For the sixth consecutive year, the charity Cowes Sailability Club provided accessible boating trips for Island residents with disabilities, and their families or carers, during Lendy Cowes Week.
Over a 5-day period, some 192 adults and children enjoyed excursions on the water, of whom 91 had disabilities and 23 were wheelchair users.
The trips were provided entirely free of charge thanks to the commitment of a team of volunteers and funding from organisations including Cowes Rotary, the Little Britain Challenge and the High Sherriff Trust. They took place on a 9m catamaran called Wetwheels Solent that can accommodate up to 3 wheelchair users at any one time. The vessel was made available to Cowes Sailability Club for Cowes Week by the Wetwheels Solent CIC.
Patrick de Peyer, Cowes Sailability Club Commodore, says:
“Often, people with disabilities are unable to really appreciate large events like Cowes Week because of the crowds and the lack of accessible facilities. Cowes Sailability Club changes this by making it possible for disabled people and their families, or carers, to experience the thrill of a world-class sailing regatta from the water.
“This was the sixth time we have managed to charter Wetwheels Solent for this event and it now seems to be set in stone for all of us.”
Julie Bell took part in one of Cowes Sailability Club’s excursions during Cowes Week with her 24-year old son David, who is non-verbal, epileptic and wheelchair-bound. She says:
“Not only did my son David not stop smiling for the whole boating trip, he has not stopped smiling since! The whole adventure is still very much at the forefront of his mind and he is constantly telling us in his own way, by signing, that that he went on a boat, got wet, drove the boat and wore the captain’s hat. He has shared his great time with everyone we have seen and has informed me of the many people I must phone to tell them about his trip. His happiness is priceless, especially as he has been so desperately poorly and I have so nearly lost him a number of times.”
“I am very grateful to Cowes Sailability Club for creating this incredible opportunity for my husband and me to make memories with David. I had a glimpse of the huge amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to enable people with disabilities and their families to enjoy trips on the water during Cowes Week. The volunteers give the most precious commodity they have – their time – and made us feel very welcome. I must say a huge thank you to everyone.”