Gunwharf Quays to host UK's first 'barrier-free' boating weekend for people with disabilities

THE UK’s first ‘barrier free’ boating weekend for people with disabilities is coming to Gunwharf Quays this month.

Friday, 6th May 2022, 11:18 am

The event – run by the the Disabled Sailors Association and Wetwheels Solent – will be giving people with disabilities to ride a powerboat or sailing yacht around the harbour on May 14 and 15.

Anyone keen to attend can pre-book a free 90-minute experience on either vessel, including one carer.

Founder of Wetwheels and avid yachtsman Geoff Holt MBE said: ‘Portsmouth is unique in the UK, possibly the world, being home to not only a fully accessible sailing yacht but also a fully accessible powerboat.

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All participants, including wheelchair users, have the opportunity to drive the boat and learn basic seamanship in a safe and fun way, according to Wetwheels.

‘We wanted to showcase what we do and what better way than to have an event, not only for disabled people in our local community, but also for local businesses and the public to recognise the amazing work both organisations are doing on a day-to-day basis right here in Portsmouth taking many thousands of disabled people out for an experience on the water each year.

‘To be honest, it doesn’t really matter whether people prefer to get afloat in a sailing boat or motorboat, ultimately it is about getting out onto the sea, only out there can you forget about your disability truly begin to understand and experience our amazing maritime heritage and precious marine environment.’

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The boats will launch from Gunwharf Quays, which features fully accessible Changing Place facilities.

Wetwheels was founded by disabled yachtsman and adventurer, Geoff Holt MBE, in 2010 to provide barrier-free boating opportunities for disabled people to access the sea and coastal waters.

Yvonne Clay, centre director at Gunwharf Quays, said: ‘For those that wish to shop and dine after a busy day on the Solent, we have lifts throughout the outlet and offer pre-bookable Shopmobility Services that provide hands-free shopping at no chargeand a free carry-to-car service.

‘We are committed to ensuring that accessibility is a key focus at Gunwharf Quays, and are proud to support the UK’s first true barrier free boating event, in partnership with the DSA and Wetwheels Solent.

‘The event will offer amazing opportunities for the disabled community, including the chance to drive the boats from our fantastic Marina’

Both boats will be running five trips a day, starting from 9.30am.

Anyone wishing to book a slot can find contact details at wetwheelsfoundation.org.