Torbay RNLI launch £60,000 Kilimanjaro Challenge 2023 ahead of crew retirement

Lifeboats News Release

Torbay RNLI is preparing to say ‘calm winds and fair seas’ to several of its longstanding volunteers in the near future, who have collectively accumulated an incredible volunteering record of over 220 years.

To go out with a bang, the station is today (Thursday 10 March) launching its Kilimanjaro Challenge 2023 which will see station volunteers take part in a series of relay challenges this year, culminating in eight crew climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in February 2023.

The Kilimanjaro Challenge 2023’ consists of six sequential challenges from May 2022 to February 2023, including skydiving, endurance swimming, cycling, rowing, driving, and finally hiking to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest freestanding mountain in the world. The entire Torbay lifeboat crew will be attempting different feats that push them outside their comfort zone and experience, with the aim to raise an incredible £60,000 for Torbay RNLI.

This idea was conceived as a last fundraising ‘hurrah’ before the oldest members of Torbay RNLI’s lifeboat crew retire over the next few years.

Ian ‘Barney’ Barnaby is leading the organisation of the fundraiser. He said: ‘Myself and eight other volunteers at Torbay RNLI are all approaching our retirement ages from active RNLI duties over the next few years. We’ve all been a part of the station for such a long time, it felt right to make sure we ended with a bang, so we came up with the idea to climb Kilimanjaro! It’s not going to be easy, as our average age is 60! But it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and to be able to raise money for Torbay RNLI where we’ve volunteered for decades, is so important to us. The idea grew into a relay so the whole crew can be involved and it’s going to be a huge team effort.

‘Lots of work has been going on behind the scenes so it’s great to be at the stage today where we can shout loudly about what we’re doing and encourage people to support.’

The eight volunteers climbing Mount Kilimanjaro are: crew members Ian ‘Barney’ Barnaby, Richard Fowler, Roger Good, Simon James, Gary Fletcher, Richard Burden, Lifeboat Operations Manager Nick O’Brien, and Lifeboat Medical Advisor Dr Rob Bromige. Collectively they have an average age of 60 and an incredible 193 years of volunteering experience.

Also retiring from service in the next few years is coxswain Mark Criddle OBE. Mark has volunteered since 1988, becoming full time coxswain in 2005. As one of the RNLI’s most decorated and experienced coxswains, his exemplary leadership and seamanship has seen him launch on service as coxswain to over 500 shouts, and in 2018 his contribution was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Mark will be taking part in a number of challenges during 2022.

The first challenge is at Dunkeswell airfield in Devon on 22 May where a number of brave crew will be jumping out of an aeroplane at 15,000 feet. Next is a 200 mile cycle in June, a 12 mile sea swim in July, 60 mile row in September and a driving challenge in November, before the eight-strong team travel to Africa and begin the nine-day summit. A flag stitched with the leading sponsors names will be passed at the end of each task to the next team leader until it is eventually raised at the summit of 5,895 metre-high Mt Kilimanjaro.

Although all the crew are involved, tasks will be shared across different teams, so over the entire duration of the relay Torbay RNLI’s lifeboats will remain fully operational and ready to respond to any emergency.

The crew is largely self-funding the challenges themselves, enabling all public donations to go towards the £60,000 target.

Barney added: ‘We are reaching out to our local Torbay community, both individuals and businesses, and to wider regional supporters. You can follow our progress through Torbay RNLI’s social media channels, and to donate to our cause visit

The event’s lead sponsor is Interline, a Torbay based builders merchant who service the south west of England and have contributed significantly towards preparatory logistical and fundraising costs. Helly Hansen has also made a significant contribution towards the specialist mountain-climbing clothing needed. Sponsors are still invited to come forward.

Notes to editors

Photos - attached you’ll find some images of the eight climbers, credited to Nigel Millard, and comments from each Kilimanjaro climber, for your use.

Video - here is a link to download a 30sec promo film

More information on the challenges -

Sky dive. The first challenge is at Dunkeswell airfield in Devon on 22 May where a number of crew will be jumping out of an aeroplane at 15,000ft.

Cycle. The second team are cycling over 200 miles across 6 islands in the Western Isles of Scotland in June. It is an endurance challenge known to cycling enthusiasts north of the border, but less well known to Devon based sea-farers! Team leader is station coxswain Mark Criddle.

Swim. The third team will be swimming the bay in July and will be celebrating with their supporters as they finish their 12 mile swim, on Torquay’s Meadfoot beach. Team leader is Andrew Medley.

Row. In tribute to RNLI forefathers, in September, the next team are rowing the entire 60 mile length of the Caledonian Canal that stretches from the East to West coast of Scotland. Team leader is Roger Good.

Drive. Since the Bay welcomes visitors to beaches from beyond the borders of Devon, the penultimate team are promoting the fund raising message by driving a branded campervan through 60 counties of England and Scotland in November. Team leader is Owain Rees.

Climb. The final eight-member team plan to climb the Northern Circuit in nine days, which they hope will allow sufficient time for acclimatisation. It is the same route that the Comic Relief team used in 2019. At 5,895 metres, Mount Kilimanjaro is the world’s highest free standing mountain. This is a difficult task not without risk, due to altitude. Team leader, and organiser of the whole project is lifeboat crew member Ian Barnaby. If they don’t get lost, we will welcome them back to Brixham with a big party at the end of February 2023.

RNLI media contacts

For more information contact Niall Blatcher, volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer at Torbay RNLI, on 07734 114777 or [email protected] or Emma Haines, RNLI Regional Media Officer, on 07786 668847 or [email protected]

The eight Kilimanjaro climbers in their RNLI kit aboard the lifeboat

RNLI/Nigel Millard

The eight Kilimanjaro climbers in their RNLI kit aboard the lifeboat

RNLI/Nigel Millard

The eight climbers aboard the lifeboat

RNLI/Nigel Millard

The climbers in their Helly Hansen kit

RNLI/Nigel Millard

Torbay RNLI volunteer lifeboat crew

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.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.