Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Thursday, 10 December 2009

Quadriplegic sailor Geoff Holt to cross Atlantic

Geoff Holt in catamaran
Mr Holt will use hydraulic push button technology to sail the vessel

A yachtsman hoping to become the first quadriplegic sailor to cross the Atlantic has set off on his voyage.

Geoff Holt, 42, will travel 2,700 miles (4345km) from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands to the Caribbean.

He will be returning to Garden Bay in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, where he suffered a diving accident that paralysed him.

Mr Holt, from Southampton, said he hopes the journey will help him "lay some ghosts to rest".

He is already the first quadriplegic sailor to sail around Britain and will be accompanied by a carer and a cameraman on board his boat, called Impossible Dream.

However, he will do all his own sailing on board the specially-equipped boat.

'Emotional journey'

Mr Holt, who only has limited use of his arms and hands, will use hydraulic push button technology to sail the 60ft (18m) catamaran for the 17 days it is expected to complete the voyage.

He said it seemed "right" to sail back to where he had his accident.

"I feel I will be closing the circle from having my accident," he said.

Geoff Holt said saying goodbye to his friends and family was "emotional"

"I left there in an ambulance but I plan to return there as a transatlantic quadriplegic sailor and lay some ghosts to rest."

Just before he set off, he told reporters: "(I'm) feeling really excited now and can't wait to reach open water.

"I have said my goodbyes to my wife and son. It will be tough being away from them at Christmas but being reunited with them will keep me going across the 2,700 miles that lie ahead of us."

Mr Holt's only restrictions to sailing the yacht independently are those concerning his personal care.

Without help, he cannot get himself into bed, dressed or even into the shower.

Geoff is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met
Dame Ellen MacArthur

But, once up and in his wheelchair, he can use his navigational and boat handling skills to sail the yacht, using the high-tech equipment.

Mr Holt's care will be provided by his personal assistant, Susana Scott, 28, who is originally from New Zealand.

Record-breaking yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur, from the Isle of Wight, gave her support to the challenge.

She said: "Geoff is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met.

"Not only has he already achieved the unachievable, but he is humble with it.

"I think few will understand just how important this challenge is to Geoff - perhaps in a way it is unfinished business."



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SEE ALSO
Geoff Holt's Atlantic challenge
07 Jan 10 |  People and Places
Disabled sailor plans next trip
01 Sep 09 |  England

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