Inspirational yachtsman, Geoff Holt MBE DL, supports our BRIT Ambassador family & the BRIT Challenge
We are thrilled that Geoff is part of our BRIT Ambassador family to support and improve young adult mental health and fitness throughout the UK.
Geoff was paralysed in a swimming accident in 1984 and uses a wheelchair. In 1995 he became the inaugural Chairman of RYA Sailability. In 2007, Geoff became the first severely disabled person to sail single-handed around Great Britain. In 2009, he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean unassisted. Geoff was awarded an MBE for “Services to Disabled Sailing” in 2010 and named ‘Yachtsman of the Year’ shortly after. He was made a Deputy Lieutenant of Hampshire in 2012. Geoff is a Council member of the RNLI and a patron and ambassador for several charities for people with disabilities.
Geoff is the founder of Wetwheels Foundation who offer a unique opportunity for disabled and disadvantaged people of all ages - including those with multiple, profound and complex impairments - to access the water. This year they reach their 10th Anniversary, celebrating the fact they have taken an amazing 35,000 thousand people on voyages of discovery.
Geoff is the Founder of the Wetwheels Foundation and a champion of disabled sailing.
“Through my work with young adults and the disabled community for over 30 years, I know the vital importance of inclusive opportunities to improve mental health and wellbeing. The COVID-19 crisis has, and will, undoubtedly impact existing mental health difficulties and therefore we need inspirational activities for UK-wide participation to reduce feelings of depression, isolation and loneliness.
I am delighted that BRIT is delivering the annual BRIT Challenge and inviting every UK university, college, specialist college and Students’ Union to participate in a feelgood February fundraiser and encourage student and staff participation. I’m thrilled that every team taking part are invited to raise funds for a second charity, alongside BRIT, to support local, regional and national charities. I hope universities and colleges will consider Wetwheels Foundation as the second charity of their choice.
I urge Olympians, Paralympians, sporting personalities, and my fellow Great Britain sailors, to join our BRIT Ambassador family. Together, we have the ability to champion the BRIT Challenge at over 450 university and college locations, encourage student and staff participation, destigmatise mental health and champion equality, diversity and inclusion.
I’m delighted to support BRIT as an Ambassador in Hampshire and look forward to encouraging students at the University of Portsmouth during their BRIT Challenge.”
Geoff Holt MBE DL
Founder, Wetwheels Foundation and champion of Disabled Sailing
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, in 1984, 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 became the first severely disabled person to sail single-handed 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.’
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.
Geoff 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 Foundation.
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).
Geoff was made a Deputy Lieutenant of Hampshire in 2012.
Geoff is the founder of Wetwheels Foundation who offer a unique opportunity for disabled and disadvantaged people of all ages - including those with multiple, profound and complex impairments - to access the water.
In November 2015, Geoff won the prestigious business award in recognition of his work as founder and CEO of Wetwheels – the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs in the UK.
Central to their experience is active participation - helping to broaden aspirations, increase confidence and directly impact on health and wellbeing.
By 2025, they aim to support 12,000 people every year to participate in a Wetwheels experience across the UK, with the widest reach and awareness possible.
Wetwheels Foundation are proud to have HRH The Princess Royal as their patron.
This year they reach their 10th Anniversary, celebrating the fact they have taken an amazing 35,000 thousand people on voyages of discovery. They now want to provide access to the water to thousands more - please read about their aims and new fundraising appeal.
To read more about Geoff, please visit his website.
You can follow Geoff on Twitter.
To find out more about The Wetwheels Foundation, please visit their website.