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.