Wetwheels founder Geoff Holt MBE says 35,000 boat trips for wheelchair users in the last 10 years is just the start as he announces plans to triple that figure over the next 5 years
The man who launched boating charity Wetwheels a decade ago to give disabled people the opportunity to feel “free and independent on the water” has announced exciting expansion plans to allow 100,000 participants to enjoy the life-changing experience around Britain.
Wetwheels founder and pioneering disabled yachtsman Geoff Holt MBE DL launched the £1m fundraising campaign to increase the number of its specially-built, fully-accessible powerboats to ten by 2026 at the charity’s 10th anniversary celebration, held at Southampton International Boat Show.
Geoff, who was paralysed in 1984 and uses a wheelchair, said: “I launched the first Wetwheels boat in the Solent in 2011 to give disabled people the feeling of freedom and independence that you get from being on the water – it’s something you can’t gauge until you see the smile on their faces.
“Wetwheels’ 10th anniversary event launches our £1m bid to increase the number of our boats from six to ten – starting with our next boat in Port Edgar Marina in Edinburgh in 2022.”
Wetwheels currently operates from Hamble and Portsmouth in Hampshire and locations in Kent, Cornwall, Yorkshire and Jersey – allowing disabled people to actively participate on a coastal boat ride to help build confidence and improve their wellbeing.
During last year’s COVID-19 pandemic, Geoff recognised the isolation felt by disabled young people who were unable to leave their homes, let alone get on the sea. The charity created an immersive video to give them the seafaring experience on virtual reality headsets from their home, school or care setting.
At the 2021 Southampton Boat Show, Geoff explained that although disabled sailing charities do a fantastic job up and down the country, he set up Wetwheels, which is based around a fleet of specially-built, fully-accessible powerboats, after “recognizing that lots of people were not getting on the water because the could not or would not go sailing.”
He hopes to continue supporting the 250,000 or more young people in the UK with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD), many with life-limiting illnesses, who are able to enjoy time aboard Wetwheels boats and even take the helm.
“Of the 35,000 passengers so far, nearly 80% had never been on the water before,” he said. “We describe our boats as barrier-free and we mean it,” Geoff added.
Photo: Wetwheels founder and pioneering disabled yachtsman Geoff Holt MBE DL, with Wetwheels Chief Executive Neil Wilson, left, and Trustee Paul Strzelecki.
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