The life of a lifeboat coxswain

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Members and guests of the Rotary Club of Bexhill were delighted to welcome Mark Sawyer from Eastbourne RNLI as their speaker.

Following an enjoyable meal at the Cooden Beach Golf Club, Rotarian David Dixson thanked everyone for their hard work in selling raffle tickets and also those who had given raffle prizes, including Adams and Jarrett, Hastings Direct, Alexander James Financial Planners and Marks & Spencer.

He announced that a profit of £1304 had been made and asked Mark to draw the winning tickets.

Lucky winners included Lucy Rappolt who won a 42-inch television, Ray Cox who won the iPad mini and Barbara Fletcher who won a meal for two. Rotarian Roger Batey (who had also sold the most tickets) won a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates.

Rotarian Geoff Longmire introduced Mark Sawyer who gave a very interesting talk about his involvement with Eastbourne RNLI. He explained that he started as a volunteer in 1990.

n 2001 he became coxswain and in 2012 took on additional responsibilities as the mechanic. He is now responsible for coordinating all of the activities, including training of new volunteers.

Eastbourne RNLI has 24 volunteers and whenever a request for assistance from the coastguard is accepted, everyone is called. Originally this would have been by setting off a maroon but now it is by pager.

Mark or his deputy then selects the best crew to go out according to their experience and the type of job. All the volunteers are very enthusiastic and those who are not selected can feel disappointed if they are not chosen.

At Eastbourne there are two lifeboats, an all-weather, 16m Tamar and an inshore inflatable.

The Tamar was bought with the help of two legacies totalling £2 million with a further £700,000 being raised locally by public donations.

It has many safety features including the ability for the crew to monitor, operate and control many of the boat’s systems directly from their seats. It is self-righting, even with up to 44 people on board!

Mark said that Louise Hobbs had been lifetime RNLI supporter and bequeathed part of her estate to Eastbourne RNLI lifeboat station. The legacy was for the specific purpose of funding a replacement for their D-class inshore lifeboat when it reached the end of its serviceable life. The lifeboat, Laurence and Percy Hobbs, is named after Louise’s father, Laurence John Hobbs, and brother Percy.

Mark highlighted some of the many calls they receive. As well as rescue or evacuation processes from storms, collisions and fires at sea, there are breakdowns, search and recovery missions and helping swimmers and smaller craft, as well as recovery operations from around Beachy Head.

Kite surfing is one of the latest sports to require their services. Rotarian John Crone gave the vote of thanks, saying that his wife had both been rescued by the Eastbourne lifeboat. Most frequently the requests come from people who are visitors to the area.

Part of Mark’s job is the public relations side, vital to the RNLI as it relies so much on donations and fund raising to be able to carry out operations. The President, John Coles presented Mark with a cheque from the Club.

If you would like more information about the work of the RNLI look at their website, Or give our Secretary, Brian Cope, a call on 01424 732895.