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High-tech boat for disabled is world's first

A specially designed high-tech boat for severely disabled people is the first of its kind in the world to be launched.

The AHOY Centre, in Deptford, has designed the 40ft-long vessel, which is the first power boat to be controlled by fingertip and has capacity for 11 wheelchairs on board. It has special features which mean people with any physical and mental disability, as well as abled-bodied people, can sail it.

Although the sailability centre, a charity in Borthwick Street, has four dinghies adapted for people in wheelchairs, not everyone is able to use the power boats. The new powerglide boat, which cost just under £200,000 to build, will have fingertip control and CCTV displaying a 360-degrees view, enabling those with restricted movement to steer it. It will also have a hoist, scissor lift and disabled toilet.

The City Bridge Trust, Peter Harrison Foundation, Variety Club and Thames Water funded the building of the boat, but the centre is now appealing for sponsorship totalling around £160,800 to cover running costs for two years and the launch event.

The vessel is being built in Falmouth, Cornwall, by Power Catamarans Ltd, and when completed it will make its maiden voyage back to Deptford. Geoff Holt, the first disabled sailor to sail single-handed around Great Britain, will be on board for some of the journey.

The boat is due to arrive in Deptford in August for official presentation party in September which will be attended by the great and the good including Tracey Edwards MBE and Geoff Holt.

Mandy Corcoran, centre development manager, said:  "There's no other boat like it in the world".

AHOY Patron Tracey Edwards said: "AHOY will help show what people with disabilities can achieve".

"Excelling at water sports is not just for the able bodied – I’m living proof and the ahoy will help many more people with disabilities enjoy the team work and fun that the river Thames has to offer" said Geoff Holt.

To mark this incredible achievement, AHOY are looking for people to take part in the craft's maiden voyage.  It is hoped that the trip will not only raise awareness of sailability, but will also raise money in the form of sponsorship for the AHOY.

For each leg AHOY are looking for 2 crew members, one disabled and one able bodied.  Training will take place in and around Cornwall between the 8th and 18th of  August 2008.  The various legs are detailed below:

Port Depart Arrive next
Falmouth 20 August 23 August
Plymouth 23/24 August 27 August
Solent (Southampton and Cowes) 27/28 August 5 September
Brighton 5/6 September 9 September
Eastbourne 9/10 September 13 September
Ramsgate 13/14 September 16 September

The final destination is the Medway on the 16th of September.  Here the boat will be prepared for the final leg up to the AHOY centre.  Please note that all dates are subject to the weather and delays are possible.

If you would like to be a part of this historic occasion then please contact the AHOY’s Watersports Manager Tony Mason  on 02086917606. If you would like to know more about the AHOY Centre please visit the website (opens in a new window)