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A brand new wheelchair accessible Wheelyboat, designed to provide disabled people with independent access to the water, has been launched at Thorney Island Sailing Club.
The Wheelyboat was named the 'John Q Davis RM' by Valerie Davis, in memory of her late husband and former Chichester Harbourmaster, Lt Col John Quintin Davis, OBE, Royal Marines, who died suddenly while out sailing with Valerie in August 2010.
It was launched by guest of honour Geoff Holt MBE.
The project is a joint venture between Thorney Island's Army Welfare Service, Thorney Island Sailing Club and The Wheelyboat Trust and will benefit the island's army families and school, injured and disabled service personnel, disabled children and adults and others from the wider community.
The John Q Davis RM will be used for conservation work, nature watching, pleasure boating, harbour tours, fishing and as a Sailing Club support vessel.
Wheelyboats overcome many of the barriers faced by disabled people when taking part in waterborne activities – they have roll-on, roll-off wheelchair access, open level decks, are safe and stable and can be helmed from a wheelchair. Thorney's is a Mk IV Wheelyboat, the Trust's largest model, and is designed for use on inshore waters.
The John Q Davis RM will be operated by Thorney Island Sailing Club who will administer her bookings and keep her safely moored, maintained and insured.
She will be helmed by trained volunteers who will accompany the groups, families and individuals using her for a wide range of waterborne pursuits. Thorney Island Army Welfare Service will be one of the principal user groups and the Wheelyboat project was their original idea.
Andy Beadsley, Director of The Wheelyboat Trust, said
"This project is all about having the right tools for the job. As Geoff knows only too well, spirit and enthusiasm are essential attributes but equally as important is the availability of equipment that's fit for purpose and meets the needs of everybody who wants to use it.
"This project achieves that and opens up a whole new vista of experiences for disabled people in the harbour.
"It is fitting that we have reached the milestone of our 150th Wheelyboat with a project of such significance and benefit to disabled people in West Sussex and Hampshire."
Geoff Holt said;
"I am thrilled and delighted this new facility will be available for disadvantaged people to use in this beautiful harbour".