Massive Congratulations to Appledore RNLI’s newest helm, Ross Coburn.

Lifeboats News Release

All at Appledore RNLI send massive congratulations to volunteer Ross Coburn who passed out as a fully-fledged helm for the inshore Atlantic 85 lifeboat recently.

RNLI/Alex Hall

Ross Coburn (centre) is passed out as a fully competent helm of the Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat. Seen here with his fellow crew members for the assessment Richard Withey (left) and Matt Rowe (right)
The helm has total responsibility for what goes on on his boat through training exercise and during any emergency shout, day or night, whatever the weather, or the nature of the emergency.

To reach this level of proficiency training is long, comprehensive and really intense with theory and practical training both at Appledore and at the RNLI headquarters in Poole, with competence assessed throughout by a mix of Appledore and external RNLI assessors.

Following Ross’s final written paper, a final practical assessment took place, with many scenarios thrown in to see how the helm manages these. This started with reports of a solo spear fisherman who swam off the Croyde Beach between Baggy and Down End, and had not returned home by the expected time. A full search was undertaken and the casualty was found on the rocks off Down End. The lifeboat had to veer into the rocks to recover him to safety where he was found safe and well but extremely cold.

On the way back to station a fishing boat reported multiple red flares seen near the yellow wave buoy off Westward Ho! As Appledore’s all-weather boat was dealing with another emergency, the helm requested the help of Ilfracombe and Clovelly’s lifeboats as well as the Coastguard helicopter to join the search. ‘Dead Fred’, a mock training body, was retrieved by Appledore’s Atlantic and passed to Ilfracombe’s all-weather lifeboat ready for winching up by the helicopter. On the way back to the lifeboat station Ross’s lifeboat then lost a crew member over board, has an engine fire and lost steering.

The on-board RNLI external assessor Lyle Stantiford then passed out Ross as a fully competent helm. For the pass out Ross’s fellow crew members were trainee helm Matt Rowe and inshore lifeboat trainee Richard Withey who was passed out as a fully competent crew member following this assessment.

Having grown up near Poole Ross has always had a good awareness of the sea and the RNLI. He moved to North Devon in 2001 to become a surf instructor at Westward Ho! which he did for almost ten years before going into car sales.

Feeling he never had the time to commit to the service it was not until 2014, encouraged by other crew members, he went down to the lifeboat station to fund out what was really involved. He explains; ‘Living in the community we live in, I just wanted to give back and make a difference.’

As with all new recruits he started as shore crew, moving over to boat crew on both the Inshore and All-weather lifeboats. He is now an all-weather lifeboat navigator, casualty carer and inshore lifeboat helm.

Martin Cox, Appledore RNLI Coxswain says: ‘This is a fantastic achievement for Ross, he has worked extremely hard and it is well deserved. Thanks go to all the crew, boat, shore and launch authorities, who have given much time with all the extra exercises and training required for a helm pass out, and all the help they have given Ross’.

Ross agrees: ‘My thanks to everyone at station who have helped so much to make this possible, and donated so much time, and to the senior crew for sharing their experience and knowledge with me. My thanks must also go to my family for their patience, tolerance and understanding whilst I have been away training so much.’

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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