Heacham's Leesa Is The First RNLI Woman
to Gain a Hovercraft Pilot's Licence

"Train One Save Many" Campaign

July 2007

Feature by Stella of HOL and Photo by Rob Topliss
Leesa - on far left - with crew members in full RNLI garb ready to launch the hovercraft

Heacham resident, Leesa Espley (36) has been a member of the Hunstanton volunteer lifeboat crew since 2003 and became the first RNLI woman to gain a hovercraft pilot's licence.  RNLI examiners visited Hunstanton from the RNLI Training College in Poole, Dorset and tested Mrs Espley's hovercraft handling skills.  In order to join Hunstanton RNLI, Mrs Espley underwent laser eye correction so her achievement as the only woman in all our national RNLI stations who is able to "fly" the hovercraft in rescue emergencies is particularly special.

This remarkable lady manages to fit in being a supply teacher at Heacham Junior School as well as a volunteer firefighter for the village in between her RNLI duties.  Mrs Espley is hopeful that her success may encourage other women to join the RNLI.
Hunstanton station's Brian Penty also qualified as a hovercraft pilot.  In addition, crew members Jason Palmer and Alan Torrice recently attended a one-week training course in Poole, concentrating on fast inshore lifeboat operations. 
These RNLI members trained hard to achieve the required standard and passed the practical "flying test" to satisfy the  Lifeboat Inspector that they had the necessary skills.
Crew training continues to play a large part of the day to day activities at Hunstanton RNLI and is a key focus of RNLI activities across the board.  This is largely due to the fact that the majority of new recruits have little or no maritime experience.  Funds for these training activities are raised under the "Train One Save Many" slogan, after all without training a single life could not be saved.  To donate to RNLI training you can call 0800 543210 or visit www.rnli.org.uk/crewtraining.

Hunstanton is one of only four stations in the country to currently run a hovercraft, which can operate on mud, sand and shallow coastal waters.
 (HOL note: Aren't we lucky to have such a dedicated team here in our midst!)