Geoff Holt discusses what was learned from day-one disaster
Learning from experience is the hallmark of the truly conscientious and determined adventurer. Geoff Holt, the ex-professional sailor paralysed from the chest down, has learned numerous lessons in single-handed disabled sailing, having been the first disabled sailor to go all the way around the Isle of Wight in 1997. However, the events on Monday, when he was thrown overboard by confused seas at the start of the Personal Everest Round Britain Challenge, caused Geoff and the team personal heartbreak after months of preparation. Yet as he writes in his own blog, ‘it was a blessing in disguise.’
‘We are fast realising that the events on Monday, albeit desperately disappointing for our Team, were in fact a blessing in disguise. Although we have an absolute thorough set of risk assessments, even though we have trained and rehearsed various emergency scenario’s, even though I have put together a fully trained a fully qualified support team around me, accidents can still happen. To be truly wise, you must learn lessons from them and as a team we have learned several.
‘To set the lifejacket issue straight, as it looked identical, I thought that my new lifejacket that I obtained last week was an auto-inflater like my previous one. It was not. My fault, I should have checked but it turns out my previous lifejacket had an auto-inflation adaption made many years ago and I didn’t think to mention this when supplied with the new jacket. I wrongly assumed it was the same and had no reason to think otherwise. However, with its inherent bouyancy, the new lifejacket still could have turned me over but due to time pressure on the day, I wore a pair of quilted trousers that I had made a year ago by a friend especially suited for being sat down all day. Without thinking through the consequences, these trousers made my legs so bouyant they floated on the surface and didn’t give the lifejacket a chance to do its job.
Crewsaver, who provided the lifejacket, immediately took action, organising a two-hour session in a local pool to get the right lifejacket for Geoff.
‘So, I hope that puts the record straight,’ Geoff writes, ‘and our only worry now is the weather. With no decent window in sight, it will be next week at the earliest before we will be off again – but at least we’ll be reassured about our kit and that our safety procedures work.’