A BRAND new inshore lifeboat has been launched by the Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA).

The jewel of the fleet was shown off at a ceremony on Saturday (17th October) at the SARA lifeboat station in Beachley.

The rescue boat is the largest vessel SARA has, and has been named the ‘Jim Hewitt’ (call-sign SARA-1) after the organisation’s founder. The boat is ready to respond to emergencies on the Severn Estuary from Cardiff to Gloucester, and on the rivers Wye, Avon and Usk.

Alongside £20,000 of fundraising from SARA, funding

largely came from a £220,000 grant from the UK Government’s Department of Transport, through a scheme that uses fines levied as a result of the Libor inter-bank interest rate scandal to support a range of good causes.

More than 100 people gathered at Beachley lifeboat station for the launching ceremony, including sponsors and dignitaries representing the towns and counties bordering the Severn Estuary.

Reverend David Traherne from the Parish of Beachley led the ceremony, blessing the crew and the vessel, and performed the lifeboat prayer.

Speaking at the ceremony, SARA chairman Chris Crowley said: “It has finally happened on this chilly october morning, this big submission, after lots of hard, arduous work. We can thank the government for finally recognising volunteer search and rescue organisations, and funding this vessel with banking levies.

“It’s named in memory of Jim Hewitt, who was visionary in starting the organisation 40 years ago. We are still here, providing increasing cover up and down the estuary and wherever we are needed. All thanks for to those that support us and fundraise, and of course those that go out in some very difficult situations.”

Mark Harper, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and MP for the Forest of Dean said:

“It’s my great pleasure to be here today to help launch this craft. Thank you to all the volunteers that make it work. Most of the cost was covered by the government, but SARA raised £20,000 towards the cost; the difficulty in fundraising such an amount must be acknowledged.

“It’s good to see money being transferred form the worst endeavours of the banking sector to the best of volunteer organisations. There are people in my constituency who would not be alive were it not for the work of SARA.”

The Jim Hewitt is powered by twin 150 HP Mariner outboards, and is capable of speeds of up to 45 knots. It has a kevlar reinforced glass-fibre hull, and contains the latest in navigational technology and safety features. It has a crew of four, with space for four passengers or two stretcher casualities.