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GeoffMAINPARALYSED yachtsman Geoff Holt scooped the prestigious Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs 2015, chosen personally by easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou.

Geoff, who broke his neck in a swimming accident in 1984, won the £50,000 prize for his company WetWheels, which provides boating opportunities for people of all ages and abilities.

Ten years ago Geoff became the inaugural chairman of national sailing charity RYA Sailability, a role he held for six years, and in 2007 he became the first paralysed person to sail single-handed around Great Britain.

Two years later he sailed – unassisted – across the Atlantic Ocean, and he is now planning to round the world voyage in 2017.

Geoff said: “I am deeply honoured to have been chosen by Sir Stelios. The award will really give us the chance to expand our services for disabled people.

“Over the years I have witnessed thousands of disabled people of all ages enjoy our boats and services. It doesn’t matter if that is on a sail boat or a motor boat, it is being on the water that makes the difference.”

Geoff was one of three short-listed finalists for the award, which is supported by leading charity Leonard Cheshire Disability.

The two runners up, Andrew Gilbert (Gilbey Films) and Anna Wilkinson (More Rehab.com) both receive £10,000 each.

Sir Stelios said: “We have three worthy winners this year that will be great role models for others to start their own business in the future.”

Justin Tomlinson, Minister for Disabled People, who attended the ceremony, said: “With this award Sir Stelios and Leonard Cheshire are giving disabled entrepreneurs the chance to turn their vision into a reality. The ideas on show from all three finalists demonstrate the depth of talent and drive among disabled people in the UK, and will challenge misconceptions around what disabled people can achieve.”

Chief Executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability Clare Pelham added: “Today we celebrate the amazing achievements of disabled entrepreneurs.

“But let us not forget, as Poppy Day approaches, there are 12 million disabled people in this country. And they are twice as likely to be unemployed.

“It’s not proper remembrance, if we don’t all unite to make sure disabled people are visible in every workplace and in the leadership of every business. And if they’re not, why not?”

WetWheels is a Community Interest Company (CIC) based in Portsmouth.

Wetwheels, tel 023 92 819 366

www.wetwheels.co.uk

 

PICTURED: Geoff Holt, seated, with (from left) Justin Tomlinson (Minister for Disabled People), Clare Pelham, Anna Wilkinson, Andy Gilbert and Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou