Natasha’s first sail
Natasha’s first sailing experience was with the Calvert Trust when she was only 9 years old. This was on the lake at Kielder in NE England. She really enjoyed this experience and went on further holidays with the Calvert Trust which served to confirm her love for being on the water. There was however a slight drawback….. she was only a passenger. Her parents looked into sailing opportunities closer to home; after all, the family do live in one of the biggest centres for Sailing on the South Coast.
Sailing at home
Back home Natasha started sailing with The Even Keel project based at the United Kingdom Sailing Academy (UKSA). She also sailed with her local RYA Sailability club for 2 years on Artemis 20’s. Although these keelboats were accessible to most people with disabilities with their canting seat and hand controls, she was still only a passenger as she can’t use her hands. By now she was desperate and determined to sail herself.
In 2009 Natasha’s parents bought her a Micro Magic model yacht for her birthday and Dr Mike Heath from Dream Racer converted it for her so that she was able to control it using her mouth with a sip and puff system. This worked very well, she could sail a model boat. This got her thinking; if she could sail a model boat, why not the real thing?
Natasha’s dad Gary, an electrician, set to work learning a new language…..coding, and spent many weeks in a shed and on a computer developing a system that would allow Natasha to control a boat using a single straw. In 2010 they bought a second hand Artemis 20 and spent the next 6 months installing and testing the system and then adapting the boat for Natasha to use, then, off she went sailing. She was finally in control of a real boat on the water and could helm herself.
For the rest of 2010 and 2011 she was out as often as she could be on Miss Isle, her Artemis 20, where she quickly mastered controlling the helm. This was absolutely brilliant, but, by now, she wanted to do more; she wanted to be able to control the sails as well. Miss Isle was now getting a bit tight on space to have any more electronics fitted, plus Natasha wanted to be able to sail further afield. This meant she would need a bigger boat. In late 2011 they purchased a Mini Transat and with the help of Artemis Investments converted the boat, which is Natasha’s boat which is still being used now, “Miss Isle Too”, with her own very distinctive Pink and Black livery. She was completed in August 2012 giving Natasha, at long last, full control over the helm and sails. What a wonderful sense of freedom this gave her.