Ilfracombe lifeboat has welcomed two fully qualified volunteer crew members to the team after they recently completed their training.

The Shannon launch and recovery vehicle which Lucy Simpson drives, the first woman in the South West to qualify to operate it. Picture: RNLI/IlfracombeThe Shannon launch and recovery vehicle which Lucy Simpson drives, the first woman in the South West to qualify to operate it. Picture: RNLI/Ilfracombe

Brendan Ashford is a fully qualified RNLI crew member on the inshore lifeboat and is now available to go on shouts for the station.

Lucy Simpson has also passed her training to operate the RNLI’s Shannon launch and recovery system for the all-weather lifeboat.

She is now fully qualified to drive the 54-tonne, £1.5million vehicle and it makes her the first woman in the South West to complete training in the launch and recovery system, and only one of a handful of women in the UK with this skill.

Brendan has been volunteering and training with Ilfracombe RNLI for almost two years.

The training process to become a crew member is detailed and lengthy, including initial training as shore crew to launch and recover the lifeboat, then training in safety procedures and first aid training to assist casualties.

He said: “I am extremely pleased to join the volunteer crew at Ilfracombe. It has taken a huge amount of work but I’m proud to be part of such a fantastic crew.

“Volunteering with the RNLI is an opportunity to give something back to the local community. It’s great to be able to make a difference.”

Lucy has previously spent five years as a crew member on both the all-weather and inshore lifeboats.

The launch training included learning to operate the vehicle for launches, then progressing to the trickier recovery process which requires lining up the lifeboat, then hauling and winching it onto the cradle.

She said: “I am so happy to have passed out as a driver for the Shannon launch and recovery system and am very proud.

“I love being in the driver’s seat, it’s a very challenging role as the driver cannot see the slipway and has to be guided by the shore crew, it’s very much a team effort. It’s especially difficult for me as I am so short I can’t see the front of the carriage!”

Chris Wallis, operations manager for Ilfracombe Lifeboat Station, added: “Congratulations to Brendan and Lucy for all their hard work and dedication to the RNLI.

“Volunteers like Brendan and Lucy give their time to the charity so we can continue our work of saving lives at sea.”