SAILING legend Sir Ben Ainslie joined the founder of a charity passionate about getting disabled people out on the water, for a special boat-naming ceremony.
There were smiles all round as the Olympic hero sprayed champagne on Wetwheels Solent’s brand-new vessel, also called Wetwheels Solent.
A group of disabled students, businesses and private investors gathered with charity founder Geoff Holt to celebrate the launch of the £180,000 boat, designed to take all people with disabilities on adventure boat trips.
Speaking before unveiling the name of the boat, in the marina at Gunwharf Quays, Sir Ben said: ‘It’s a real honour to be asked by Geoff to come along, I’m a huge fan of his and everything his team does to help get youngsters out on the water.
‘These boats are absolutely fantastic.
‘It’s an honour to name this vessel Wetwheels Solent, and may God bless her and all who sail on her.’
Wetwheels builds disabled people’s confidence by providing the opportunity to access the sea in a fun and safe way.
In 2007 Geoff became the first disabled person to sail single-handed around Great Britain and in 2009 he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean unassisted.
He was awarded an MBE for Services to Disabled Sailing in 2010 and set up his charity five years ago.
Geoff Holt said: ‘This is our fourth boat, it’s our most modern and up-to-date one built by Cheetah Marine on the Isle of Wight.
‘She’s got the latest Suzuki engines on the back, the latest Raymarine technology, and she’s designed to take all people with disabilities including wheelchair users. We take more than 1,500 people out on the water each year – which is phenomenal. I’m very proud.
‘We’re passionate about what we do, I’m convinced we’re an asset to the city, which calls itself the great waterfront city – and if that’s the case everyone in it should have access to the water.
‘Until now there’s been barriers to participation and that barrier has been accessible boats.’
Geoff said every trip is unique, and it’s emotional and rewarding to see those he and his team helps enjoying themselves.
Geoff added: ‘We need to raise £180,000 per boat, and most of our funding comes from private individuals – I want businesses to get on board and help us.’