A brand-new wheelchair accessible powerboat has been launched on the River Soar, with the aim of bringing equal opportunities to children across Leicestershire.
The new boat – a Coulam Wheelyboat V17 named ‘Lilibet,’ after the late Queen Elizabeth II, will enable children and young cadets with any type of physical or cognitive disability to take part in water-based activities from their unit’s HQ for the very first time.
It was launched on April 8, by local group FS Bulwark Navy Cadet Force, together with national charity The Wheelyboat Trust.
Over 100 people, including excited cadets, proud parents and local dignitaries, all gathered at FS Bulwark Navy Cadet Force’s HQ on the banks of the River Soar to watch ‘Lilibet’ take her maiden voyage.
Deputy Lord Lieutenant Lt Col David Young TD DL cut a ceremonial ribbon and gave a short speech to officially launch the new boat, before the cadets set sail in the sunshine for an afternoon on the river.
Lilibet is fully accessible and provides wheelchair users, and those with other mobility issues, the freedom to board and operate the boat independently and safely. She also has a bow door that lowers to form a ramp, which enables roll-on, roll-off boarding from either a pontoon or jetty. The new boat also has a drive-from-wheelchair helm, which makes using her a truly accessible experience.
“We have long wanted an accessible powerboat, and are thrilled that our unit can now provide equal opportunities and experiences to everyone, but especially those who may not have previously had the chance,” said Derry Hand, Chairman of Trustees, FS Bulwark Navy Cadet Force.
“Now, any disabled child or young cadet can enjoy and explore the River Soar alongside their able-bodied cadets using our new Wheelyboat, which is an immensely exciting prospect. FS Bulwark is a very community orientated unit, and there are many other groups nearby which I’m sure will benefit from using our Wheelyboat too. We’re looking forward to seeing our cadets, and others, enjoying the water this summer in a way that wasn’t previously possible.”
The Coulam Wheelyboat V17 is The Wheelyboat Trust’s most versatile Wheelyboat to date, and those powered by 90hp Suzuki outboards can reach exhilarating top speeds of over 30mph. Lilibet’s outboard is 15hp, which is more suited to the leisurely boating on the River Soar that is required by the cadets.
Andy Beadsley, Director of Operations, The Wheelyboat Trust added: “Wheelyboats break down one of the many barriers disabled people face. They allow everyone to take part in the same activity as equals, which can be a real lifeline for so many. The very ethos of Navy Cadet groups is to encourage adventurous activities for children and young people, and now with their new Wheelyboat they can ensure that all cadets, irrespective of disability, have the same opportunities of experiencing water sports and outdoor activities, which is just fantastic. We hope they have many enjoyable adventures this summer and beyond.”