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Two wheelchair users are celebrating today having passed their powerboat exams.  The pair become only the 2nd and 3rd disabled people on record to pass their RYA Level 2 powerboat exam whilst remaining seated in their electric powered wheelchairs. The achievement was made possible by using Wetwheels, a fully accessible vessel based at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth.

 

Tim Clare from Windsor, paralysed from the chest down following a motor accident 30 years ago and Anna Pettman from Southampton who has the degenerative disability Freidrichs Ataxia and has been in a wheelchair much of her life, both passed the two-day course which involved a day of classroom theory and a day on the water, learning boat handling and navigational skills.

 

Nick Kincart, Principal at the Boatability Powerboat Training School in Portsmouth who delivered the training to Tim and Anna commented;

 

"Training physically disabled people should be no different to any other training however, with both candidates full-time powered wheelchair users, it was essential that we used a vessel they were capable of controlling safely under my instruction. Fortunately, the way Wetwheels is configured, this proved to be no problem at all, in fact it was very simple.

 

We covered the theory aspects of the training shore-side for day one and spent extra time concentrating on the handling characteristics of a twin engined boat, especially considering Wetwheels has two Suzuki 300hp engines to play with.  We had to get it right first time.  With her powered steering and fly-by-wire controls she proved very easy to control for Tim and Anna.    

 

I had no doubt that Tim and Anna would cover most of the course with very little problem apart from MOB [Man Overboard], Mooring and Anchoring which will show as an endorsement on their licence.  With the layout of Wetwheels and her light controls it proved no more difficult than teaching an able bodied person.  Their slow boat manoeuvres were executed near perfectly and I had no hesitation in passing them".

 

Anna, herself a keen sailor who has sailed many miles at sea commented;

 

"It was very empowering driving the boat and you are on a par with other water users with no worrying about steps or dropped kerbs. I am now hoping to develop my powerboating as well as my sailing."

 

Tim, who also sailed many years ago before his accident and is regularly found flying an adapted aircraft, commented;

 

"The offer to get back on the water in Wetwheels to complete an RYA Power Boat Level 2 course was a opportunity I could not refuse.  Firstly for the challenge and enjoyment of taking on something that is inherently difficult for anyone with my level of disability; second, it shows other disabled people what is possible if approached with some determination and to help change those preconceptions of disability.  The course, although daunting, as there was much to learn, was achievable and enjoyable owing to our excellent instructor, Nick.  I was extremely chuffed and proud when Nick offered his hand to congratulate both myself and Anna on passing the course.  I look forward to pursue my boating skills further by taking on the next qualification"

 

Geoff Holt, himself a wheelchair user and founder of Wetwheels spoke of his delight at the news;

 

"One of the criteria when we had Wetwheels built was that she should be able to deliver training to disabled people. Due to the lack of accessible vessels, training is often denied to disabled people.  Some years ago Nick Kincart from Boatability trained me for my RYA Level 2 powerboat license so it was a proud moment indeed to see Wetwheels, along with Nick's excellent tuition, enable two powered wheelchair users the opportunity to achieve something considered by many to be impossible - just think for a moment what they have achieved. Two people, almost completely paralysed, unable to walk and barely able to move their hands, have just demonstrated that, with the right equipment and training, they can drive a immensely powerful vessel, safely and with competence. That is amazing. In fact, they are probably now more qualified than many motorboat users in our waters.  Is it any wonder I am so proud of them both? I'm chuffed to bits".

 

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