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Geoff Holt
Miss Isle takes on Sea and Summit challenge
Thursday, 27 February 2014 09:42

Natasha Lambert with her boat, Miss Isle Too © Ranald MackechnieShe had barely been ashore five minutes when she began being asked, “So Natasha, what’s the next challenge?”

On July 1 2013, Natasha Lambert, who was born with athertoid cerebral palsy, which affects her limbs and speech and confines her to a wheelchair, captured the hearts and minds of the national media and many thousands of well-wishers as she successfully completed her historic ‘sip and puff’ sailing Channel crossing.

In what was dubbed her ‘French Connection’ challenge, the 16-year-old conquered the 25 miles from Boulogne to Dover using only her mouth to control the sip-puff system in her Mini Transat, Miss Isle Too. It took just four and a half hours.  

“What’s next?” It’s all she’s been asked ever since - and she’s enjoyed the suspense.But now Natasha is ready to answer that question…

The Passing Of Rya Sailability
Friday, 03 January 2014 00:00

geoff Holt ColumnMy inbox has been full this month with views of sailors, past and present, regarding the news that the RYA’s charity, RYA Sailability, is to change its name.

Letters from Chairman of the charity, Richard Langford, were sent to Sailability centres around the country explaining the changes.

It will indeed mean the loss of the name RYA Sailability as the charity rebrands itself the RYA Foundation and expands its objectives to widen its focus beyond just disability.

RYA Sailability was formed in November 1995 with the coming together of the RYA’s Seamanship Foundation and Sailability. Over the past 18 years the organisation has seen participation grow from a handful of sites to more than 35,000 participants each year at more than 170 approved Sailability centres.  

Over the same period, the RYA, the national governing body for our sport, has taken responsibility for more and more functions of the charity to the point where disabled boating is almost indistinguishable from all other activities and functions provided by the RYA; these activities are managed within the RYA’s Sailability Programme. In this respect, sailing is light years ahead of many other sports and the envy the world over.

Sailability Multiclass Regatta
Friday, 06 September 2013 00:00

geoff Holt ColumnCHALLENGER sailor Val Millward was crowned 2013 Multiclass Champion of Champions as the final curtain came down on the seventh annual RYA Sailability Multiclass Regatta held at Rutland Sailing Club on the weekend of 10-11 August.

Disabled and able-bodied sailors from as far afield as Holland battled it out in the four classes: Access, Access Liberty, Challenger and Skud 18.

Racing began on Saturday with each class competing in four races in breezy conditions. On Sunday the sunshine came out and sailors enjoyed perfect conditions as they competed in the final two races of the regatta with prizes up for grabs for winners in each class.

The prestigious Ken Ellis Trophy was awarded to the leading boat across all fleets and it was Val Millward (pictured) from Rutland Sailability who was revealed as the overall Multiclass Champion and winner of the Ken Ellis trophy in the official prize giving.

A tribute to Paul Burns
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)
Tuesday, 09 July 2013 00:00

geoff holt columnI first met Paul in 1996 when he was about to set sail on Time & Tide in the BT Global Challenge. The wheel of my wheelchair got stuck in a rut at the launch ceremony and Paul gave me a hand to free myself. I didn’t know who he was, nor knew of his disability, his prosthetic leg covered by his trousers.  

At the time I had been openly critical of the prospect of 14 disabled people, skippered by James Hatfield, crewing a 67ft yacht 27,000 miles around the world.

How wrong I was. Time & Tide may have had the longest elapsed time of the 14 entries, but she had won the hearts and minds of many, myself included. Unlike many of the crew, after the race, Paul continued his love of sailing and over the past 16 years has been an inspiration to many.

This gently spoken man was humble too. It would be several years before I was to learn the full horrific story behind his disability, and even then Paul made light of it.

In 1979, 18-year old Paul was the only survivor of the Warrenpoint blast in Northern Ireland. The IRA bomb killed 18 of his comrades from the Second Battalion, Parachute Regiment. His injuries kept him in hospital for a year and he lost his left leg above the knee.  

In 2012, he had his right leg amputated as a result of those initial injuries. The full story of his life was told in his autobiography, ‘A Fighting Spirit’.

Still missing a trick?
Friday, 10 May 2013 00:00

geoff holtWhilst many world economies continue to struggle and the yacht charter market shares in that pain with a shrinking number of customers able to afford to charter a yacht for a holiday, plus tougher competition within the sector, I find it amazing that businesses have still not woken up to the potential market staring at them in the face.

People with disabilities in the UK represent 15 percent of the population. Those 11,000,000 people have a combined disposable income of £62 billion a year (that’s not a typo). And when disabled people go on holiday, they take friends and family with them; that 15 percent of the population very quickly seems modest.

This financial argument (rather than the stick of legislation) has been used successfully in many other industries already; cinemas, restaurants, hotels, in fact most businesses in the holiday and leisure sectors have been actively tapping into this market for years, with no need for the Equalities Act, nor its predecessor, the Disability Discrimination Act, to bear its teeth.

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