A LIFEBOATMAN has celebrated 20 years of dedication to saving lives at sea by being presented with a long service medal.

Chris French, Clacton RNLI’s lifeboat training co-ordinator and Deputy Launch Authority, joined the Clacton team in April 2001, after moving to the area from Hackney.

Although he felt the challenge was huge, he approached the station and volunteered for a position within the crew.

He said: “I didn’t think I had much chance of joining the lifeboat crew as I had limited experience of being afloat, but I needn’t have worried as they taught me everything I needed to know.

“At the time our lifeboat station was based on Clacton Pier and the smaller inshore lifeboat was in our boat house on the promenade.

“The training was split between the lifeboat station and the RNLI’s training centre on the Isle of Wight, and there was and as is now so much support to help you train and achieve some outstanding things within the role.”

Initially starting as shore crew, Chris progressed within a year to be a full crew member, achieving the position of helmsman in 2004, a role in which he remained in until he took his current roles.

Chris added: “Twenty years has flown by but our Clacton lifeboat crew is so well established that 20 years’ service is the norm, with many of the crew having completed 25 plus years.

“Our lifeboat operations manager, David Wells, has completed over 40 years.

“’I have some great memories of shouts over the last 20 years and have always found it extremely rewarding.”

“I’ve always felt extremely privileged to be part of the lifeboat crew at Clacton, it is a station and team second to none, totally reliant on each other.”

Mr Wells added: “It is an absolute pleasure to award Chris his 20-year service medal. He has always shown dedication, determination and professionalism in everything he has done within the RNLI.

“For myself and on behalf of crew, both current and past who have served alongside him, we offer Chris our sincere thanks for your service and we look forward to working alongside you for another 20 years.

“Our volunteers are at the heart of the RNLI. Without all our volunteers - crew, lifeguards, fundraisers, education presenters, shop, community safety, museum and others – the RNLI wouldn’t be able to save lives at sea.”