Tributes paid to ‘leading light’ who co-founded charity

SAILING: Pioneering disability sailor Judi Figgures

SAILING: Pioneering disability sailor Judi Figgures - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to pioneering disability sailor Judi Figgures who has died at the age of 72.

Judi, from Hartford, was a founder of Grafham Water Sailability and was made an MBE in 1999 for her charitable services to sailing.

A lifelong sailor, she loved to race and won Sailability’s most important sailing event, the David Campbell Memorial Race with crew Steve Radley, just weeks before her death.

Husband John, who had been married to Judi for nearly 50 years, said: “Being in a wheelchair was just a nuisance from Judi’s viewpoint. For Judi, life was never a case of ‘I can’t - it’s just that I am still working out how to do it’. Life was to be enjoyed.”

Judi suffered a serious spinal injury while sailing as a young woman and was later diagnosed with MS.

She started to use a wheelchair in 1987 but this did not stop her sailing and in 1993 began sailing a Challenger trimaran at Grafham Water - which developed into Grafham Water Sailability for sailors with disabilities.

Eric Joyce, Sailability chairman, said Judi was a “leading light” in the world of sailing for disabled sailors and had been an enthusiastic racer and a top coach for Paralympic sailors.

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“Judi started sailing for disabled people at Grafham Water Centre in the mid-1990s and was a co-founder of Grafham Water Sailability when it registered as a charity in 1998,” he said.

“The charity has grown enormously since then. We now have more than 80 members sailing and helping at Grafham Water and the largest fleet of club-owned Challenger trimarans in the country.”

He said Judi sailed right up to the end of the season in October, despite being seriously ill, showing “extraordinary skill” at the helm.

Judi, who was given six months to live after being diagnosed with cancer in 2014, was presented with a top Royal Yachting Association award by the Princess Royal for her contribution to disabled sailing that year.

She was also a regular sight exercising her dogs in Huntingdon and had also been involved with the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Huntingdon MS Centre and was an active member of St Hugh’s Church at Buckden Towers.