About

Geoff Holt

In his own words..

I guess I’m proudest of being a husband to Elaine and a father to Tim. Elaine and I have been married for more than 30 years, she was my nurse in hospital when I had my accident back in 1984, all very romantic. As a family we make a great team and I would certainly not have achieved what I have today without their love and support.

Life as quadriplegic can be tough, not just on me, but those around me, particularly Elaine, but I’m a firm believer in a positive mindset and resilience, armed with those, you have a head-start to achieving your aspirations.

The thought of being unable to sail after my accident when I was 18 years old was almost too much to bear; sailing was not part of my life, it was my life. As I try to exlain to people about my affection for being at sea:

..the real magic happens out there, over the horizon. Only offshore can you truly get to understand the magnificence of the ocean, the wildlife, the infinite skies, the sensory overload from a breaking wave; on one hand the feeling of insignificance as a human being, a mere dot on an ocean, countered by this overwhelming sense of being alive, at one with nature. It is a very private and emotional feeling that I only feel when at sea..

Current Projects

My world today

Wetwheels occupies much of my time today but Wetwheels is so much more than a trip on a boat. I have witnessed how Wetwheels not only removes the physical barriers to accessing the sea but, in so doing, we are helping to increase confidence, reduce anxiety and, by making our boats fully accessible, including steering the boat, we are enabling all of our participants to share those experiences with loved ones. Founding Wetwheels and watching the concept grow across the UK and beyond, gives me a tremendous amount of personal satisfaction and makes me feel very proud of my team.

Many of us fail to reach our full potential, whether in our life-goals, relationships, work or sport, this is particularly true for those less able. I have experienced life as a non-disabled person and someone with a high-level of disability, it still saddens me how our built-environment continues to exclude disabled people. The removal of barriers, be they physical, attitudinal or political, creates opportunities for us all to play our part in society.

It’s not about coping with disability; it’s about finding the reserves we all have to achieve our goals in spite of it.

 

Geoff’s Biography

This is Geoff’s story

Geoff Holt had already accomplished much by the time he was eighteen years old. Geoff had sailed across the Atlantic Ocean three times, completed several solo voyages and sailed over 30,000 nautical miles. And then his life changed. All hopes, dreams and expectations of earning his livelihood as a professional yachtsman were destroyed after diving into the Caribbean Sea and breaking his neck. Geoff spent a year in hospital and then, with characteristic spirit, he retrained in a different career and went on to lead the marketing department of an international firm of chartered accountants for 12 years. Geoff later became a qualified auctioneer and valuer (specializing in early European ceramics) but eventually returned to his first love of sailing.

Geoff entered the history books in 2007 when he sailed solo around Great Britain.

In January 2010, Geoff became the first quadriplegic to sail unassisted across the Atlantic. The 3,000mile journey took four weeks to complete sailing a purpose-built 60ft catamaran ‘Impossible Dream’.

Recognition of Geoff’s achievements came swiftly. He was voted BBC South Sports Personality of the Year (2007); short-listed for Yachtsman of the Year (2008); received a British Airways Great Briton Award and the RYA Francis Elkin Award (2009). In June 2010, Geoff was awarded an MBE for services to disabled sailing and then in early 2011, Geoff received the coveted YJA Pantaenius Yachtsman of the Year that Geoff considers the ‘Knighthood of Yachting.’ In November 2015, Geoff won the presitigous business award in recognition of his work as founder and CEO of Wetwheels – the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs in the UK.

Geoff is passionate about creating opportunities for others facing their own challenges in life through a long association with the Paralympics and the charity RYA Sailability of which he was the inaugural Chairman and Trustee commencing in 1995.

Geoff represented the UK on the International Disabled Sailing Committee and was Chairman of the RYA’s Paralympic Steering Committee that selected the Gold medal winning team in the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics. He was a member of the current Paralympic Steering Committee who selected athletes for the 2012 Paralympic sailing competition. Geoff is a member of the RYA Council as voted for by the membership and he is also a member of the RYA’s Board. He has competed in sailing events successfully himself too representing Great Britain in Australia and America winning a bronze medal on both occasions. Geoff was also the first person to gain a powerboat licence while using a wheelchair.

Geoff’s autobiography ‘Walking on Water’ was published in 2008 to wide acclaim. He also writes monthly columns in sailing journals and is a presenter on BBC Radio Solent’s H2O Show alongside Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.

