Ladies first at Minehead lifeboat station

First published in West Somerset Somerset County Gazette: Photograph of the Author by

HISTORY is on course to be made at Minehead RNLI, whose crew could soon include its first ever female member.

Healthy competition is the order of the day as both Philippa Hales and Raji Webber have progressed well in training since joining in the summer, as have their male counterparts.

Both are booked in for the intensive training week at the RNLI college, which all aspiring crew members have to attend – Philippa in March and Raji in April.

Raji, finance administrator at West Somerset Nursery, said: “It has been great to meet and get to know Philippa. We both know there is a chance one of us could be the station’s first female crew member, so there is a little bit of competition.

“She is slightly ahead of me at the moment, as she took one assessment while I was on holiday, but we’ll see what happens. Either way, it is pretty exciting – we can’t deny that.

“I wondered how the guys would take having women at the station but they have been absolutely brilliant and we have had lots of support from everyone.

“My first time out on the Atlantic 85 at night really brought home to me the kind of conditions these guys often have to work in – it was wet, windy, rough and pitch black. Before then I had been lucky and had only been out in good conditions.

“My time here has met all my expectations and I have absolutely no regrets about joining.”

Philippa, optometrist director at Specsavers, said: “It’s going really well and I’m having a lot of fun. It’s great that there are quite a few of us going through the same process at the same time and all the probationers are doing really well.

“The guys have all been brilliant – the crew is very supportive and helpful and they give up their own time to help us.

“Especially at this early stage, it is quite intensive and you have to be prepared to commit a lot of time, but it is definitely worth it.”

The women have both got involved in the social side, which includes the revival of the lifeboat dance on February 2 at the Hobby Horse Inn.

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