Wetwheels Foundation held its well-supported Operators’ Meeting last month in Portsmouth. Representatives from Solent, Hamble, Jersey, Guernsey, Yorkshire and the South East spent the day looking at fundraising, licensing, standard operating procedures and future training needs.
Workshops covered key ideas on funding presented by Jonathan Bean, and two colleagues from Mindworks Marketing explained how to successfully harness social media.
The meeting was also an opportunity for operators to meet some of the Foundation’s trustees; to learn more about developments in each operating area, and view the ‘man overboard’ video produced after a training exercise using a Wetwheels catamaran in August. As result of this exercise new boats will have an upgraded specification, and existing boats will be modified in due course.
Post meeting evaluation was very positive and the trustees have a list of things they need to put in place to further support operators. The date for next year’s meeting will be 19 October 2017.
Wetwheels launched its third boat on the River Hamble today, 14 May 2016.
Wetwheels Hamble will be based and managed at the Royal Southern Yacht Club and has been built to the same proven formula as Wetwheels Solent and Wetwheels Jersey by Cheetah Marine on the Isle of Wight and powered by Suzuki.
She was named by Dame Mary Fagan DCVO, JP, at a packed ceremony with over 100 invited guests including the Trustees of the Wetwheels Foundation, Eastleigh MP Mims Davies, the Directors of Wetwheels Hamble CIC and the Commodore of the Royal Southern Yacht Club.
A personal message of support for the Wetwheels Hamble initiative was read out from the Royal Southern Yacht Club’s Patron, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.
Speaking afterwards, Wetwheels’ Geoff Holt said: “It makes me incredibly proud to see this, our third boat on the water, especially knowing the lives she will enrich over her life time here on the river. The Hamble is very special to me for a number of reasons and I just know that the whole community will benefit from her presence here.”
Wetwheels Hamble will now commence ramping up operations and it is expected she will be able to work towards matching Wetwheels Solent‘s current capacity of taking more than 1500 disabled people afloat each year.
To mark this very special occasion the original Wetwheels Solent was joined by Wetwheels Jersey and Wetwheels Hamble for a sail past. Catch the video below.
The Prince Philip Yacht Haven at the Royal Southern Yacht Club was the impressive venue for an important announcement by the Wetwheels Foundation, which provides disabled and disadvantaged people access to the sea through fully accessible powerboats. Just 44 days after launching a charitable campaign to bring a purpose-built wheelchair accessible vessel to the Royal Southern Yacht Club in Hamble, the target was achieved.
A total of £155,000 has been raised to commence the construction of this latest Wetwheels accessible powerboat. Well over 100 guests enjoyed a cocktail reception provided by Past Commodore, David Mead and Richard Long, Director of Wetwheels Hamble, to celebrate the announcement.
The concept of powerboats designed for wheelchair access has been developed and pioneered by disability sports ambassador Geoff Holt MBE, who was on hand to make the official announcement.
“I enjoy amazing experiences at sea and I wanted to share that with friends who are also disabled. In the past, I have come back from my adventures and told them about it but I have never been able to share it. Wetwheels gives people that amazing opportunity,” commented Geoff Holt.
“Safety has to be absolutely paramount and these boats are safe, secure and weather proof. The nine metre catamaran can handle rough weather, and also, when we are not taking out disabled people, the boat is fully coded for commercial work. Those proceeds can be put back into the charity, so we can take more disabled people out. Raising the money is testament to some incredibly generous people.
“Now we have to raise another £30,000 per year to operate the boat and we have plans to raise the money for more boats as well. When you see people going out and getting the thrill of racing along or take a day out fishing, it is just incredible and I never lose sight of that, the passion behind Wetwheels comes from the heart – we never forget that.”
Two magnificent classic yachts have been instrumental in the fund raising for Wetwheels Hamble. The 160ft Eleanora and 125ft Mariquita offered places on board to the top 25 bidders, raising thousands of pounds for Wetwheels Hamble. Mariquita was moored at the Royal Southern YC for the announcement; her co-owners – John Caulcutt, Stephen Hemsley and Jamie Matheson –were on hand to show guests around the magnificent classic yacht.
“I have known Geoff since before he had his accident and we have been great friends for years,” commented John Caulcutt. “I have been a supporter of Wetwheels since it started and I came to the Royal Southern when the campaign was launched. Geoff told me that they have a requirement for five more boats. I said well let’s start by getting the first one!
“We were delighted to help by challenging Eleanora to a match race, with places on board being auctioned off to raise funds. All of the yacht clubs on the south coast combined on the initiative, which shows the strength of Wetwheels and the trust in Geoff. We raised £67,000, which is just brilliant.”
Cheetah Marine, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, will be building the new wheelchair access motorised catamaran, which will be based at the Royal Southern Yacht Club in Hamble. With sufficient funding in place to order the vessel, the Wetwheels Foundation will continue to raise funds ensure sufficient operating finance.
Disabled and disadvantaged people in the Solent region could soon be taking control of their own specially adapted powerboat.
Friday 19 June 2015 saw the Wetwheels Foundation, launch its fundraising campaign to bring one of its purpose-built, fully-accessible vessels to the Royal Southern Yacht Club in Hampshire.
Yachtsman Geoff Holt MBE 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. 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 boat.
“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.” Wetwheels Ambassador and World Powerboat Champion, Shelley Jory-Leigh
“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.” Assistant Chief Constable of Hampshire, Graham McNulty
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.” Eastleigh Borough & Hamble Parish Councilor, Suzy Hamel,