Wetwheels South West Takes To The SeasWetwheels South West
The world of powerboating is opening up to thousands of disabled people in the Westcountry and beyond with the launch of Wetwheels South West, a custom built, fully accessible, £200,000 catamaran in Falmouth, Cornwall.
Helming the vessel for her inaugural spin around the waters of Falmouth Harbour was seventeen year old Fin Allen whose smile said it all: “It was a really unique experience and freeing, actually. I didn’t know this was possible. It just shows you what is possible with the power of thinking and donation. It’s great. Being able to drive the boat in your chair is really important because it’s really important to feel comfortable – it helps a lot.”
Commodore Jamie Miller CBE DL RN “named the boat” at Falmouth Visitors’ Marina – opening the door to exhilarating water-borne adventures for many people who have never been out to sea or even dreamed it might be possible.
Wetwheels was founded in 2011 by Geoff Holt MBE DL - a lifelong sailor who was paralysed in a swimming accident in 1984 – whose passionate mission has been to give people of all ages, including those with the most profound disabilities, the opportunity to get out on the water in an exhilarating, safe, stimulating and rewarding way.
With the support of donors and partners the, charity provides barrier-free water-based adventures for disabled people on board specially designed boats with specialist staff who ensure each person can share experiences, challenge their self-perceptions, extend their horizons, and discover new opportunities.
“This is a very proud moment for me personally and a testament to the hard work of everyone involved in Wetwheels” says Geoff Holt. “When I founded Wetwheels, it was with the aim to make the sea accessible to all disabilities, including those most excluded. It had to be a highly sensory experience and I designed the boat with a ramp to the wheel so, for a moment in time, anyone with a disability, could be captain of a powerboat. I am delighted we now have 6 boats, collectively taking in excess of 7,000 people a year to sea. Only out there does the real magic happen, you leave your disability on the dock and have a truly memorable adventure on the ocean.”
Beneficiaries are active participants, rather than simply passengers, with the opportunity to steer the vessel and learn seamanship, alongside their peers, friends, and families. The experience is truly inclusive helping to improve aspirations and increase confidence.
The Falmouth-based Wetwheels South West is the latest of six vessels based around the coast with the first launching in the Solent, then Jersey, Hamble, Whitby and Dover. She was funded in part by private donors but mostly by Sport England who have recognised the innovative work Wetwheels is doing to get disabled active, particularly those with more complex needs.
“Sport and physical activity makes us happier and healthier and it is essential for our wellbeing,” said Adam Blaze, Strategic Lead for Disability, Sport England. “It has the power to make life better, which is why we champion it so everyone can enjoy the benefit of being active.
“National Lottery players raise £30 million every week for good causes in the UK, and it is this funding that has made our unique partnership with the Wetwheels Foundation to get more disabled people active through life changing experiences on the sea possible. Fully accessible powerboats mean everyone can be active in a fun and safe way, learn new skills and become more confident.”