Gerry Hughes – Christmas Party 2013

Harrow United Deaf Club  (HUDC) Christmas Party, 7th December, 2013

Gerry and Kay joined the fun at HUDC Christmas party on 7th December, 2013.  Gerry and Kay would like to thank everyone at HUDC for their warm welcome and for taking such good care of them  Special thanks to Asif Iqbal, MBE (President of HUDC) who organised the event, took time to personally ensure  that Gerry and Kay enjoyed every minute of the weekend and gave is permission for this Press Release and photographs to be published on the Gerry’s Website.

HUDC Christmas Party with Go Go Go Gerry! and farewell to Bentley Day Centre.
Harrow United Deaf Club (HUDC) was in a full swing on Saturday 7th December 2013, marking a very important event of the year with the closure of the Bentley Day Centre, a 1 minute silence in the memory of Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and an inspirational speaker from Gerry Hughes, first Deaf sailor to sail solo around the world. The event was overcrowded with over 170 deaf and hearing people wanting to mark the special occasion.

The afternoon started off with children’s Christmas party where there were lots of children activities including making Christmas stocking and decorating them with some glittering paints before hanging onto the Christmas Tree. Face painting was also popular with lots of children, having animal design on their face and arms. Children were excited at the presence of a Deaf Santa, together with Gerry Hughes and his wife Kay to assist with the gifts and having their photo taken with each child. It is a rare occasion for children and adults to have their photo taken with Gerry, one of the most inspirational person who broke through the glass ceiling in achieving the amazing feat.

VIP guests in attendances also includes: John Purnell QM QPM, Deputy Lieutenant for Harrow and Margaret Purnell (Patrons of HUDC) and was joined by Susan Hall, Leader of Harrow Council; Bob Macleod-Cullinane (Deputy leader & Portfolio Holder for Adults & Housing;) Manji Kara (Harrow Council Cabinet Member of Community and Culture); Alderman Keith Thomas;  Councillor Kareema Marikar (HUDC Ambassador); Mayor of Harrow Councillor Nana Asante; Davina Baptiste of St Marks Hospital; Ben Lampert (Harrow Torch Bearer & HUDC Ambassador); Councillor Husain Akhtar; Mandy Devine (Head of Deaf Resource Base, Hatch End High School); Sonoo Malkani (Harrow Police Community Consultation Group). They were given a Santa hat each and were personally introduced to Gerry Hughes and his wife Kay in the festive Christmas cheers.

The evening also marked a momentous in history of the Deaf Club with the farewell of the Bentley Day Centre and greeting the new venue at The Bridge Centre in Harrow & Wealdstone to commence at the next month event (January 2014). Then there was a minute silence in memory of Nelson Mandela, an international hero who inspired millions of people across the world, with a special photo slideshow of Nelson Mandela and his journey. Everyone was moved by the slideshow.

The evening then proceeded with an award ceremony, much to the surprise of the winners; where committee members and supporters of Harrow United Deaf Club were awarded in recognition of their valuable contributions including Cllr Husain Akhtar for his support as photographer and filmmaker; Cllr Kareema Marikar, HUDC Ambassador for outstanding supporter of the Deaf club; Ammaar Hussein, a 15yrs old member and his mum Mehtab Hussein; who managed to raise a significant money for the Deaf club including 10miles walk!

The Mayor, Cllr Nana Asante then gave an opening speech and welcomed Gerry in British Sign Language “Welcome, Go Go Go Gerry” – a motto that was adopted by thousands of fan during Gerry’s voyage.

Gerry gave a powerful inspirational speech of how he embarked his sailing journey from the time he was born and was diagnosed as profoundly deaf. His father bonded with him immediately and took him on sailing. Gerry explained that his father was involved in Navy and travelled across the world and for Gerry, it was with his father that he developed his love for sailing. He first learnt to read and write at the tender age of 15years old. Gerry explained that from the time he was growing up, he understood the world visually and was able to describe places, routes that he took in his home town but school, he struggled so badly that he couldn’t read and write. It was then that his father realized the education was not good enough for Gerry in Scotland and sent him to a Deaf school in England (Boston Spa) where Gerry thrived in his education. Gerry admitted that whilst he was at Boston Spa, he missed sailing terribly and once he learnt to read and write (a process that took him 18months to mastered), the first line he wrote: “One day, I will sail around the world…”

Gerry succeeded in becoming a teacher of the deaf (ToD) and was seen as one of the first ToD at the time. Gerry met his wife Kay, who supported him in achieving his dream of sailing around the world. Against all odds, he was given a go head to sail and saved toward buying a new boat. With support of his fellow sailors that he looked up to, he succeeded in seeing his dream becoming a reality when he got his boat: Quest III.

