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13 Questions: sailor Geoff Holt

by Ivy Broadhead

12th January 2010

Not quite satisfied with the title of first quadriplegic person to sail around the UK, last week Geoff Holt, 43, became the first to make it across the Atlantic single-handedly. Susana, his care assistant helped with his everyday personal needs and Digby the cameraman documented the four week adventure, while the sailing bit fell to him. Geoff travelled the 2,700 miles in a 60ft wheelchair-accessible catamaran, leant by a generous benefactor. It was fitted with something called hydraulic push button technology, so that he could control the boat independently.

The journey began in the Lanzarote and ended in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, where Geoff was paralysed in a diving accident over 25 years ago. Already a keen sailor, Geoff continued to feed his passion after acquiring his disability and in 1995 became one of the founding trustees of RYA Sailability, an organisation which has to date afforded 20.000 disabled people the opportunity to go sailing.

When not breaking records, Geoff lives in Shedfield, Hampshire with his wife and son. But currently still in sunny Tortola recovering from his trip, he managed to fit our 13 Questions in to his busy schedule of media appearances. After Ouch! He was due to speak to someone from Brazilian radio.
Geoff Holt

Today I feel…

Fantastic, absolutely elated to have crossed the Atlantic for the fourth time, and this time as a quadriplegic.

I would like to ban…

Religion. Okay, it would upset a lot of people, but it’s the root of so many problems in our lives and I just worry that people get too fanatical about it.

My ideal dinner guest would be…

Barrack Obama. I think he’s just a good man. Here in Tortola is the least racist place I’ve been in my life, not like in London where I feel like people are a bit on edge. With Obama, it’s not about the colour of his skin; it’s about the work he’s doing.

Someone should invent…

Something to get me in and out of a car without anyone’s help.

My first job was…

Collecting glasses at a pub.

We would all be better off if we…

Got up and did something positive. I’d love it if people were inspired to try sailing after hearing about my trip, but really it’s just about getting out there and doing something positive with our lives.

I couldn’t function without…

My family.

My motto is…

No excuses. You only get one life, and you should make the most of it, disabled or not.
Geoff Holt

I sailed across the Atlantic because…

It held a lot of old memories for me, and of course it’s there to be done. This is going to sound arrogant, but I was the right man for the job, I had the right experience to do it.

The best bit of my trip was…

Being back on the ocean again, feeling completely free, like I’d left my disability behind, out there, I’m just a yachtsman.

The worst bit was…

It contradicts my answer to the previous question, but in some ways it was the first time in 25 years I’d ever felt really disabled. My life is geared up for it in England, my car, my home, and suddenly on a 60ft catamaran with a living space the size of a caravan and the boat being tossed around all over the place, all aspects of my disability were highlighted.

If I did the trip over again…

I’d take a care assistant who didn’t get seasick! Susana was great, but she wasn’t a sailor and so she didn’t really know what to expect, and that was a mistake I think. She found the trip very difficult.

My next adventure might be…

The big one, the round the world trip. I’d need a bigger boat of course but I’d love the opportunity and I think I’m the right person to do it. I think that decision is up to my wife now though, after four weeks away on this trip.

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