New accessible Wheelyboat boosts boating programme for disabled people

A brand new wheelchair accessible powerboat has launched on the River Hamble in Hampshire as two charities, The Wheelyboat Trust and the QE2 Activity Centre, joined together to give people with mobility impairments access to waterborne activities, such as nature watching, pleasure boating and powerboating.

New Coulam Wheelyboat V20 launched at QE2 Activity Centre in memory of James Male

Charles Reed, Chair of the English Federation of Disability Sport, officially launched the new Coulam V20 Wheelyboat at on Thursday 24 August. The event was attended by the many donors, who supported the fundraising activities, including Graham and Lorraine Male, parents of one of the crewmen on the foundered Cheeki Rafiki yacht, who raised almost £13,000 of funding towards the cost of the Wheelyboat and new kayaks for the Centre in memory of their son James.

The new Coulam Wheelyboat V20 will supplement the centre’s boating activities for disabled people. The QE2 Activity Centre prides itself in being fully inclusive, regardless of ability, and the special features of the Wheelyboat will provide users with mobility impairments with complete independence as they explore downstream and learn how to drive and crew the powerboat.

Every year at the QE2 Activity Centre thousands of people with additional needs are able to access the River Hamble on kayaks, canoes, rafts and pontoon boat. The centre also offers multiple activities in the Hampshire Country Council 400-acre park, including archery, climbing, zip-wiring, bush-craft and orienteering. The Coulam Wheelyboat V20 will enable the centre to train disabled people how to helm and crew a motor boat and it will substantially increase the number of people enjoying powerboating trips, as the craft can accommodate up to 10 adults, including six wheelchair users.

Developed by The Wheelyboat Trust and J M Coulam Boatbuilders, the Coulam V20 offers flexible seating, level deck and a watertight bow door that lowers to form a solid ramp for extremely easy and safe access. With its 60hp Suzuki outboard, the Coulam Wheelyboat V20 will provide a new and exciting sensory experience to disabled people, benefitting their overall health and well-being. The craft allows people with mobility impairments to participate in waterborne activities alongside and on equal terms with non-disabled people, an important factor in the quality of life they are able to lead.

Through extensive fundraising, The Wheelyboat Trust and the QE2 Activity Centre have been working together to fund the Coulam Wheelyboat V20. Key contributors to the fundraising efforts have been Graham and Lorraine Male, who in May 2014 lost their son, James Male, when he and three other sailors on board the Cheeki Rafiki yacht were lost in the Atlantic, when sailing from Antigua back to Southampton. Learning about the QE2 Activity Centre from friends and recognising that the centre shared their son’s enthusiasm for introducing young people to outdoor activities, the Male’s decided they would like to offer practical support to the charity. They got the fundraising off to a flying start eventually presenting the centre with a cheque for nearly half the cost of the new Wheelyboat.

Graham Male, father of James Male said:

“At 22 years old, James achieved more than most would in a lifetime. Those who met him know that he was extremely popular, a real people person with an infectious smile and the most likeable, selfless guy. When the opportunity came up to do something positive to recognise James, the QE2 Activity Centre was the perfect charity to support to give something back to others. James loved all types of outdoor sports, but he would have particularly loved seeing everyone on the water enjoying activities the way he did. James would have been proud to be a part of the QE2 Activity Centre and overwhelmed by all the good work it achieves for disabled adults and children. It is an honour to be able to leave such a fantastic legacy for James.”

Phil Oates, Manager of QE2 Activity Centre said:

“This is a great addition to the Centre’s fleet and will bring a lot of pleasure to a lot of people. I’m very proud that Graham and Lorraine have chosen to support QE2 Activity Centre in memory of James and very grateful to all who supported the Males and the Wheelyboat Trust to make it happen.”

Charles Reed interviewed at launch of new Coulam Wheelyboat

Charles Reed, Chair of the English Federation of Disability Sport said:

“EFDS is delighted to support this new opportunity in Hampshire, which will enable more disabled people to be and stay active. The organisers have worked tirelessly to raise funds and ensure more people can have memorable experiences on the water. We hope lots more people enjoy the opportunity over the coming years.”

Andy Beadsley, Director of The Wheelyboat Trust said:

“Our aim is to allow as many people as possible to enjoy taking part in waterborne activities and so we are we very excited to see the launch at the QE2 Activity Centre which is doing a fantastic job getting people with special needs active. This project will benefit in particular those with the most limiting mobility impairments, improve their welfare and broaden their horizons through challenges, excitement and thrills!”

The Wheelyboat Trust relies on the support of individuals, companies and charitable organisations to fund its activities. Donations can be made in a variety of ways including on the Wheelyboat Trust website.

Image credit: Nicki Fry, Appletree Photography