MAY 16 — A British man’s attempt to become the first disabled person to sail solo around the British Isles ended this week only minutes after it began.
Geoff Holt, who is paralyzed from the chest down, was forced to call off his record-setting journey Monday when wakes kicked up from a number of nearby spectator boats caused him to fall overboard from his modified15-foot trimaran, news reports say. Holt, who is 40 and of Shedfield, on the south coast of England, reportedly spent about half a minute face down in the water before being rescued. His PFD did not inflate properly.
“I became a victim of our own [public relations] interest by the world’s media when the many spectator boats caused a confused sea with a following stiff breeze, my boat broached across the top of one of the washes from a nearby RIB,” Holt says in a news report. “It flung the boat around, I overbalanced and found myself face down in the Solent in front of the world’s press.”
Holt was attempting to sail around Great Britain in about 50 days, according to information on his Web site. He called the 1,600-mile expedition his “Personal Everest.”
A longtime sailor, by age 18 Holt had completed three trans-Atlantic crossings and was one of the youngest charter skippers in the Caribbean, he told Soundings in a February interview. One day in 1984 he dove into shallow water from a beach in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, and broke his neck. He cannot use his legs and has only limited feeling in his arms.
Despite the setback, Holt plans to restart the expedition sometime within a week, reports say. He will be shadowed by a 22-foot RIB skippered by his project manager, Ian Clover, a UK Sailing instructor and father of former teen sailing phenom Sebastian Clover.
— Jason Fell