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Deafblind man conquers the North Sea…twice!

He’s deaf, he’s blind, and yet Graham Hicks from Peterborough, supported by Icom (UK) Ltd, has made a double crossing of the notorious North Sea by jetski riding from England to Holland and back again. Under the catch phrase "Double Dutch Courage", Graham left England for Holland at exactly 6am on Tuesday 24th June 2003 together with Jason Newell, a Tax inspector from Bedford as his pillion navigator. He returned exhausted to a hero's welcome two-day's later with return pillion rider, Robert Hall.

In this attempt Graham became the first person to complete the 244 return journey to Holland, but also set a new Guinness World record of 122 miles in 5 hours 59 minutes. Icom supported Graham by providing 2 IC-M1EuroV waterproof VHF handheld transceivers, which were used for communicating between the support boat and Graham's navigator. DS Development generously installed a hands free kit on the navigators helmet so the pillion rider was able to talk on the radio whilst navigating.

Commenting on the support from Icom (UK) Ltd, Graham said, "The radios provided by ICOM were extremely useful during the Double Dutch Courage. We also used them during our practice days. Not only did they provide vital communication between craft and shore, but they also gave us peace of mind that if we were ever in difficulty, we would be able to call for assistance. Happily we were never in that position."

Graham is both totally deaf and blind and so his pillion rider had to indicate the direction to steer via a touch signal system - basically the navigator, had to put his hands inside Graham’s impact jacket, much as any pillion rider does to hold on, and used his fingers on Graham’s chest to tap out signals for left, right and slow down. The knees were used to tell Graham to go straight ahead or faster - not that Graham needed any encouragement there!

With a desire to complete this marathon voyage Graham provided some unusual modifications to aid his attempt. Holding the throttle open manually for long periods is very tiring on the right arm and wrist and diverts energy away from hanging on! Graham’s solution was "simple but effective" - a Velcro strap off a Typhoon wetsuit around the bar grip and throttle lever!

Graham said,’ It can be fiddly to adjust but once set is very effective in helping to maintain a constant speed. Yes that includes over the waves and under ‘em when it comes to it - what is the point in backing off - just hang on & keep going! Being more than a bit blind I never see the waves coming any way so we just hang on, hit them & keep going!

So how did Graham and navigator refuel at sea? Graham said," We didn't - one of the reasons we chose the Yamaha SUV1200 was because of it's large storage capacity. This enabled us to install two bladder tanks in the rear hold. With these overall fuel capacity was boosted to 170 litres - more than enough to see us across."

So how did they know that way? Graham said, "Our Garmin GPS is fitted to the back of my impact jacket so that my pillion rider can watch the screen and use the touch signal system to tell me which direction to steer."

As well as fulfilling his own ambition, Graham undertook this trip to raise publicity and funds for the national charity Deafblind UK that he works for. Deafblind UK provides vital services to assist thousands of deafblind people throughout the country to live independent and fulfilled lives. Graham is a testament to that!!

Icom Marketing -


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