Holt sets the wheels in motion

Geoff Holt carries the Olympic torch in 2012
Geoff Holt carries the Olympic torch in 2012
Sir Francis Chichester on Gipsy Moth IV.

NOSTALGIA: Chance to climb on board one of most famous yachts in history

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WETWHEELS are looking ahead to another successful year.

Founded in 2011 by ex-professional yachtsman Geoff Holt, the charity last year helped over 1,200 disabled people experience the thrill of getting on the water.

Holt was paralysed in a swimming accident in 1984 and has since become the first disabled sailor to sail single-handed around Britain.

He was also the first disabled sailor to cross the Atlantic Ocean unassisted, achieving this remarkable feat in 2010.

The organisation offers four different types of trip, including recreational, fishing, training and sea safari, meaning they are capable of providing services for a huge range of people.

Holt feels the key has been to cut through traditional divides in the sailing community and believes offering disabled people this rare opportunity has benefits that can last the rest of their lives.

‘Sailors often look down their noses at powerboaters, and powerboaters are often quite critical of those who go sailing,’ said Holt.

‘I want to cut through all of that nonsense because I believe it’s being on the water that makes the difference and it doesn’t matter if that’s through sailing or powerboating.

‘It’s about getting people on the water.

‘In the UK, there are 300 sailing charities and we are the only proper, dedicated motorboat charity.

‘Being on the boat offers people a sense of shared experience with friends and family.’

The flagship Wetwheels powerboat is moored in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, while another branch operates in Guernsey.

Plans are also afoot to expand the Wetwheels fleet, not just in the UK but also across Europe.

Holt believes this growth is crucial to ensure more people can be reached by the charity.

With demand at an all-time high, Wetwheels is expected to be on the water every day until September.

The craft is scheduled to make an appearance at the Gosport Marine Festival next weekend, as well as at Cowes Week and the much-anticipated America’s Cup World Series event in July.

Numerous fundraising events have also been organised to keep the charity operating.

‘We are clearly making a difference and I would love to see 20 boats all over Europe so people can really experience its benefits,’ added Holt.

‘I believe Wetwheels is an asset to our community and we offer a service no-one else can provide.

‘It is enriching the lives of those most disadvantaged in our community and empowering them in many ways.

‘A few weeks ago we had a 100-year-old man on the boat, which is incredible.

‘I don’t think there’s any disability we can’t cater for.

‘We also have a golf day in September, which is a crucial part of our fundraising, and will be a huge amount of fun to do.’

For more information on the work Wetwheels does in the local community, visit the local branch website atwetwheels.co.uk.