Ireland’s first-ever wheelchair-accessible V20 powerboat was launched at Cork Education and Training Board’s Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre, at the third annual Watersports Inclusion Games.
UK-based charity The Wheelyboat Trust, who to date has supplied nearly 200 accessible powerboats across the UK and Europe, have provided the vessel.
The new boat, a Coulam Wheelyboat V20, provided by The Wheelyboat Trust, is specially designed for disabled users. The powerboat will allow children and adults who visit Kinsale to powerboat for the very first time – offering them a brand new and inclusive experience. Although there are nine Wheelyboats already across Ireland, this is the first and only V20 model, making it one of a kind.
The new powerboat, named ‘Saoirse’ (freedom) was officially named and launched this Friday 23rd August by the CE of Cork Education and Training Board, Denis Leamy, the Mayor of County Cork Councillor Christopher O’Sullivan, and the Director of Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre, Jon Hynes. The launch took place ahead of the Watersports Inclusion Games, which saw more than 500 people descend on Kinsale for a water-fuelled weekend of fun.
Attendees had the chance to sail, kayak, stand up paddleboard, surf and of course take part in powerboating using the new Coulam Wheelyboat V20, Saoirse.
Director of Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre, Jon Hynes, said: “Inclusion and accessibility are words synonymous with Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre and what we offer to users. We aim to ensure all our programmes and activities are open to all, and this year, a new chapter is unfolding.
“We’re thrilled that we can now offer our disabled users the chance to powerboat for the first time. We hope that Saoirse will continue to be a positive spirit after the Watersports Inclusion Games, spreading our mission and aim to make the waters around Kinsale accessible to all.”
Designed by Andrew Wolstenholme and developed by The Wheelyboat Trust and JM Coulam Boatbuilders, the Coulam Wheelyboat V20 is 20 feet long and 7½ feet wide. It has an open, spacious and level cockpit, with roll-on, roll-off access via a watertight bow door that lowers to form a ramp, allowing easy access for wheelchair users. Its drive-from-wheelchair console also enables people with the severest of disabilities to drive the boat themselves. It has a high-powered Suzuki engine, with a brand new DF100B outboard, boasting 100 horsepower and top speeds of 30 mph and above.
Director of The Wheelyboat Trust, Andy Beadsley, said: “We’re delighted to see the first Wheelyboat V20 launch in Ireland. With its new outboard, the lightest in its class, Saoirse has the perfect balance between weight and power, allowing it to hit top speeds of over 30mph, offering a thrilling powerboating experience to those who want it.
“We already know that Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre is keen to ensure a positive legacy follows this weekend’s Inclusion Games, so we hope that we’ll be able to add to that by providing more Wheelyboats to different counties across Ireland in the near future, enabling more disabled people to experience the joy of being out, independently on the water.”
For nearly 40 years, Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre has provided a range of programmes and courses for the people of Cork and those further afield to gain access to the great outdoors. Now, the new Coulam Wheelyboat V20 offers a new unique selling point and adds to the many other inclusive activities already on offer.
The new Wheelyboat offers users the chance to receive specialist training, to become certified to skipper the new boat, something that’s not been possible until now.
“Users will also be able to sail and powerboat. Tours of the Bandon Estuary and Kinsale Harbour can be enjoyed, as well as being able to take part in mackerel fishing and wildlife watching.”
Over recent weeks, Jon and his staff have been conducting sea trials and staff training to be ready for this weekend’s Watersports Inclusion Games. Users from the Rebel Wheelers and the Irish Wheelchair Association have participated in some sample trips ahead of the launch and were thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Jon concludes: “It’s certainly an exciting weekend for watersports in Kinsale, and no doubt all in attendance will enjoy the Watersports Inclusion Games. Once the event has concluded, Saoirse will serve as a reminder to all that there is a place for everyone to enjoy access to the water, especially now in Kinsale with our new Wheelyboat.”
The Coulam Wheelyboat V20 was generously funded through the Sports Capital Programme. Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre’s relationship with Cork Local Sports Partnership has also been instrumental in the development of awareness of the new boat’s existence, as has their new association with UK-charity the Wheelyboat Trust. Without the support of these organisations, getting a Wheelyboat in Kinsale would not have been possible.
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 and for