The crew meets their new boat as she takes shape at the boat yard...

Volunteer coxswain Andrew Bengey inside the wheelhouse section of the new lifeboat. Picture: RNLI/IlfracombeVolunteer coxswain Andrew Bengey inside the wheelhouse section of the new lifeboat. Picture: RNLI/Ilfracombe

Ilfracombe’s new Shannon class lifeboat is now being built and will arrive in the town around the middle of the year.

It has been named The Barry and Peggy High Foundation, following a significant donation from Mr High, 97, a fervent supporter and keen sailor.

The state-of-the-art £1.5m lifeboat will replace the 24-year-old Mersey class lifeboat Spirit of Derbyshire and is expected to serve the town for the next 50 years.

In August Mr High and his family visited Berthon Boat Company in Lymington, where the lifeboat is being built. They spoke to the boat builders and Ilfracombe RNLI mechanic Leigh Hanks. RNLI Chief Executive Paul Boissier also joined the group for the visit and personally thanked Mr High for his donation.

“I have always enjoyed sailing and have had six sailing boats ranging from a 32 to a 44 foot. I took sailing lessons until I was competent enough to take the boat out on my own,” said Mr High.

“It was always comforting to know that if I had any trouble the RNLI was never more than a phone call or push button away. I do not think I would have sailed without that comfort.”

Chris Wallis, lifeboat operations manager at Ilfracombe, added: “We are so extremely grateful to everybody who has donated money towards the cost of our new lifesaving equipment. It is particularly exciting for us to receive such a wonderful donation from Mr High and to now be in a position to announce the name of our new vessel.

“We anticipate the next few months to be very busy for us. A number of crew visited Berthon Boat Company to see the progress of our Shannon class lifeboat, and it was fantastic to see our future lifeboat in construction.

“Now preparations begin in earnest for the arrival of our lifeboat later in the year; this includes the completion of the current building works at our station, and an intense training programme for all crew and shore helpers on the new lifeboat and launch and recovery vehicle.”