SUPER sailor Geoff Holt has won a prestigious national award, described as the pinnacle of the sailing profession.
He has won the coveted title of YJA Pantaenius Yachtsman of the Year for 2010 at an awards ceremony in London.
The award capped an incredible year for Mr Holt, from Shedfield, near Fareham, who became the first quadriplegic to sail unassisted across the Atlantic last January, and was made an MBE in June.
The 44-year-old said: 'It's fantastic - this is the big one. There isn't really anything else after this in terms of awards.
'I had absolutely no idea I had won beforehand. I've been nominated for this three times now, so to finally win, I'm really chuffed.
'There have been 160,000 people who have won an MBE, but only 42 people have won this.'
The award was presented by sailing legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston - himself a three-time winner of the title.
Mr Holt added: 'I could never imagine winning this when I was growing up. It takes my breath away. When Sir Robin refers to me as "my friend", I can't believe it. My dad idolised him.
'The room was full of the great and the good from the world of sailing, previous winners like Clare Francis, Tracy Edwards, Sir Chay Blyth - but I try not to lose sight of my roots and remember where I came from.'
And Mr Holt is hoping that the title will help attract support to his next bid - an unassisted circumnavigation of the globe.
'I hope this is going to be a boost to that campaign,' he said. 'We're really going to ramp that notion up now. Hopefully businesses will see me and think "he's a proven commodity, we would be fools not to back him".'
The other finalists were Edward Wright. Finn World Champion and double World Cup Winner and Lucy MacGregor and her team, the Ladies World Match Racing Winners.
The award began in 1955, with a trophy commissioned by its founder, Sir Max Aitken, of a silver navigation buoy mounted on a sea of crystal.