Sailing toward a new record
Holt with the 15-foot trimaran Freethinker
, which he used on his journey around Great Britain. Courtesy of Geoff Holt
After becoming the first quadriplegic yachtsman to circle Great Britain solo, honorary Rotarian Geoff Holt is already planning his next epic journey: an independent sailing voyage across the Atlantic.
"I realized so many disabled people had been inspired by what I'd done," says Holt, who has spent most of his life at the helm, both before and after he became paralyzed at the age of 18 in a diving accident. "Sailing is unique in that a disabled person can compete at the same level as an able-bodied person."
Holt completed the 1,445-mile, 109-day journey around Great Britain on 5 September 2007, exactly 23 years after he became paralyzed.
In 2008, Holt wrote Walking on Water, a narrative of his life interwoven with tales from his voyage. He describes the contributions that 45 British Rotary clubs made to the trip, and how clubs in almost every port volunteered their services and logistical support to him and his support team.
"When we arrived, there would be a Rotarian waiting to help. And they weren't old people like my granddad!" says Holt. "They were really friendly people who understood business and the area they lived in. They had all the right contacts."
The Rotary Club of Hamble Valley, Hampshire, England, presented him with Paul Harris Fellow Recognition in 2008. Holt, an honorary member of the club, regularly speaks to Rotary clubs about his life and journey, and overcoming barriers to making dreams real.
In December, he plans to set sail to become the first quadriplegic yachtsman to independently cross the Atlantic. He will make the journey in a specially adapted catamaran that uses push-button technology. Although he will do all the sailing independently, a personal assistant will help with day-to-day tasks like showering and getting in and out of his chair.
"It's really exciting," says Holt. "I haven't found a sponsor yet. But it's going to happen with or without a sponsor."
Holt will use the journey to support the Ellen MacArthur Trust, which provides sailing opportunities to children with cancer.