Portsmouth marine businesses, organisations and charities make appearances at 'biggest and best' Southampton Boat Show ever

THE country’s largest boat show has returned to Hampshire and is promising a week of packed activities.

Saturday, 11th September 2021, 4:44 pm
Updated Monday, 13th September 2021, 10:45 am

The 52nd edition of the Southampton International Boat Show returned after its absence last year due to the pandemic, with its organisers claiming it to be ‘bigger and better than before.’

Marine businesses and organisations from across Europe, and many from the Portsmouth area, will make an appearance at the show over its 10 days.

The festivities began on Friday with an opening ceremony led by members of Team GB’s Olympic sailing team, including gold medallist Eilildh McIntyre, 27, from Hayling Island, who said she was pleased ‘to be here to celebrate the racing world that we’ve all missed so much.’

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Wetwheels founder and pioneering disabled yachtsman Geoff Holt MBE DL, with Wetwheels Chief Executive Neil Wilson, left, and Trustee Paul Strzelecki at Southampton Boat Show 2021

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The show is hoping to welcome more than 100,000 visitors, who will be able to enjoy five new zones this year - watersports, dinghy, classic and day boat, on the water and festival green. Some of the activities on offer include dinghy sailing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, and the ‘on the water’ stage promises ‘high-octane stunt demos to keep the whole family entertained.’

CEO of British Marine Lesley Robinson said: ‘We have seen an incredible turnout for the opening of our 2021 show and we are so excited for people to join us in our brand-new dedicated zones. This year we expect to welcome thousands of people to Mayflower Park and we hope to get 14,000 visitors out on the water.’

This year the show wants to focus on accessibility, encouraging everyone to get on the water.

The 52nd Southampton International Boat Show kicked off ten days of festivities in style with the official ribbon cutting by members of the British Olympic Sailing Team fresh from Tokyo 2020 L to R: Ali Young, Eilidh McIntyre, Stuart Bithell, Dylan Fletcher, Chris Grube, Charlotte Dobson

Hampshire-based charity foundation Wetwheels appeared at the show to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The community interest company was created to allow disabled people to have access to sailing, offering barrier free powerboat trips for disabled individuals, their families, friends and carers.

Since it started 10 years ago, Wetwheels has given 35,000 disabled people the opportunity to spend time on the water onboard its six specially-built, fully accessible powerboats across the country.

Founder Geoff Holt, 56, from Hamble, launched Wetwheels’ new campaign at the show. Over the next five years, Wetwheels plans to invest £1m to increase the number of disabled people it gets on the water from 35,000 to 100,000 by adding four new boats, including the first in Scotland at Port Edgar in Edinburgh.

The 52nd Southampton International Boat Show kicked off ten days of festivities in style with the official ribbon cutting by members of the British Olympic Sailing Team fresh from Tokyo 2020 L to R: Ali Young, Eilidh McIntyre, Stuart Bithell, Dylan Fletcher, Chris Grube, Charlotte Dobson

The charity has also launched their first virtual reality experience on a Wetwheels boat, to cater for those who cannot visit one of the boats in person.

Wetwheels’ £200,000 Solent powerboat is on show at the marina, which is usually based in Gunwharf Quays. On its opening day, the boat welcomed Ella Eagan, 19, and her carer Lauren Bowers, 21, from Road Rose Association in Southampton.

Geoff said that he loves how Wetwheels gives the opportunity for disabled people to experience being on the water.

He said: ‘The beauty of being on the boat is that you just get to get away from everything, you leave your disability on the dock. Everyone who comes on board also has the opportunity to drive the boat, no matter their disability.’

Flyboarder James Prestwood ensured Georgia Toffolo’Toff’ celebrated the opening of Southampton International Boat Show with fizz at the Southampton Boat Show 2021

Other Portsmouth businesses and organisations to feature at the show include the University of Portsmouth and The International Boatbuilding Training College Portsmouth.

Former Made in Chelsea star Georgia Toffolo was also at the launch, and she was spotted taking to the water on a jet ski and being served Champagne from the waterside by professional fly boarder James Prestwood.

The show will be in Southampton’s Mayflower Park until September 19. Tickets are still available to purchase from southamptonboatshow.com.

Geoff Holt from Wetwheels at the start of Southampton Boat Show 2021. Picture by Sophie Murray.