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Wheelyboats Making Wheely Big Difference… 

A number more Sailability groups have added Wheelyboats this year but why?

When an unprecedented 110 people booked in for 'have-a-go' sessions for Mylor Sailability's 2013 Open Day, powerboat tasters proved equally as popular as sailing.

This planted the seed in the mind of founder, Tracey Boyne, that to make the stunning Fal Estuary as accessible as possible for people of all abilities, it was worth exploring opportunities for offering power as well as sailing at the newly formed Mylor Sailability group.

A few conversations with established Sailability sites and other organisations introduced her to Wheelyboats and, armed with some excellent Open Day local press coverage, Tracey approached the Wheelyboat Trust to see if Mylor Sailability was the sort of project they would be interested in supporting. To Tracey's delight it was. 

Less than a year later Mylor launched its new Wheelyboat called 'Odyssey' in October. It is, Tracey, admits taking Mylor Sailability to "the next level."

"Some people just like being out on the water in a boat, others like to mix it up and do a bit of everything; to cater to all we had to have a better powerboat solution than using the sailing school's RIBs.

"The Wheelyboat makes the whole powerboating experience much more dignified and independent. We did have wheelchair users who would go out in RIBs, but they had to shuffle over the side, then to the centre seat and, if they weren't able to support themselves, have people either side propping them up. Or people would sit on the side.

"For some people that wasn't a problem but others were more reluctant and self-concious about it as it made them feel vulnerable. Now people are telling us that getting on to the Wheelyboat makes them feel so much more independent and, because of the boat's stable design and higher sides, more secure."

Around 50 people a week visit Mylor Sailability during the main season, with winter activity continuing for as long as there is demand. The group's ethos of focusing on health issues that may have discouraged a person from being active, instead of on 'disabilities', has led to an increase in the number of older members coming along. 

Mylor received 75% of the funding for their Wheelyboat through the Wheelyboat Trust with the group tasked with raising the remaining £3,700 themselves, which included £1,200 from Mylor Yacht Club's pantomime takings.  

Watch the launch of Mylor Sailability's Wheelyboat 'Odyssey' on BBC Spotlight

The group has the latest Wheelyboat design - the Coulam Wheelyboat V20 - and the boat’s design allows people with limited mobility to attain recognised RYA powerboat qualifications. This is another huge appeal Tracey admits.

"Not only is there a new independence getting on to the boat, but users can take control and gain qualifications too. 

"We made some adaptations to the boat design when it was being built, mainly to make it more comfortable and accessible for non-wheelchair users too, but we're finding new ways to make the boat work for even more people with different needs every day. That's just the nature of Sailability, whether it's sailing or powerboating."

Tracey has one message for Sailability groups looking to run extended powerboating opportunities and explore the possibility of acquiring a Wheelyboat - go for it. 

"Some groups may immediately think a Wheelyboat is out their reach but it's taking Mylor Sailability to the next level. I know from experience of seeking funding for all sorts of projects how time consuming and hard those processes can be but the Wheelyboat Trust is such a great set-up it was a much nicer process."

Whereas Mylor are not looking at hiring out their Wheelyboat, for the time being at least, a new Accessible Boat Club on the River Thames, based at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre, is giving people the chance to gain RYA Powerboat Level 2 and then become members and gain access to their new Wheelyboat seven days a week.

The Rivertime Boat Trust and Bisham Abbey Sailing and Navigation School have created the new club allowing club members access to both powerboating and sailing with the new Wheelyboat adding an extra special dimension to open up the Thames to more users.

Peter May, Club co-ordinator said "The aim of the club is to provide independent access to boating. We are thrilled to have already trained five chair users to skipper the Wheelyboat and they are now able to take their families and friends out whenever they wish. Our aim is to train 20 powerboat chair users by next summer."

Meanwhile July saw Frampton on Severn Sailability also launch their new Mk III Wheelyboat, called Frank Hall after the club's late Rear Commodore. A fundraising effort generated £20,000 including a £6,000 Sport England grant.

To read the full article click on the Downloads link to the right.


Mylor Sailability has been honoured as Cornwall's Sportivate Best New Project and the South West Regional Best New Project :) Click here for the full awards story.

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