DARTMOUTH-based BBC Presenter Monty Halls and Brixham fisherman’s daughter Rachel Cole are to take on an epic record attempt this weekend in memory of those they have lost.
On September 7th 1838 the paddle steamer SS Forfarshire hit rocks during a ferocious storm off the Farne Islands in Northumberland.
She was carrying sixty passengers, most of whom perished.
However, five crew members and four passengers managed to cling to the rocks. As morning came, they were still there, losing strength as the storm still raged around them. This prompted one of the most famous rescues in the history of the RNLI.
The keeper of a nearby lighthouse - William Darling - launched an audacious rescue in a small boat, rowed by himself and his 23 year old daughter Grace.
The story has entered the annals of seafaring history, as Grace held the boat steady in the storm whilst her father loaded the survivors one by one into the tiny vessel, to be rowed back to the sanctuary of the lighthouse.
Today, 175 years after Grace and her father set out into the teeth of the storm, Monty Halls and Rachel Cole - both RNLI volunteers at their local lifeboat station in Dartmouth - will row 70 miles from Dartmouth around the Eddystone Lighthouse and back, as a tribute to the most famous rescue in the history of the RNLI.
The row will raise funds for the RNLI so the charity’s lifeboats can continue their work around the coast.
This row has never been attempted by a two person crew, and is expected to take in the region of 48 hours.
Supporting the event will be the Round Britain Rowing Race, a prestigious event that has kindly donated one of its vessels for the record attempt.
There are powerful motivations for both of the rowers.
The ashes of Monty’s best friend - a fellow Royal Marine killed in Iraq - were scattered by the crew of the Salcombe RNLI lifeboat.
Rachel’s father was a fisherman, lost to a fishing accident when she was just 15. First on the scene was the Brixham RNLI lifeboat.
Monty said: "The spirit of both my friend and Rachel’s father will accompany us throughout what promises to be a brutal 48 hours.
"But if we are to honour their memories and the extraordinary commitment of the RNLI crews, we had to make sure this was a suitable challenge.
"We don’t underestimate this row and to secure what we hope will be world record, we’ll be putting our backs into the adventure.
"We hope our efforts will be rewarded by generous donations from supporters who know the importance of the RNLIs work saving lives at sea."
Andy Hurley, RNLI Regional Operations Manager, added: "Providing a lifesaving service around the coast doesn’t come cheap so support from people like Monty and Rachel is vital and I can’t thank them enough for taking on this amazing challenge for our charity.
"Both have personal reasons for doing this that will no doubt be their motivation when the going gets tough, but they are also key members of the RNLI team at Dartmouth so understand the need to keep bringing the funds in. I wish them well and will watch their progress with interest – from the shore!"
To support Monty and Rachel visit their donations website