Yachtsman Geoff Holt gets a royal seal of approval for his disabled solo transatlantic voyage


Today, yachtsman Geoff Holt gets a special Royal visit at the Southampton Boat Show when HRH The Princess Royal goes aboard Impossible Dream, the boat he is planning to sail across the Atlantic in December.

Since becoming the first disabled person to sail solo round Britain last year, Geoff has been hatching a bigger plan. And although it’s a larger challenge this one promises to be a lot more comfortable and enjoyable that his last cold and wet 1,400-mile voyage in a 15ft Challenge trimaran.

It should also, in fact, be quicker because the round Britain took 53 days, and another 56 waiting for the right conditions to sail, whereas Geoff should be able to sail across the Atlantic from Lanzarote to Tortola in three weeks or under. His aim is to cross the Atlantic and return, 25 years later, to the very spot where, as a 19-year-old, he dived into shallow water and broke his neck.

The photo above is Geoff at the USS Enterprise style command and control centre ofImpossible Dream, the 60ft catamaran that he will be sailing solo (though he will be accompanied by his non-sailing carer, Susannah Scott, and cameraman Digby Fox).

The boat is really impressive. It was designed by Nic Bailey for Mike Browne, who founded the outdoor company Rock & Snow. An obsessive adventurer, Browne skied off the edge of a cliff in a white-out, severing his spine, breaking 19 ribs and leaving him in a wheelchair for life.

His boat, which he uses himself and to take other disabled people sailing, allows access all round the boat in a wheelchair. It can be helmed from inside and out and operated, reef and trimmed from this control station. All the lines are hydraulically controlled and there’s a pretty complicated electrical system.

A former delivery skipper, Geoff is a really competent yachtsman and I get the feeling he is incredibly excited by the thought of doing another ocean passage, with everything that goes with that: the Tradewinds, the balmy evenings and sunsets and those glorious star-teeming skies that you only ever see far out at sea.

Asked if he had any fears about the trip Geoff immediately answered: “Fire. I’ve always been scared of fire,” indicating an awareness of risks that many other yachtsman don’t really consider. But it’s a small enough risk, one of many, that Geoff and, before him, Mike Browne think they have covered as well as humanly possible.