PROJECT ‘WETWHEELS’

Disabled yachtsman Geoff Holt, best known for his record breaking sailing adventures, has chosen Cheetah to supply a boat so that he and other disabled people can get out on the water. 'Choosing a Cheetah was a "no-brainer"' comments Geoff. 'I have had several powerboats over the years, but all lacked the ability to go offshore whilst retaining stability for my wheelchair'

Choosing a Cheetah was a "no-brainer". I have had several powerboats over the years, but all lacked the ability to go offshore whilst retaining stability for my wheelchair and providing a comfortable ride with protection from the weather. Plus I need easy access onto the boat and I want to be able to command the vessel from my wheelchair comments Geoff

Having visited the Cheetah Workshops and having a run out in demoboat ‘Free Spirit’, Sean and Geoff agreed that the 9m Cheetah with 3.7m beam was ideal.

I'm really excited about this particular boat because she will be called 'Wetwheels' and, although she will be my boat, she will be MCA coded and I have pledged to make her available to other disabled people on a not-for-profit basis. I want her to be used and for other disabled people to share the enjoyment I get every time I go out on the water. I have been overwhelmed by the support I have received from suppliers who have donated to make this dream a reality. I must pay particular thanks to Cheetah themselves but also to Suzuki Marine and Raymarine plus Trident Foams and Seaglaze.

Cheetah Marine has been building wheelchair accessible boats since 2001 when The Green Island Trust purchased a trip boat for use between the Islands around Poole Harbour. The catamaran featured a side door which lowered straight onto the pontoon. Also in 2001, Cheetah Marine was approached by the Friends of Dolphin, a non profit making charitable organisation also based in Poole. The aim of the Charity is still the same: To give free trips to disabled persons of all ages and disabilities who are unable to use the normal pleasure craft operating in Poole Harbour. ‘Dolphin III’ was the third boat since 1975 to be purchased by the organisation – a 9.95m Cheetah. After 6 successful years in service the Friends of the Dolphin again approached Cheetah Marine to build a larger, updated model. 

'The new Dolphin III was placed in service on the 27th May 2008. In the first season 1395 disabled passengers and their helpers enjoyed free trips around Poole harbour. All our regular passengers are delighted with the new, larger boat which has better seating and improved awning facilities. A combination of the new Honda 135 outboard motors and bow thrusters have proved their worth when berthing in an increasingly busy Poole Boat Haven.' 

Ken Wollan, Chairman of the Boat Operating Committee

Then in 2009, retired business man and wheelchair user Vic Toy decided that having bought a quayside apartment in Poole, it was also about time he started 'messing about in boats'

"One of the advantages of being in Poole harbour was that a specially adapted catamaran operated by volunteers of the charity 'Friends of Dolphin' provided trips for the disabled and elderly in and around the harbour. A few trips on Dolphin III accompanied by some serious interrogation of the patient crew meant I felt confident about specifying a catamaran for my own use." Vic Toy

 Vic and Sean started discussing plans for a catamaran that could be fully helmed by a skipper in a wheelchair. Vic continued to visit the Cheetah workshop over the summer to enable the adaptations to be fitted to suit Vic's exact needs.

The adaptations included;

- Side doors in the gunwales for ease of access from a pontoon.
- Deck sloped up to a false floor in the cabin so that visibility was good from the wheelchair.
- All helm controls within easy reach from the wheelchair.
- Lock-down rails set into the floor in both helm and mate's position. This is so that the wheelchair can be fixed in either position whilst allowing a mate’s chair with compatible locking mechanism to be fixed in the alternative position [depending on who was driving!].
- A sea toilet with curtain and grab bar, also in the cabin.
- Wing mirrors for good all-round visibility from a wheelchair.
- A 2.5kW inverter for powering standard appliances.
As an ‘eligible person’ as defined by HMRC ‘the extent of the adaptations also meant that the purchase qualified for zero rating of VAT.

When Cheetah delivered 'Hadron'in October 2009, there was no record of the boat at the marina. A very unfortunate misspelling had occurred which as you can imagine, caused some very red faces!!

'Where did the name HADRON come from? I was an electronics designer specialising in equipment used in high-energy physics research in such places as CERN, Geneva. In fact some of my designs were used in the LEP experiment which was housed in the 27km tunnel before the Large Hadron Collider [LHC] was built.'

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