Disabled and disadvantaged people in the Solent region could
soon be taking control of their own specially adapted powerboat,
based at the Royal Southern Yacht Club.
Friday 19th June saw the national powerboating
charity Wetwheels, launch its fundraising campaign to bring one of
its purpose-built, fully-accessible vessels to the region.
The charity currently operates two 30ft vessels, one in
Portsmouth, the other in Jersey. Each year, more than 2,500
people have the opportunity to get afloat on a Wetwheels catamaran
and to experience the health and wellbeing benefits of being on the
Yachtsman Geoff Holt MBE set the charity up three years ago and
explains why there is a need for a new boat on the Hamble
"As a disabled person myself, I know the pleasure, fun and sense
of freedom I feel when I'm on the water. I set up Wetwheels
so other disabled people of all ages could also share those
experiences. Of all the people who come on Wetwheels, about
60% tell us they have never been on the water before because the
opportunity has not previously existed. With Wetwheels, we remove
those barriers to access and make it possible. But perhaps
what makes Wetwheels extra-special is that everyone who comes on
the boat has the opportunity to drive the boat, wheelchair users
included. Our existing vessels are operating at near capacity and
our Portsmouth boat receives many enquiries from disabled groups in
the Southampton area so we know there is a strong demand. And
what better place to base a new Wetwheels than the new Prince
Philip Yacht Haven at the prestigious Royal Southern Yacht Club on
the Hamble River. I grew up on the river, I know it very well
indeed and Wetwheels Hamble will be an asset for the entire
community and beyond".
Addressing guests at the launch, Commodore of the RSrnYC Chris
Mansfield said he welcomed the idea and"looked forward to the day
Wetwheels Hamble would begin operations at the Club".
The Campaign has already raised nearly £70,000 in cash and
products towards its £155,000 target required to buy the new
The Campaign launch at the Royal Southern YC was attended by
more than 60 local residents, businesses, and supporters including
Eastleigh MP Mims Davies. Star of the day was one of the
charity's existing boats, Wetwheels Solent, who was on hand to
showcase how Wetwheels operates and to provide trips for local
young people and disability groups.
School children from Hamble Community Sports College, some of
whom had various disabilities, including a wheelchair user, others
were young carers, were able to participate as part of a Hampshire
policing initiative to support and encourage disabled and
disadvantaged groups in the Community. Assistant Chief
Constable of Hampshire, Graham McNulty was at the event and said;
"Growing up can be difficult for many youngsters, especially
those who have disabilities or have caring responsibilities. It is
for this reason I am really pleased to see, first hand, events like
this. Schemes such as Wetwheels provides an opportunity for the
police to reach out to young people they might not otherwise have
come into contact with. Hopefully, by doing so, we can build trust
and confidence and they will feel more comfortable talking to us if
they should ever need to in the future."
Also getting on the water were wheelchair users staying at the
Re-Vitalise respite centre for people with physical disabilities in
Netley with everyone getting the opportunity to drive the boat.
Eastleigh Borough & Hamble Parish Councilor, Suzy Hamel,
herself a keen sailor and supporter of the project commented;"It is
great to see Wetwheels in action and wonderful to see all the
smiles on the faces of the local disabled and young people who have
had the opportunity to get afloat today. We look forward to
the day that Hamble has its own Wetwheels boat on the river so that
opportunities to be part of the on-the-water activities here are
inclusive for all members of the community."
Wetwheels Ambassador and World Powerboat Champion, Shelley
Jory-Leigh spoke of her support for the charity;"As a powerboater
myself, I know the exhilaration and fun it is to go fast on the
water, but Wetwheels is so much more than just going fast.
Wetwheels provides the opportunities for disabled people of all
ages to get afloat, something that many have never experienced
before, and it allows them to share the experience with their mums
and dads, brothers and sisters and their friends. The real
magic happens, not because of the ability to go fast, but to share
that special experience on the water and to actually take control
and steer the boat. It offers both a sensory experience
whilst demonstrating to disabled people what is possible when
activities are created where they can actually participate and be
given responsibility, not just to be taken for a ride. That
is a very powerful message and it underpins the whole Wetwheels
philosophy. I am really proud to be a part of Wetwheels."
Thanking everybody for attending, Geoff Holt concluded his
presentation by asking for the local community to get behind the
campaign."We need your help to make this dream a reality"he
said."We have already raised nearly half of the money so we are
well on our way. We would encourage all businesses, local residents
and anyone with an interest in the sea who would like to help
disabled and disadvantaged people to get afloat and to have a very
high value, life-enriching experience, to get behind the project
and to support us."
To donate to the Wetwheels Hamble Campaign, click this link;