Wetwheels Hamble Campaign Launched

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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 water.

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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 river.

"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".

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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 boat.

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."

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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;