Most recently Geoff has designed and built Wetwheels, the world’s first wheelchair accessible powerboat so disabled people can have an opportunity to try powerboating. Based at Portsmouth, the 30ft catamaran regularly takes groups of disabled people for rides in the Solent though the Wetwheels Charitable Fund. In June 2012, Wetwheels and Geoff took part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames. Geoff instigated the formation of a new charity, the Disabled Powerboating Trust that funds powerboating opportunities for disabled people and he has become its first Ambassador. Geoff is passionate about “giving back” and supporting community and charitable initiatives where possible. He is also Patron of Southern Spinal Injuries Trust; Rose Road Association; Lymington Sailability; New Forest Sailability; Cowes Sailability and Le Tournoi (Jersey). 

 

Miles Sailed

Geoff’s Achievements

Timeline

Jan 2019

Community Award

For work enriching our local Portsmouth community by enabling disabled people to access our rich maritime heritage.
Awarded by Shaping Portsmouth.

Sep 2018

Global Philanthropic Award

Awarded by Global Philanthropic.
Presented by Dame Darcey Bussell.

Aug 2018

Entrepreneur of Excellence 2018

Awarded by the National Diversity Awards.

Jul 2018

Lifetime Achievement Award

Awarded by the Spinal Injuries Association.

Jun 2018

Point of Light Award

Awarded by the British Prime Minister – Teresa May.

Jun 2018

Overcoming Adversity Award

Awarded by the Federation of Small Businesses.

Nov 2015

Disabled Entrepreneur of the Year

Awarded by the Sir Stelios Foundation.
Presented by Sir Stelios.

Sep 2014

Paul Harris Fellowship

Awarded by Rotary International (Hamble Valley).

Mar 2013

Wetwheels Solent CIC

Geoff is the founder & CEO of Wetwheels, a Community Interest Company (CIC) serving the local community. Using fully accessible boats Wetwheels can provide boating opportunities for people of all ages and of all abilities. There are a range of options; from educational and mentoring programmes to sport and experiential trips, there is something for most people.
www.wetwheels.co.uk

Dec 2012

Deputy Lieutenant of Hampshire

Awarded by Her Majesty, The Queen.

Aug 2012

Torch Carrier, London Olympic Games

Nominated by Lord Coe

Dec 2011

Honorary Doctorate of Science

Awarded by Solent University

Oct 2011

Awarded Membership of Cordon Rouge Club

Presented with Cordon Rouge Sabre

Oct 2011

Honorary Doctorate of Sport

Awarded by the University of Winchester.

Mar 2011

MBE for 'Services to Disabled Sailing'

Awarded by Her Majesty, The Queen.

Jan 2011

Honorary Belongership of the BVI

Awarded by Premier O’Neil, Premier of British Virgin Islands and presented by His Excellency, David Peary, Governor of BVI.

Jan 2011

Paul Harris Fellowship

Awarded by Rotary International (BVI).

Jan 2011

Yachtsman of the Year

Awarded by the Yachting Journalist Association.
Presented by Sir Robin Knox Johnston.

2009/10

First disabled person to sail unassisted across the Atlantic (Geoff's 'Impossible Dream')

Dec 2009

Great Briton of the Year (Winner)

Awarded by British Airways.

Sep 2008

Walking on Water – Book Published

Autobiography including details of his circumnavigation around UK in 2007. Available to purchase here.

Sep 2008

Great Briton of the Year (Shortlisted)

Awarded by the Daily Telegraph.

Nov 2007

BBC South Sports Personality of the Year

Awarded by BBC South.

Nov 2007

BBC South Sportsman of the Year

Awarded by BBC South.

Jun 2008

Quadriplegic of the Year

Awarded by REGAIN.
Presented by Trevor Jones.

2007

First disabled person to sail single-handed around Great Britain (Geoff's 'Personal Everest')

Jan 2004

RYA Award for 'Services to Yachting'

Awarded by the RYA.
Presented by HRH, Princess Royal.

Jan 2000

Francis Elkin Award for 'Services to Disabled Sailing'

Awarded by the RYA.
Presented by HRH, Princess Royal.

1997–2002

BA (Hons) – Fine Arts Valuation, Antiques & Decorative Arts

Awarded by Solent University.

Sep 1997

Bronze Medallist – World Disabled Multihull Championships

Hobie Cat Trapseat World Championships (California, USA)

Sep 1995

Bronze Medallist – World Disabled Multihull Championships

Hobie Cat Trapseat World Championships (NSW, Australia)