Disabled sailor achieves ‘Personal Everest’

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SEPT. 10 — Geoff Holt, a 41-year-old quadriplegic sailor, finished his “Personal Everest,” a 1,400-mile solo voyage around Britain, Sept. 5. According to his Web Site, this project was something he’s had on his mind for several years.

“It’s fantastic to know that I have achieved my dream,” Holt told BBC News. “I have always wanted to sail around Great Britain and I cannot believe I have done it.”

According to Holt’s site, he was paralyzed from the breast down as a result of a swimming accident when he was 18, and has since been wheelchair-bound. Holt has continued sailing using Freethinker, the latest Mark 2a model of the 14-foot Challenger Trimaran, a special vessel made specifically for disabled people by White Formula, a British boatbuilding company. The boat offers sailors the ability to race single-handedly or have a buddy assist, and can be used for touring and cruising. For Holt’s trip, Freethinker was modified with Raymarine electronic systems including a chart plotter and a tiller-pilot.

The voyage was to begin May 14 from Southampton, England, but was delayed until the 20th when a flurry of media spectator boats, eager to capture the start of the voyage, roiled the waters and caused Holt to topple out of Freethinker. He was quickly righted by his support crew, which shadowed him in a 22-foot RIB throughout the challenge. Due to his disability Holt had to make port every night, where he was met by his wife, Elaine, and their 5-year-old son, Timothy.

The trip was sponsored by British law firm Blake Lapthorn Tarlo Lyons, and Rotary International members helped the team in ports of call.

— Elizabeth Ellis