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First solo circumnavigation by deaf sailor wins OCC award

by Daria Blackwell, Ocean Cruising Club/Sail-World on 10 May 2013
Gerry Hughes celebrates with well wishers .. .
This week Scottish sailor Gerry Hughes became the first deaf yachtsman to circumnavigate the world singlehanded by crossing 'the line' in Troon Harbour in Scotland. He was greeted by hundreds of well wishers and fans who turned out to mark the occasion. Best of all, he was bestowed an Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) Special Recognition Award upon stepping onto the dock.

Shortly after Gerry Hughes aboard Quest III, a Beneteau 42s7, arrived on the seventh of May, Frances Rennie and John Forsyth, representing the Ocean Cruising Club, presented Gerry with the special award of recognition for his achievement.

'Gerry is an extraordinary man all around,' they commented. 'It is no surprise, given his drive and determination in life, that he’s been able to accomplish so much and influence so many with his achievements in sailing. Gerry was very proud to receive this award. '

Assisting with the presentation were the Provost for South Ayrshire and the Deputy Provost of Glasgow; OCC member Priscilla Travis was on hand to photograph the event.

Gerry left Troon on the 1st September 2012. Single handing a boat is a massive challenge in itself, but sailing without being able to hear the sounds that alert sailors to changes in circumstances requires extraordinary skill and perception. His accomplishment has been described as a 'wonderful example of perseverance over disability'. During 210 days at sea, his journey covered 32,000 miles of ocean.

Not only has Gerry completed an arduous journey that few sailors have even contemplated, he has served as incomparable inspiration to the communities of deaf children and adults following his accounts of adventure on the high seas. His blog and his tweets have shown disadvantaged people around the world what anyone can achieve if they want it enough.

Gerry was beset by numerous electrical failures and had to stop in Cape Town. Rather than admitting defeat for a non-stop circumnavigation, Gerry kept going to complete the circumnavigation with stops. After encountering severe weather and capsizing in the Southern Ocean, the boat sustained severe damage to essential equipment including his laptops.

Gerry was able to continue to Hobart for more repairs and replacement of laptops before continuing his journey. It is this undaunted spirit that is kindred with the philosophy of the Ocean Cruising Club.

Born profoundly deaf, Gerry learned to sail at the age of two in his native Scotland. After completing a degree in Mathematics, Gerry went on to become the first deaf teacher in Scotland since 1880.

Aside from playing football on the winning Scottish and British Deaf Football Championships teams and competing in the World Deaf Golfing Championships for Scotland six times, he was the first deaf sailor to sail solo round Britain in 1981, and he also sailed across the Atlantic in the OSTAR in 2005 becoming the first deaf skipper to do so.
To learn more about Gerry, go to his website:

About The Ocean Cruising Club:
The Ocean Cruising Club exists to encourage long-distance sailing in small boats. Every full member has made a 1,000-nautical mile offshore passage in a vessel of 70 feet or less; associate members are committed to the achievement of that goal. This standard distinguishes OCC from all other sailing clubs. It’s not about what you are or who you know, but simply what you have done, that matters. Our membership as a whole has more experience offshore than any other sailing organisation – in the number of circumnavigators, in the range of extraordinary voyages members have completed, in the number of solo sailors, and female sailors among our ranks. This is what sets us apart from other organisations, even as it draws us together as a group. We bring the spirit of seafaring to our association by always being willing to assist any fellow sailor we meet, either afloat or ashore.
With a central office in the UK, though it has no physical clubhouse, the OCC is, in a way, the 'home port' for all of us who have sailed long distances across big oceans. With 48 nationalities and Port Officers in as many countries, we have a more diverse membership and a more international reach than any other sailing organisation. Our Port Officers and Regional Rear Commodores represent the frontline interaction with our existing members and the recruitment of new members.
For more information about prior award recipients or membership, please visit

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