Gerry explained how emotional he was, when the time came to leave home and embark on his sailing journey. Leaving his family was heart-wrenching for him and once he boarded on his boat at midday, lots of his friends and supporters came to see him off which made it even harder for him to go.

Gerry then shared his story of how he survived several weather storms, strong waves and even powerful current when he reached the Equators and especially the southern hemisphere where the current was too strong a pull that can put a sailor at extreme risks. There were lots of physical exertion that for many of us would be extremely exhausted but for Gerry who had to maintain his great physique and fitness to face such tribulation.  His presentation included lots of visual photos of his boat, the damages that his journey had endured onto his boat e.g. engine failure and some broken parts of the boat that need either repairing or replacing. He also shared his life of how he managed in living alone in the boat without anyone to talk too apart from his regular email with his team of watch members who monitored his progress and feedback to him. He shared his amazing stories of how he was well-supported when he had to land at the Cape Verde for the much needed repair, only to find his sole contact who wished him all the best before he embarked on his journey; was in fact a life saver as the sole person organized a series of people to help out in a very short space of time. It was his amazing stories that had everyone in the audiences in awe and were part of his journey as Gerry lives to give his tales.

Gerry explained that it is no easy feat to achieve ‘round the world’ status and to achieve this, a sailor must go pass 5 Cape Horns and the equators twice to qualify and it wasn’t until he got home that the reality hit him of how tremendous his achievement was and seeing a mass number of supporters to see him arriving back home in Troon (8thMay 2013).

Gerry added that he couldn’t have done the journey without the tremendous support of his wife who were anxiously waiting for him to return home and prayed for his safety. Kay also shared her story in form of video diary for the Quest III website for thousands of fan to follow the progress of Gerry’s journey.

There was a rapture of applauses when Gerry ended his story and was shocked when he was awarded with a glass trophy of Sailing by HUDC Patron, Margaret Purnell. There was an inscription on the trophy with a message from HUDC, that Margaret read out aloud to the audience:

First Deaf Sailor round the world, 2013
For us all, you are an inspiration”
From Harrow United Deaf Club

Not only it stopped there, there was a special message for Gerry from Mike Penning MP, Minister of State for Disabled People: “Please accept my very best wishes for Harrow United Deaf Club for an extremely successful event along with my sincere congratulations to Gerry Hughes for his magnificent achievement”.

There was a long standing ovation for both Gerry and his wife Kay and there was a surprise for Kay. She was presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers by the committee members of HUDC, together with a gift, in recognition of her amazing courage and wonderful support she had given to Gerry.

The evening wrapped up with a massive bang of fireworks in farewell of the Bentley Day Centre and in celebration of Gerry’s achievement and looking forward to the New Year.

Feedback from the audience who enjoyed the evening very much and shared the same excitement and in awe of Gerry and Kay as follow:

“My dream came true! I finally met Gerry! He is a wonderful man and his speech was brilliant, so emotional! Love you Gerry – Go Go Go Gerry!!”  Member of HUDC

“We have enjoyed ourselves. Hat off to Gerry for his wonderful achievement and thank you very much to Asif Iqbal, President for organising such a fabulous and excellent event”  Member of HUDC

Asif Iqbal MBE, President of Harrow United Deaf Club, was pleased with the success of the event and exclaimed: “It was pleasing to have Gerry and Kay with us for the day. Gerry is one of the most inspirational person I have ever met – so humble and yet so powerful in showing us how he achieved such an amazing feat. For many deaf and hearing people, they were in awe of how independent Gerry was and determined in achieving his long-life dream and we applause him for breaking down the barrier, gave hopes and making ways for the rest of us to follow. A very positive role model and we wish him the very best in his future endeavor. ”

The article about the event entitled: ‘Festive farewell to Harrow United Deaf Club’ was printed onnline on Get London News’ website:

Gerry Hughes, first deaf sailor sailed around the world, mentioned about his trip to Harrow United Deaf Club where he was invited to give a presentation and it is now on his website: