Almost exactly one month after leaving her hometown of Cowes, Isle of Wight, the 17-year-old, who has severe cerebral palsy, has achieved her aim of sailing 440 miles around England’s South West coast to Wales before swapping her boat for a special Hart Walker walking aid to climb Pen Y Fan, the highest peak in Southern Britain.
Accompanied by a 17-strong support team, including four members of the Central Beacons Mountain Rescue team and four military personnel, plus parents Gary and Amanda, eight-year-old sister Rachel and sailing coach Phil Devereux, Natasha started the ascent at 6.45am before triumphantly standing atop the summit three-and-a-half hours later.
Before she set off from Cowes on 24 July, Amanda admitted her daughter was motivated by being told throughout her life that she wouldn’t be able to do things because of her disability.
An elated Natasha had just one word as she stood at top of Pen Y Fan.
“Wow, wow, wow!” she exclaimed.
Amanda hopes what Natasha has achieved over the past month will get people thinking twice about what is possible.
She said: “Tash has achieved a dream; to see her stand at the top, she was so excited, seeing her face was incredible. Hopefully people will see that Tash can achieve things and that other people can as well. No matter what ability you have there’s always that little bit extra you can achieve. We live in such an amazing country, the scenery is fantastic, and we hope people regardless of their ability will get out and experience and explore it all.”
Through Sea and Summit Natasha is raising money for the RNLI, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust and the RYA Foundation, as well as the profile of sailing for people with disabilities. She has a target of £15,000 and has already reached over £11,000 as people have generously backed her efforts.
Dad Gary, voice cracking, said: “I am incredibly proud, I’ve always been proud of her, I know what she can do and this is just the icing on the cake. You can’t put it into words seeing her succeed like this, you can’t buy it, it’s just incredible what she can do. The determination she has, and the sheer guts, I’m so proud.
“For her to walk with this walking frame to the top of a mountain is absolutely stunning. Almost 500 miles getting here in a sailing boat and then climbing a mountain, is, as she said, not bad at all.”
Rachel said: “I think what she’s achieved is incredible. It’s hard for Tash to walk but she does it and it’s really cool because she walked up the mountain without moaning or anything! Tash is amazing and she can do anything we can do and more.”
Sea and Summit comprised 12 sailing legs, including the longest, most testing leg of 60 miles around Land’s End, before Natasha crossed the Bristol Channel to Swansea earlier this week. Natasha sails her 21ft boat, Miss Isle Too, by breathing through a straw in a specially-engineered bicycle helmet designed by her dad.
Low cloud and cool temperatures greeted the party as they began the climb up Pen Y Fan. But having overcome the physically demanding challenges of rugged terrain, perilous gullies and uneven camber, the skies had cleared by the time they reached the summit at mid-morning, opening up a breathtaking panoramic view.
Having previously sailed around the Isle of Wight and across the English Channel, Sea and Summit has been Natasha’s biggest challenge yet. Much of the Sea and Summit logistics have been masterminded by Natasha’s sailing coach, Phil. He admits he can’t quite believe they have finished.
“The whole challenge was about Tash taking some control in her life of doing something she wanted to do and to benefit others by doing it,” he said. “It was months in the planning it really has been a true journey with highs and lows and some real tough moments. Yet here we are 886m in the air, at the top of a Welsh mountain stood next to Natasha Lambert. Perfect.
“It’s a little bit surreal to have reached the end, but it’s exhilarating. I really, really am proud of Tash and what she’s achieved. It’s been a true pleasure and a joy to have been a part of this; to have watched her grow as a person and overcome so much, has been truly amazing and fun.”
Sailing has been Natasha’s big love since she went on holiday with the Calvert Trust aged nine. She then started sailing at home and spent two years sailing with the Even Keel Project and her local RYA Sailability. Sailability is the national programme providing people with disabilities opportunities to learn to sail and sail regularly.
To celebrate Natasha’s achievements visit www.missisle.com to donate to her fundraising effort or simply leave messages of congratulations.
For more information on getting involved in disability sailing visit www.rya.org.uk/sailability