Sailor Ally Gunn, who has a visual impairment, navigated solo around the Isle of Wight 18/9/06

Ally Gunn, 40 years old, recently sailed solo around the Isle of Wight in a Windrider 17ft trimaran Forest Venture, raising over £3,000 for Sailability.

Ally set off from the Royal Lymington Yacht Club in the early morning waved off by many supporters including local and national media, Dee Caffari, friends and family. Ally had a support crew of three acting as her ‘eyes’ in a RIB that accompanied the trimaran, using a megaphone and VHF radio for communication. A Broom 45, owned and crewed by the Commodore of Lymington Town Sailing Club, acted as mother ship and a shore crew ensured radio cover and navigation assistance at all times. Ally completed the circumnavigation in just over 12 hours.

The wind was south-westerly four knots with a calm sea and favourable tide. However, at St Katherine’s Point Ally was faced with a set of over falls and unstable water. Forest Venture was thrown around and at one stage lifted four feet in the air. Once past the point the passage was smooth until Bembridge when the weather deteriorated dramatically and the tide turned. On the home stretch the Lymington lifeboat went to meet Ally and escorted her back to land.

Ally took up sailing six years ago after suffering a bad horse riding accident combined with poor eyesight meant she could no longer drive. Ally says that sailing gives her a feeling of freedom, exhilaration and independence, something she wants others to share. Now the Chairman of the Lymington Sailability group, Ally organises various events for sailors with disabilities including a week’s charter that took place straight after her solo challenge.

Ally commented about her voyage: “At one point it was like being in a washing machine from hell as water went over my head and the boat slammed into the waves. By the end of it all I was exhausted, tired, cold, wet and in pain but elated – I had climbed my Everest. The support from everyone involved kept me going. I believe if you are determined you can do anything.”