First Tetraplegic Completes Round Britain Voyage

The first voyage around Britain skippered by a man paralyzed in all four limbs was completed last November. Trevor Jones arrived in Plymouth, England, at the helm of Inventure, his specially adapted sailing vessel, three-and-a-half months after setting out on his arduous journey.

The boat is the first in the world to have been adapted for control by someone with Trevor’s high level of disability. He steered and maneuvered it through a highly sensitive joystick. "It’s been a tremendous experience," Jones said, "I’m very proud of my crew."

Trevor Jones, 40, was a Royal Navy pilot until he broke his neck during trials for the Navy skiing team in 1987. Since his accident, he has suffered paralysis from the shoulders down. But he remains determined to lead an active life. In 1992 he became the first tetraplegic to gain a pilot’s license, and flew a microlite aircraft across the English Channel. He has also gone scuba diving in the Red Sea with the Challenge Anneka TV program. His autobiography, Walking on Air, was published in 1997. He requires full-time care because of his disability, but was in full command of the Round Britain Challenge.

Not surprising for such a pioneering journey, there were challenges and hitches along the way. Trevor had to receive hospital treatment for an infection in the Scilly Isles, and there were a number of problems with the boat, both major and minor. Part of the aim of this voyage was to test the yacht’s readiness for a possible round-the-world trip.

"I enjoyed sailing up the west coast of Scotland and the Caledonian Canal most of all because it was stunning, and it reminded me of my time at school in Scotland," Jones said. "The low point was in the middle of the Irish Sea with a gale forecast, when we lost the self-steering and hydraulic systems. I had two crewmembers seasick and was exhausted after having been up all night.

"We proved that the technology can work, although there were some problems which still need to be ironed out. Provided they get the right sort of backing, people with severe disabilities should be able to enjoy sailing in the same way able-bodied people can."

One of the next modifications to Inventure is to install voice-activated controls, so people with no physical movement can command it.

Tim Radford, chief executive of the voyage’s main sponsor, Project Telecom, paid tribute to Jones, saying, "This voyage was a magnificent achievement for Trevor, his crew, and his yacht. I know Trevor has had to overcome tremendous hurdles to complete the journey. But anyone who knows Trevor knows how determined he is. Once he sets himself a goal, you know he’ll achieve it. He’s an inspiration to all those who hear of his story."

The Round Britain Challenge was also sponsored by Virgin, Baxters of Speyside, and the Cadogan Charity. During the voyage Trevor was accompanied by a succession of personal helpers and wheelchair-using crewmembers. On the final leg from Guernsey to Plymouth the crew was Nick Cairncross from New Zealand; Lorna Thomas from Bristol, England; Mike King from North Yorkshire, England (wheelchair user); and captain Trevor Jones from Fulham, London, England.

Inventure’s 2,500-mile route took in the following destinations: Plymouth, Falmouth, Scilly Isles, Bristol, Milford Haven, Dublin, Liverpool, Carrickfergus (Northern Ireland), Fort William, Inverness, Buckie, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Ipswich, London, Dover, Portsmouth, Guernsey, and Plymouth. Trevor hopes to make the yacht available to other people with disabilities.

Further details and photography are available from Brendan McGrath, Aura PR, e-mail brendan.aurapr@eclipse.co.uk.