Clare rules the waves

A LIFEBOAT volunteer is making waves after becoming one of only a handful of women to achieve a coxswain position.

Life-saver Clare Gibbins is the new deputy second coxswain with Hartlepool RNLI, one of only six women nationally to perform the role.

The 34-year-old has been with the service for eight years, but has had her sea legs since she started sailing at just four years old.

The sea is definitely in her blood as her dad, Doug Gibbin, 65, was helmsman on the lifeboat during the 1960s and 1970s.

Clare, who lives in Bishop Cuthbert, said: “I work in a male-dominated environment but I’m used to it now, I’ve been doing this for some time.

“Once you are on the boat, everyone is the same and has a job to do. It’s a good bunch of lads and we are like a family.

“I do feel it is an achievement to get to this position but I don’t see how being a woman should make any difference.”

It has been a big commitment for Clare to work her way up to the role as she also holds down a job as senior design engineer for JDR Cable Systems.

She trains with the crew of around 30 volunteers twice a week, has taken part in courses at the RNLI Lifeboat College, in Poole, Dorset, and has to be always ready to respond when her pager beeps for a call-out.

Clare said: “The company are fine with it and very supportive. You need to be always ready to go.

“We do a lot of training and courses, but one of the most important aspects is local knowledge.

“You have to know your way around, and being Hartlepool born and bred I know the place quite well.”

Mike Craddy, lifeboat operations manager in Hartlepool, said everyone at the town’s Ferry Road RNLI station were “delighted” to see Clare get her new title, which can see her put in control of the inshore or offshore boats, their crews and rescue operations.

He added: “She is excellent at handling the boats and is fantastic all-round.

“She has been brought up with boats and on the sea so it’s quite a good and logical thing for her to do.

“We had no qualms about putting her through the promotion, we knew she would carry out the role very well and we are all very happy for her.”