HE became the first quadriplegic sailor to sail the Atlantic. Now inspiring Hampshire yachtsman Geoff Holt MBE – pictured above – is setting his sights on new horizons by becoming the first with his disability to circumnavigate the world. Together with a paraplegic sailor, Geoff hopes to sail 27,000 miles in 14 months in 2014.
He said: “It will certainly be a first and the ultimate challenge for me. And I hope it will end up being a good story about overcoming adversity.”
The pioneering 45-year-old dad from Shedfield was paralysed following a swimming accident when he was 18. But that has not stopped him from conquering the high seas. Geoff has limited use of his arms and hands and has to skilfully use hydraulic push button technology developed especially for him. In 2007 he became the first disabled person to sail solo around Britain, following this up in 2010 by becoming the first disabled sailor to sail unassisted to America. Then in 2011 he was awarded an MBE for his services to disabled sailors.
But for Geoff this latest challenge is unfinished business. He said: “Before I had my accident I wanted to sail round the world – so it will have taken more than 18 years to get to there, but I am determined.
“No matter what life throws at you, you must plough on.
“I hope this will spread the message of overcoming adversity and hopefully giving other people with a disability inspiration that they can do different things with their lives.”
He is currently interviewing for another crew member. One contender is paraplegic French yachtsman and Paralympic table tennis player, Philippe Durieux. Leading multihull designer Nigel Irens already has a design for a specially adapted 80ft catamaran on the drawing board, which will also be capable of coping with the harsh conditions. Geoff said: “First and foremost it’s about the endurance. The main danger will be the weather, but it will be also about keeping the boat going safely and fast – and being able to dodge debris like containers in the water.” A possible route being considered will see Geoff sail from Southampton to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, to Cape Town in South Africa, to Tiajin in China, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, to San Francisco in the US, through the Panama Canal to the British Virgin Islands to New York and then back home. He hopes the legacy of his challenge will be to create The Geoff Holt Foundation that will help create an academy in Southampton for disabled sailors. Geoff added: “I want it to be somewhere where disabled people can learn to sail at all different levels of ocean racing.”