For the seventh year running, Cowes Sailability Club made it possible for children and adults with disabilities to enjoy free, accessible boating trips during the Cowes Week regatta.

During Cowes Week 2019, Cowes Sailability Club made it possible for 173 people, including 56 children and adults with disabilities, to enjoy trips in the Solent on Wetwheels, a wheelchair-accessible motor catamaran.  The trips provided the opportunity for people who face daily challenges to have fun with their families or carers, and take part in an activity described by one participant as “extraordinary”. 

David Bell, who is non-verbal, epileptic and a wheelchair user, went on one of the Cowes Week excursions for the second year running.  His mum Julie says: “David never stopped smiling before, during or after the trip.  Everyone on the boat had a lovely time and disabilities or difficulties disappeared for the duration.  I would like to thank Cowes Sailability Club’s volunteers and the sponsors who made it possible for lucky participants like us to forget problems, have fun, smile, laugh and do an extraordinary activity.”

Of the 56 children and adults with disabilities who went on the Cowes Week trips, 12 were wheelchair users.  “Going on a boat trip with Cowes Sailability Club during Cowes Week gave me a real feeling of freedom,” says Richard Griffiths, who was left with limited mobility following an accident at home.  “I could forget about being in a wheelchair and just enjoy the wind in my face as we sped through the waves.  The experience brought back memories of fun times with my children, before my accident, and made me feel positive and happy.”

All the trips were provided for islanders with disabilities and their companions entirely free of charge, thanks to the support of its sponsors and supporters: Suzuki UK, Rotary Club of Cowes, The High Sheriff’s Trust, The Royal Southern Yacht Club Trust and Wetwheels Foundation.  Together, these organisations removed any potential financial barriers for people with disabilities, making it possible for everyone to enjoy a water-based activity with their family or friends.   Cowes Sailability Club is also very grateful to East Cowes Marina for providing a berth and facilities where Cowes Sailability Club’s volunteers could great participants. 

“The two hundred places that Cowes Sailability Club made available to people with disabilities and their families or carers were all fully booked up in less than a week,” says Paul Wilks, Commodore of Cowes Sailability Club.  “The popularity of this event demonstrates that a real need exists on the Isle of Wight for activities that adults and children with disabilities, and carers, can access and enjoy.  We are incredibly grateful to Suzuki UK, Rotary Club of Cowes, The High Sheriff’s Trust, The Royal Southern Yacht Club Trust and Wetwheels Foundation for helping us to fulfill this need and provide life-enriching opportunities for people with disabilities.”

The weather during Cowes Week 2019 was mixed, with some periods of glorious sunshine and other periods of persistent rain and wind. Only one sailing out of the twenty booked had to be cancelled due to the conditions and, in total, 173 children and adults went out on the trips coordinated by Cowes Sailability Club.  “It was another successful Cowes Week for Cowes Sailability Club,” says Patrick de Peyer, a Cowes Sailability Club volunteer who helped to facilitate the event. “Whatever the weather, everyone had a great time and I especially enjoyed seeing the smiling faces of people with disabilities, carers and family members.”

All the Cowes Week trips took place on a nine-metre catamaran called Wetwheels Solent, owned and operated the Wetwheels Foundation. The boat has been specially designed to cater for people with disabilities and can accommodate up to three wheelchair users at any one time. 

More information about Wetwheels is available here: www.wetwheelsfoundation.org