INSPIRATIONAL Isle of Wight teenager Natasha Lambert has embarked on her epic 'Sea and Summit Challenge' today (Thursday).
It followed a send-off at Cowes Yacht Haven yesterday (Wednesday), when Dame Ellen MacArthur and Geoff Holt MBE were amongst the guests wishing Natasha, 17, good luck on her voyage.
Natasha has athetoid cerebal palsy which affects her movement and
speech, so she controls her yacht - the 'Miss Isle Too' - with the aid
of a 'sip and puff' control system mounted inside a helmet, put together
by her father, electrician Gary Lambert.
She will sail around the south coast of England and up the Bristol Channel, before travelling to Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons - the highest peak in southern Britain - which she will then scale with a walking aid.
Natasha, of Chawton Lane, Cowes, with her family, will sail the 430 miles and climb 2,907ft to raise money for the RNLI, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust and the RYA Foundation, as well as to raise the profile of sailing for people with disabilities.
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."
The trip could take between two and four weeks depending on weather conditions.
Dad Gary told the County Press about the system he created to help his daughter control the boat: "Her main control is with her breath.
"There is a phototransistor, which her tongue can activate to switch between steering and sails, and pneumatic switches for her breath.
"She has to have quick reactions because she can only do one thing at a time.
"She's been sailing continuously since I came up with it.
"Natasha comes up with these ideas and we just have to make it happen."
Natasha will be accompanied on the Miss Isle Too by her coach, Phil Devereaux, who describes himself as a "glorified butler."
Phil said: "Natasha can expect to face challenges, such as the sheer duration of the trip, as well as weather conditions.
"It won't be 'plain sailing'," he laughed.
Dame Ellen MacArthur made a surprise appearance at the reception, and spoke about Natasha's challenge.
She said: "I'm hugely impressed.
"It's an extraordinary testament to the kind of person Natasha is.
"She's even a bit younger than I was when I started properly sailing. She's 17, and I was 18!
"The most important think she can do is to really enjoy it and let the journey unfold."
• For more on Natasha's incredible voyage, please see the Yoppul page in next Friday's Isle of Wight County Press, August 1.