Paralyzed from the neck down, Geoff Holt (MBE) made history when he sailed solo around Britain in 2007, and he has not stopped since. A record-setting yachtsman and an award-winning entrepreneur, whose outlook is infectiously positive as he takes on new challenges, Geoff’s keynote and after dinner speeches combine lessons learned from numerous acts of courage with insightful marketing acumen to motivate others and promote diversity.
Sailing solo around Great Britain is not only a hugely courageous feat, but one that Geoff Holt accomplished when paralysed from the neck down.
Geoff had sailed the Atlantic three times when his life changed forever: after breaking his neck at the age of 18 during a dive in the Caribbean Sea, he was told that he would never walk again.
Nonetheless, in 2007, Geoff made history when he conquered his ‘personal Everest’ in an unparalleled act of undeniable fortitude.
Since then, in an unrelenting bid to attempt the ‘impossible’, Geoff has become the first quadriplegic to sail unassisted across the Atlantic. His epic 3000-mile voyage in 2010 took four weeks to complete in his 60ft catamaran, aptly named the ‘Impossible Dream’.
A beacon of inspiration, the record-breaking yachtsman now shares his journey with humour, infectious positivity, and thoughtful insight as a keynote and after dinner speaker; he is known for mesmerising audiences with his spirit and determination in the face of adversity.
And his story goes beyond sailing: Geoff’s marketing background and success as an entrepreneur ensures that his business messages are anchored in his experiences both on and off the water – a powerful combination of industry acumen and valuable lessons about ‘courage in tough times’, ‘never giving up’, and ‘embracing diversity’.
At the helm of the marketing department for an international accountancy firm, Geoff retained sailing as his first love and decided to found Wetwheels, the Community Interest Company (CIC) which operates fully accessible boats to provide boating opportunities for all; the entrepreneurial endeavour won him the prestigious Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs in the UK in 2015.
Having designed the world’s first wheelchair accessible powerboat, Geoff and his company offer disabled clients educational and mentoring programmes along with sporting and recreational trips on the sea. In 2012, he navigated Wetwheels along the Thames for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant, and shortly afterwards he set up The Disabled Powerboating Trust.
Further recognition of Geoff’s achievements includes being voted BBC South Sports Personality of the Year (2007), receiving the British Airways Great Briton Award and the RYA Francis Elkin Award (2009), being awarded an MBE for services to disabled sailing (2010), and attaining the coveted YJA Pantaenius Yachtsman of the Year (2011).
Geoff’s autobiography ‘Walking on Water’ was published in 2008 to wide acclaim; moreover, he contributes monthly columns to numerous sailing journals and is a presenter on BBC Radio Solent’s H2O Show alongside Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.
An avid supporter of multiple charities, including Southern Spinal Injuries Trust and Rose Road Association, Geoff has inspired countless individuals as a disability sports ambassador. He delivers, with great sensitivity, his personal philosophy of ‘no excuses’ to both clients and staff, along with that sought-after ‘feel good’ buzz.
In the hope that his voyages and social entrepreneurship will inspire others to push their own personal boundaries, Geoff can share his lessons on high performance, embracing diversity and taking life’s opportunities.