered the boat the right way!

‘It's a big responsibility. In terms of the family, I'm the least experienced in terms of communicating with Natasha.





















Natasha beside a boat with dad Gary, mum Amanda and sister Rachel Karenza Morton (SWNS)

 

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'But it's a nice way to mark how far we've come in 18 months that we're able to jump in a boat together and set sail.’

Natasha, of the Isles of Man, is taking on the challenge to raise money for the RNLI, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust and the RYA Foundation.