Exmouth RNLI lifeboat launched as Olympic Torch handed over to volunteer
Exmouth RNLI Deputy Coxswain Steve Hockings-Thompson was scheduled to take over the Olympic Torch in Torbay at 5.06pm on Sunday 20 May. With only three minutes to go, his crewmates’ pagers sounded indicating the imminent launch of the Exmouth inshore lifeboat, George Bearman.
Portland coastguards had tasked the D-class lifeboat and its three volunteer crew to rescue three adults and a dog from the Exe estuary. They had been walking the West Highland Terrier when they had been caught out by the rising tide and become stuck in the mud. One of the women was heavily pregnant. The walkers were quickly taken to safety to waiting friends and paramedics.
Steve was not on duty at the time and there were no pockets in his Olympic Torchbearer uniform to carry his pager through the streets of Babbacombe. Three of his volunteer crewmates who were also off lifeboat duty, were working in the area at the time in their professional capacity in the police and paramedic services.
The previous day, Steve Hockings-Thompson and four volunteer crew had been assisting Weymouth RNLI search for the missing fishing vessel Purbeck Isle off the Dorset coast. The Exmouth all weather lifeboat Margaret Jean had been launched at 5.30am and returned seven hours later with no further sightings.
Steve had been nominated as a Torchbearer by the wife of a work colleague at the boatyard in Topsham. The nomination had been based on Steve’s 18 years dedication to the RNLI and his passion for competing in Ironman triathlons whilst working full-time and raising a family. He had previously made the grade for dinghy sailing Olympic training in the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta games.
Speaking of the atmosphere on Sunday, he said:
‘It was an amazing experience. As soon as I stepped of the bus, I was mobbed by people wanting to have their photo with me and the torch. We also had the group Muse on the bus as they were carrying the torch in Teignmouth, their home town.’