Sport13th October 2013

Gerry Hughes is a quite remarkable man

A Deaf man, Gerry Hughes is single handedly sailing around the world past all five capes - read about him here

by Sarah Lawrencee

Falkland Island

Setting sale on Quest III at noon, on Saturday 1st September 2012 from Troon Marina, Gerry is seeking to become the first Deaf man to sail single handedly, non-stop around the world. SL First Magazine has been following Gerry’s progress and was given the privilege of interviewing Gerry’s lovely wife Kay about his exploits.

A born adventurer, Gerry was introduced to sailing very early in his life, and sailing around the world has been a life long ambition. The fact that Gerry is even able to attempt it, is the culmination of a huge amount of effort. Gerry has grown up with people telling him what he could not achieve because he is Deaf, and he hopes that his circumnavigation of the globe, will serve as a message to others who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, that anything is possible.

As a boy, Gerry was sent back and fore two separate Deaf Schools in an attempt to find a place that suited him. Neither did, but with determined teaching and fathering, along with Gerry’s own ambitions, he did subsequently blossom in school.

Gerry used to get excited about going home each Easter, summer and Christmas break. During one holiday Gerry saw a copy of his father’s sailing newspaper, ‘Salute to Sir Francis’ in May 1967, which can be found at, and Gerry wrote on the paper, “One day I will go like Sir Francis”.

Gerry met his wife Kay at St Vincent’s Deaf School in Glasgow. He told Kay that he wanted to achieve two things, his qualifications and sailing around the world just as Sir Francis Chichester had done. Against all the odds, his achievements in school were far better that his father thought possible, and they have gone on to inform Gerry’s life choices ever since.

Scottish First Deaf Teacher

Gerry went on to further his education at Norfolk House College for the Deaf in Surrey, Glasgow College and then the Open University. Suitably qualified he then sought to enter teaching. Starting out as a Deaf Instructor at St Vincent School, Gerry sought to become a teacher. It was not until 20 years later, after seeking legal advice, that Gerry was given the opportunity to undertake his teacher training course. One year later, in 1995, he became the first Deaf teacher in Scotland since 1880.

Having successfully attained his qualifications, Gerry retained his ambition to sail around the world. In 1981, he sailed around Great Britain with Matthew Jackson in Faraway II and in 2005 he then sailed from Plymouth to Newport in Quest II, USA. Gerry then tried to sail around the world in 2007 and again in 2009 but did not have the financial support he needed.

Sadly, St Vincent school closed in 2010 forcing Gerry and Kay to work in a local mainstream school. Kay said she struggled with the change from a Deaf environment to a hearing one, but Gerry adapted to it all very well. In 2012, the school had a staff meeting with an interpreter present, and Gerry took that opportunity to arrange a 1:1 meeting with the head-teacher to discuss his ambition to sail around the world. Gerry told the head-teacher all about his childhood, and his life-long ambition, and Gerry was delighted to get all the support he could have wished for to embark on his adventure.

Highly motivated by this level of support, Gerry began working in earnest on a boat he had bought for the challenge, and did some training in rough seas at all hours. Ultimately, it led to Gerry setting sail on what is regarded as one of the toughest challenges known to man. It is a surprising fact that less people have sailed around the world past all five Capes, than have reached the summit of Mount Everest or travelled into space.

The level of support and interest in Gerry’s progress has been fantastic and they have received messages of support from all over the world.

Gerry has already achieved a number of firsts is his life, and in this epic journey, he has achieved some more, including being the first Deaf man to sail around Cape Horn, notorious for being the most dangerous sea in the world. Through the wonders of today’s modern technology, Kay has been sending Gerry messages of support on a daily basis to keep his spirits up and it has been reassuring for her to get a daily reply. The other vital Deaf messenger has been the weatherman, Jim Colhoun, whose information really is the difference between life and death.

Despite all of the challenges and rough seas around him, Gerry has already been sending Kay messages about his next challenge, “there’s never a dull moment with Gerry. He is always up for challenges and nothing stops him,” she explained.

Currently in the middle of the Pacific, and approaching the final parts of his challenge, we wish Gerry and Kay all the very best, and we salute a quite remarkable man!

Article by Sarah Lawrencee

posted in Deaf Sport / Sport

13th October 2013