Sharon Swan is the first female Helm at the Hayling RNLI Lifeboat Station.

Lifeboats News Release

Sharon has achieved a personal ambition and created a historic moment as she passed the assessment to become a D-Class Helm, the first female helm in 103 years of lifesaving.

The new helm Sharon Swan is stood proudly in front of the D-Class Lifeboat called 'Jacob.'

RNLI/Alan Bartlett

New helm Sharon Swan in front of the D-Class Lifeboat 'Jacob.'

Sharon has lived on Hayling all her life. As a child she used to hear the lifeboat maroon go off and would dash down with friends to see the boats launch but when she joined the crew she had no marine experience apart from working for ferry companies in their offices!

She joined seven years ago and became a fully qualified boat crew after three years. She was encouraged to start training as a helm and began the rigorous work a year ago. She has found difficulty in fitting all the learning both ashore and afloat into her busy life. Gaining practical experience in leadership and management of crew in the boat took time, but she said after the test ‘I’m relieved and now the real learning begins but I feel proud. It’s been worth putting in the effort and I’ve had lots of encouragement both from the crew and from my family.’

Nathan Jauns, Area Lifesaving Manager, who carried out the assessment said: ’Sharon showed great leadership and command throughout the test and will be an excellent helm for the station.’

Lifeboat Operations Manager Jonathan Bradbury said: ‘Many congratulations to Sharon on her historic achievement in becoming the first lady helm at Hayling. Very well done indeed.’

Andy Ferguson, Senior Helm who encouraged Sharon to join the crew back in 2012 said: ‘Sharon is a person who always goes the extra mile and is a totally reliable skilled crew member. She is a vital member of the team whose commitment is outstanding and she will be an excellent helm.’

The helm is responsible for the inshore lifeboat during launching, at sea and through recovery, as well as the safety of the crew on board.

All the crew look forward to working with Sharon who will be especially valuable as a helm since she is available during the working week. There are currently 50 female helms in the RNLI, covering the UK and Ireland, and just a handful in the South East, so Sharon will join a special band of women who not only take to sea to save lives, but also take responsibility at the helm of their lifeboat.

Media Contacts:

Alan Bartlett, volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer, Hayling Island Lifeboat Station (07749) 061220 [email protected]

Paul Dunt, Regional Media Officer SE and London (07785) 296252 [email protected]

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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