Sussex-based charity The Wheelyboat Trust, which turns 35 this year, launched its 200th wheelchair accessible powerboat, a Coulam Wheelyboat V17, at the Conway Centre in Anglesey.

Named Phil Braden after the late Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Cymru Wales Chief Executive, who passed away earlier this year, the new vessel will be based on the Menai Straits, enabling disabled users of the Conway Centre to enjoy water-based activities.

The new boat was officially named and launched by Debbie Braden, Phil Braden’s widow, using a bottle of champagne kindly donated by Richard Horovitz, Secretary of LLandudno Sailing Club (Pictured).

Gerwyn Owen, the current RYA Cymru Chief Executive, was in attendance, alongside representatives from Sports Wales and Disability Sports Wales.

In total, between 70-100 people attended for a fun day trying out the new V17, other water-based activities, the centre’s usual social BBQ (sponsored by Edsential), ending with an enormous cake made especially for the launch by Jo Ellis, Head of Catering at the Conway Centre.

Jon Gamon, Chief Instructor of SEAS @ Conway Centre, said, “The arrival of the Coulam Wheelyboat V17 marks an enormous leap forward in the capability of the SEAS group to deliver inclusive activities.

"Not only will this vessel enable our disabled volunteers to take a more integral role in the delivery of sessions, but it will also allow new activities such as paddle sports and fishing to be tried – something we’re very excited about.

“Though we currently operate a motor launch and four keelboats, none are currently accessible to people with more limited mobility, which is something we’re determined to change. We wanted to get this new Wheelyboat so our wheelchair users can independently get themselves on board, rather than being helped or missing out, which is a huge, and much needed, step forward.

“Another aspect of gaining our first Wheelyboat that I’m excited about is that ‘Phil the Boat’ - as we affectionately call it - is a purpose-built craft that we can use to train and qualify our disabled members as powerboat drivers and instructors.

"We already have Powerboat Level 2 courses planned for wheelchair users and we’ve been working with and training our volunteers with the view to them becoming instructors themselves. The capabilities and build quality of the Coulam Wheelyboat V17 is a milestone in SEAS’ long term sustainability and success, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that this boat is coming to our waters.”

Andy Beadsley, Director of The Wheelyboat Trust said, “In March this project featured on BBC Countryfile, showcasing the fantastic work of The Wheelyboat Trust and the Conway Centre.

"We showed presenter Steve Brown, who is also a wheelchair user, how versatile our Wheelyboats are, and how they give disabled users the same opportunities as able-bodied people.

"I’m delighted that our latest model of Wheelyboat - which is also our 200th Wheelyboat - will be based in Anglesey, as it will open so many more doors to disabled users in this area than ever before.”

The Coulam Wheelyboat V17 is the Trust’s most versatile Wheelyboat to date; designed to be used with Suzuki outboards of up to 100hp, which enables the boat to hit top speeds of over 30mph, the V17 is ideal for high-speed powerboating.

But, the V17 is also available as a tiller-driven model for outboards of up to 15hp, which makes this vessel perfect for leisurely pleasure boating on canals too, and allows its users to explore both inshore coastal waters and inland waterways.

Like all Wheelyboat models, the Coulam Wheelyboat V17 enables disabled people, and wheelchair users in particular, to take part in a myriad waterborne activities.

The roll-on, roll-off bow door, large open cockpit and drive-from-wheelchair helm provide a huge amount of freedom and independence. It’s a smaller version of its big sister, the Coulam Wheelyboat V20, launched in 2014. Like the V20, the V17 is a craft unique in its class.

‘Supporting Enabling Accessible Sailing’ (known as SEAS) is a group that provides disabled people of all ages in North Wales with accessible sailing and boating opportunities as part of the RYA’s national Sailability programme.

Formed in 2018, SEAS is based at the Conway Centre and aims to help disabled people become more physically active, which in turn will improve their health and well-being, as well creating new social opportunities.

SEAS @ Conway Centre and The Wheelyboat Trust are very grateful to Sport Wales, Lord Leverhulme’s Charitable Trust and the Hedley Foundation whose grants provided the funding for the new Wheelyboat. The launch of the Wheelyboat comes at the end of a particularly busy and successful season for the Conway Centre, sponsored by the Thomas Howell Education Fund for North Wales and the Outdoor Partnership.

MenCap Mon, the Anglesey arm of a UK charity for people with a learning disability who support their families and carers, and Leonard Cheshire who support individuals to live, learn and work as independently as they choose, whatever their ability, will also be supporting the event.

Jon Gamon concluded, “A lot of people are very excited about getting out on the V17 and learning to drive it, though we’ve promised Gary Costa - one of our most committed boat drivers - that he will be one of the first!”

The Wheelyboat Trust relies on the support of individuals, companies and charitable organisations to fund its activities. Donations can be made in a variety of ways including online at www.wheelyboats.org/donate.html.

To find out more about The Wheelyboat Trust, visit www.wheelyboats.org.