New lifeboat’s date with royals

Eastbourne lifeboat
Eastbourne lifeboat

A NEW lifeboat will be officially named next week by a pair of visiting royals.

The £2.7million Tamar class Diamond Jubilee arrived in town earlier this month and on Thursday (July 5) the Earl and Countess of Wessex visit Eastbourne for her naming ceremony next to Sovereign Harbour Yacht Club.

As well as their Royal Highnesses Edward and Sophie, a host of other dignitaries and local well-wishers will be on hand to mark the special occasion.

The name was chosen to mark the Queen’s 60 years on the throne and before arriving in Eastbourne the boat took part in the Diamond Jubilee pageant on the Thames.

Funded by a pair of substantial legacies and a £1million public appeal for funds, the boat replaces the outgoing all-weather lifeboat having been built in dockyards in Plymouth.

The royal party will arrive mid-morning and spend time meeting the lifeboat crew, volunteers and RNLI fundraisers.

Paul Metcalfe, operations manager at Eastbourne RNLI Lifeboat Station, said he was looking forward to the ceremony.

He said, “As one of the busiest lifeboat stations in the country, to be told we were in line to receive a Tamar class lifeboat was fantastic news.

“And then, to learn it would happen in the Diamond Jubilee year of our patron, Her Majesty the Queen, and that the Diamond Jubilee would be part of the flotilla in the pageant; well that was the icing on the cake.

“This ceremony will be a fitting tribute so we are very excited indeed to welcome their Royal Highnesses to Eastbourne.”

Although the naming is not until next week, the boat is already on active service. After weeks of intensive training all members of the lifeboat team passed their final exams, meaning they can now operate the Diamond Jubilee.

Volunteer lifesavers took unpaid leave from their jobs to head to RNLI College in Poole. Coxswain and training co-ordinator Mark Sawyer said, “This level of commitment demonstrates their dedication to saving lives at sea. They are a credit to themselves and the whole town.”

The old boat, the Royal Thames, will be given a new lease of life at the charity’s newest lifeboat station, in Leverugh on the Isle of Harris. She began life in Eastbourne on September 6 1993 and has been launched 960 times and rescued 1,520 people – of which 115 were considered to have had their lives saved.

See next week’s Herald for report and pictures from the big day.