Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Geoff Holt at the London Boat Show

One of the highlights of the London Boat Show was hearing Geoff Holt, winner of the 2010 Yachtsman of the Year, talk about his experiences.

He described his love of sailing and how he thought it was to be his life. All was going to plan and he had many thousands of miles under his belt, including several crossings of the Atlantic, when his broke his neck in a hasty dive into the deceptively shallow waters of Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI.

Geoff is a good speaker, relaxed and fluent, and from many a retelling as a "motivational speaker" tells the story well. It is indeed inspiring to hear how even a quadriplegic can achieve great things like circumnavigate Britain or cross the Atlantic. It reminded me a bit of my encounter with Jamie Andrew last month.

Maybe it was because of this I went up to him afterwards with a question that had come to me after talking about Jamie with a friend: it can it be a bit daunting for those that have mobility issues to hear about those that have been so successful despite their greater problems - what would he say to them?

It wasn't a question he'd expected, and we were distracted by photographers. But he made good points: firstly that everyone's path should be the one that is right for them, and that doesn't mean doing what Geoff or Jamie did. What is important is to gain in confidence and the best way to do that is to feel independent.

For Geoff that meant sailing again, to feel the boat react as he hauled on the main sheet or pushed the tiller over. And he was open about how hard it was, taking a long time to rehab - its now 25 years since his accident.

But there have been good things too: he met his wife in hospital where she was a nurse and they now have a son. Geoff might not have been able to play footie with him, but nothing was going to stop him learning to sail - as in the pic above.

He has also achieved much to help the disabled sail as part of his work for Sailability and last year 25,000 of them went out on the water. Good deeds like those give him a warm feeling, of doing something of value, and recognition too, with an MBE in 2010.

Geoff invited us to look at the names on the Yachtsman of the Year award, and there were many that I recognised, like Eric Hiscock, Francis Chichester, Robin Knox-Johnston, Chay Blyth, Pete Goss, Ellen MacArthur and Samantha Davies.

Those names have something in common, something that hopefully Geoff will have too, for already he is thinking of the next project - to be the first quadriplegic to sail around the world.

I certainly wish him well.


Turinas said...

The guys'a giant! It was a great question though.

You should email him through his bog with this post. I would not be surprised if he responded

JP said...

He's a really great guy: think it was one of the more popular yachtsman of the year awards.