Born missing her right lower arm, Hannah went on to become a 3 x World Champion and 4 x Paralympian.
Now she's taking on the toughest solo race in sport!
Here is Hannah's Story...
Growing up on the East coast of the UK, learning to sail became a way to cope with bullying around her disability and provided a sense of freedom with a “can do” attitude. Most of all it taught a strong independence that has defined the rest of her professional sailing career.
Hannah learned how to race from her parents, both fierce competitors: Mum narrowly missed out on selection to the 1988 Olympic Games in Korea while Dad was a strong player on the Hornet and 505 circuits.
By 13 years old Hannah had attracted real attention. Alongside the likes of a young Lewis Hamilton, she became the focus of an ITV advert filmed to encourage youngsters into sport. Later that year she became the youngest ever winner of the BT YJA Young Sailor of the Year award for her achievements at the Mirror World Championships.
The award opened many doors including meeting Dame Ellen MacArthur who took Hannah racing aboard the trimaran “Foncia Kingfisher” during the Round the Island Race in 1999. Naturally, Dame Ellen waS the sportswoman Hannah aspired to be like and this is where dreams of one day doing the Vendée Globe began.
At 15 came a call that changed her life forever: Andy Cassell, the Atlanta 1996 PARALYMPIC Gold medalist in the Sonar class, invited her to go and train with him.
Until now Hannah had solely competed among the able-bodied. She held the mixed World Championship title in the 29er class, and actually viewed disabled sailing as the weaker option… a weekend in Cowes training with Andy changed that and the rest, as they say, is history!
Selection for the Sonar Development Squad, and 15 years more work with some of Britain’s finest sailors, coaches and support staff saw her win multiple World, European and National Championships over several sailing classes.
In the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Games she competed as the only female racing in the physically demanding Sonar keelboat class - proving, once again, she could not only compete with the men but out sail them. To this day her team is the only one to have their names on the Sonar World Championship trophy 3 times.
"I’ve learnt a lot about myself on the journey so far, including facing major set-backs, but I believe it's put me on the right track to start my ultimate challenge. 16 years on a crossroads has appeared… with sailing dropped from the Paralympics, I’ve finally decided to take on my childhood dream: to become the first disabled female sailor to compete in the Vendée Globe.
I continue to live by my Uncle Jamie’s motto: “never give up”."
And so Hannah Stodel Racing was born...