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Tyneside girl wins ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ competition

Rachel Fairhurst is pictured with RNLI Newbiggin crew (left to right) Peter Leslie, Michael Brown and David Bryant. Photo: RNLI

A girl from Gateshead has won a 'once-in-a-lifetime' competition to name one of the RNLI's newest and most advanced lifeboats.

Thirteen-year-old Rachel Fairhurst won the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s (RNLI) competition for children to name one of the first Shannon class lifeboats after entering the name Storm Rider - which was shortlisted from entries from around the UK and Ireland to go through to the final along with four other naming suggestions.

Over 20,000 people then took part in an online vote to pick out the public's favourite. Rachel's 'Storm Rider' was a clear favourite, receiving two-thirds of the public vote.

Rachel and her family will now attend a special naming ceremony in spring 2014 at the RNLI headquarters in Poole, Dorset.

"I was totally speechless when I found out! My friends knew that I had made it to the final and kept asking me about it over Christmas, but I never expected to actually win. It is the best possible start to the New Year.

I think that RNLI volunteers do an amazing and selfless job and it will be a real honour to see my name on an actual lifeboat. I can’t wait to go to the naming ceremony and I know that I’ll be too excited to sleep the night before!"

– Rachel Fairhurst

Rachel got her naming inspiration following a trip to the Maritime Centre at Newbiggin-by-the-sea.

"When we visited the centre there was a video about the lifeboat crew and how, years ago, the bell to call the lifeboat rang because a boat had been wrecked on the rocks.

People left whatever they were doing and ran out of their homes to help launch the lifeboat, but it was very stormy and they couldn't get it launched. So the people dragged the lifeboat all the way back round up the slope and over the moor and launched it there. They got to the boat and not a single life was lost.

I chose the name Storm Rider because I thought about the fierce storm that night and how the townspeople were so brave and had so much spirit to drag the lifeboat all that way and to risk their own lives to save others. I imagined the lifeboat and all those brave souls in it riding the storm."

– Rachel Fairhurst

"Our volunteers at Newbiggin lifeboat station and Newbiggin Maritime Centre wish to congratulate Rachel on her success in this unique nationwide competition.

We truly value her recognition of the rich maritime heritage at Newbiggin and the dedication of the local lifeboat volunteers that mirrors the RNLI volunteers across the lifeboat service."

– Richard Martin, Station Mechanic at Newbiggin RNLI and Chair of Newbiggin Heritage Partnership

This is the first time in the RNLI’s history that the charity has run a competition to name one of its lifeboats.

Lifeboats are traditionally named by the person who donates the majority of the funding, but this lifeboat was funded by a public appeal.

The RNLI therefore felt that it was fitting that the public should decide on a name.