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Sir Richard Branson meets RNLI Dungeness crew

Date: 24/08/2010

Author: Richard Smith, Divisional Media Relations Manager

Adventurer Richard Branson today thanked an RNLI lifeboat station for its support as he prepared to try and set records for kitesurfing across the English Channel.

Sir Richard Branson with RNLI Dungeness crew

The Virgin tycoon stopped and posed with members of the crew at Dungeness in Kent before taking to the sea with family and friends for his kitesurfing stunt.

Sir Richard was given permission by the RNLI to use the lifeboat station to change into his wet suit and hold briefings with his fellow kitesurfers and some of the members from national and international media.

A large crowd including holidaymakers descended onto Dungeness to witness the preparations for the event which was marking Sir Richard's 60th birthday. He wanted to be the oldest person to kitesurf across the Channel and there were several other records waiting to be broken.

Sir Richard came to the lifeboat station on Monday to check out the everchanging weather conditions. There was a three-day window of opportunity taking into account the weather and Branson's other commitments. The weather was particulary bad on Monday and the on-off debate over the event was finally resolved on Monday evening when a decision was finally taken to go ahead with the 24-mile crossing.

Sir Richard had a quick look at Dungeness's Mersey boat Pride and Spirit on display outside the lifeboat station where he briefly met volunteer members of the crew who had arrived early to open up the building. Judith Richardson, the RNLI's Dungeness volunteer lifeboat press officer, was on hand to supervise the proceedings and help with meeting the media's requirements.

Chris Ubee, Lifeboat Operations Manager at Dungeness, was delighted that the RNLI was able to assist. He said: ''However, we have kept fully operational at all times and made sure that we have been in control of the situation.

''We policed it and we had no problems with the media and crowds of people. We have had people on car park duty and people attending the event came to us and asked for our advice and permission to set up.

''It has been an honour to welcome Sir Richard here and this has turned out to be very good publicity for the RNLI and the Dungeness lifeboat station.''

Chris arrived at 5.15am today to open the lifeboat station – but he discovered that a television crew had already arrived to set up their cameras. ''I thought I was early enough but I was still beaten by the media! Sir Richard arrived at 7.30am and this triggered a huge amount of interest among everyone.''

Sir Richard spent more than an hour at sea before the attempt was abandoned shortly before 11am today due to poor weather conditions. A force five to six wind had blown up.