Wheelchair users are set to experience the thrill of high-speed boat rides thanks to the delivery of new ‘inclusion powerboat’ on the south coast.
Saoirse, the first wheelchair-accessible powerboat of its kind on the Cork coast, will be named and launched in Kinsale tomorrow.
The sleek 6.2m Wheelyboat V20, which has a special drop-down bow to facilitate easy boarding, will be made available to wheelchair users for tours of the Bandon Estuary and Kinsale Harbour, and for fishing trips but it is also hoped to develop a specialist powerboat training course that would certify wheelchair users to skipper the vessel.
It will be based at Kinsale Yacht Club Marina and managed by Kinsale Outdoor Education Centre (KOEC).
Centre director, Jon Hynes, said they can’t wait to showcase the vessel: “Kinsale is synonymous with seafaring and is rich in maritime history, and as a local RNLI volunteer crew member and water sports enthusiast, my staff and I are excited to share our passion for the sea with everyone in this new boat."
Its official launch tonight has been timed to coincide with the third Watersports Inclusion Games at Kinsale Yacht Club this weekend, organised by Irish Sailing, with support from the yacht club, Cork Local Sports Partnership and KOEC. Up to 500 people will take part in a range of watersports including sailing, powerboating, kayaking,
stand-up paddleboarding and surfing.
Mr Hynes, who was keen to ensure a positive legacy after the games, earlier this year visited the Wheelyboat Trust in Britain which has designed and delivered nearly 200 inclusion powerboats over the last 35 years.
And thanks to Sports Capital funding, through the Cork Education and Training Board, the new boat arrived.
Saoirse, which translates as ‘freedom’, can take up to six wheelchair users and six assistants or crew. With its 100HP Suzuki engine, it can reach a top speed of 30-knots or 55-kph.
But Mr Hynes said its exceptional sea-going capabilities offers a smooth and safe experience on the water.
Saoirse arrived in Kinsale recently and KOEC staff have been conducting sea trials and staff training, with adults from the Irish Wheelchair Association and children from the Rebel Wheelers club amongst the first to try it out.
But Kate Feeney, the Sports Inclusion Disability Officer with the Cork Local Sports Partnership, said the boat will create even more opportunities for people to access and enjoy the water over the coming months: “We look forward to supporting families, disability services and community groups to experience all the water has to offer."
KOEC plans to publish details next week of dates across September and October during which people will be able to book a trip onboard.
A number of local businesses have also said they will sponsor some of the trips, to help reduce ticket costs.