Saunton Sands Surf Lifesaving Club’s inshore rescue boat team are the European champions.
They achieved the highest points total across four disciplines to win the overall title at the European Inshore Rescue Boat (IRB) Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Saunton won gold in two events as 13 teams from Denmark, Latvia, Germany, Poland, Belgium and the UK battled it out in perfect conditions.
The North Devon club sent three men’s and three ladies’ teams to contest four events – rescuing a single swimmer; a mass rescue of a group of swimmers; a team rescue involving swapping the crew; and a tube rescue in which the crew swam to rescue a patient from rocks.
Some Saunton members, including newly-qualified 16-year-old Ellie Leaper, entered the water 26 times. They beat professional surf instructors and lifeguards from Denmark to the title.
Colin Leaper, senior IRB driver and trainer said, “The Saunton Sands crews are all volunteers who undergo extensive training and have to sit rigorous exams laid down by Surf Lifesaving GB in order to qualify as IRB drivers and crew.
“To win against those who are professionally engaged in rescue work is a wonderful achievement.
“We had our newly-qualified youngsters taking part with great enthusiasm while some of our older crews showed their experience and skill in competing against younger crews comprised of professional fire fighters or professional lifeguards.”
Saunton won gold in the men’s and ladies’ sections of the team event, silver in both mass rescues and the ladies' single rescue and bronze in the men's single and both tube rescues.
The crews train all year round to maintain their qualifications and fitness. They also provide safety cover at events such as the Surf Lifesaving GB Championships and the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in London. To find out more about Saunton’s IRB team, visit sauntonirb.co.uk
Saunton Sands European IRB Championships squad – men: Rob Reid, Chris Gratton, Toby Freeman, Ian Allen, Jacob Sharp, James Sharp, Jeff Priddis, Daren Pinkney. Ladies: Cara Deasy, Sam Cordery, Ellie Leaper, Holly Greenway (also Croyde), Flic Elliot (also Exmouth) Gill Hevingham, Liz Pinkney. Team manager: Karen Freeman. Assistant team manager: Colin Leaper. Assistant chief referee: Jan Reid. Boat referees: Dave Worms, Paul Reid.