There are so many people I am truly blessed to know and call a friend and who still, quite rightly, make me feel incredibly humble whenever I meet up with them, even after knowing them for years.
Geoff Holt is one of those people, and another is Hilary Lister.
It is not just about facing enormous challenges with fortitude, humour and an amazing tenacity to achieve their goals and the fact that both of these sailors are severely disabled and they don’t let it hold them back…it is more to do with how pro-active they are in sharing their experiences and in doing so, encouraging others to follow their own dreams.
These individuals (and there are a few others like them) are truly inspirational to all the thousands of disabled sailors who now get into boats and go racing through their local Sailability groups all around Great Britain. People work so tirelessly as volunteers to make it happen for them, working in the evenings and at weekends ensuring that disabled sailors are given that chance to feel free and at one with themselves and the elements. What a wonderful feeling that must be if you’ve been stuck in a wheelchair all day.
I was fortunate enough to handle the launch PR campaign for RYA SAILABILITY, many moons ago now and whilst I I looked after the PR for four years and named, launched, and edited, the in-house magazine, FOGHORN during that time, I also grew to understand the nature of these people who dedicate so much of their time to helping get sailors with limited abilities out on the water to experience this freedom. I also got to know Geoff Holt, who was Chairman of RYA Sailability.
Skippering Impossible Dream for the Atlantic crossing is this quadriplegic yachtsman’s next feat. Why the boat is named thus I do not know because if anyone can fulfill their dream, it is Geoff. This excerpt is taken directly from Geoff’s website:
More than 20 years after his accident, Geoff became the first disabled person to sail single-handed around Great Britain in an expedition he called Personal Everest.
“Sailing has given me so much in my life. It was my livelihood before my accident and it was to be my saviour after it. The freedom I experience on the sea is like no other; I am free of my wheelchair and free of my disability. When I am on the water, it makes me feel alive and any sailor, regardless of their ability, will know exactly that same feeling. Sailing is my life.” says Geoff.
On his return from Personal Everest, Geoff published his autobiography Walking on Water to critical acclaim. Personal Atlantic will see him sail the Atlantic again, but this time, as a quadriplegic yachtsman. By the age of 18, Geoff had sailed in excess of 30,000 miles at sea, including 3 trans-Atlantic crossings and several solo voyages. His career was cut short in 1984 by a life changing accident which left him paralysed from the chest down. Diving into shallow water broke his neck causing a complete spinal cord injury and he has used a wheelchair ever since.
He has remained passionate about sailing and keen to support any initiative which provides sailing opportunities to other disabled people. In 1995, Geoff was a founding Trustee of the national disabled sailing charity RYA Sailability and now, through a network of more than 150 Sailability clubs and groups, more than 20,000 disabled people a year experience the freedom of sailing in the UK.
Hilary Lister has recently sailed around Great Britain – as the only 2 quadriplegics to attempt, and succeed in completing the voyage, she and Geoff Holt share many special experiences and memories.
On 31st August 2009 Hilary became the first disabled woman to sail solo around Britain in a series of day sails starting from Dover in June 2008 and restarting from Plymouth on the 21st May 2009.
Hilary sailed clockwise along the coasts of Cornwall, Wales, The East Coast of Ireland, Scotland, The Caledonian Canal, The East Coast of England and home to the finish line in Dover.
The back story is again fascinating and extraordinary. How did she do it; why did she do it? It is all documented on her website
I am so proud to know these individuals and be able to congratulate them in person on their achievements thus far when I visited Southampton Boat Show…not to mention wishing Geoff and Susana (his carer) fair winds on their Atlantic crossing. Fabulous!