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Dornoch inshore rescue volunteers left 'speechless' by tycoon's generous donation of funds for new lifeboat

By Caroline McMorran

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An act of generosity by Danish entrepreneur and Glenfeshie landowner Anders Holch Povlsen has left members of East Sutherland Rescue Association (ESRA) 'speechless'.

Mr Povlsen’s conservation and tourism company Aviemore-based Wildland Ltd is providing a new lifeboat for the highly-regarded, Dornoch-based independent rescue service along with a bespoke-designed trailer and a launch and recovery vehicle.

Wildland is meeting the total £245,000 costs of purchasing, fitting out and licensing the vehicles, which will enable the charity to provide a fast response on larger stretches of the east coast.

Crew members in action on their existing boat.
Crew members in action on their existing boat.

ESRA trustee and crew member Hugh Fullerton-Smith said: “The amazing generosity of Wildland Ltd, who have paid the costs in full, have left us speechless. It is obvious that they care about us - those who live in the area as well as those who may be attracted to coming here.”

The gift comes as the volunteer service celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. One of 27 independent UK lifeboat services, it is not part of RNLI and is dependent on donations and fundraising to meet its annual £25,000 plus running costs.

ESRA averages around 10 call-outs per year and is in the throes of developing a new inshore rescue centre at Dornoch beach which will house the lifeboat and trailer in addition to providing training accommodation.

Anders Holch Povlsen.
Anders Holch Povlsen.

It has operated its current boat, a 4.8m rigid inflatable named Glen Cassley after a particularly tricky river rescue featured on television, since around 2014.

But Mr Fullerton-Smith said the group had known for some time that a new vessel was required, but the funding of it had been daunting.

He said: “It has been critically apparent for some time that the challenges ESRA faces in keeping our waters safe for tourists, fishermen and sailors are growing.

“In particular, since the onset of Covid-19, there has been a massive groundswell of visitors to our county for recreation and watersports.”

“Our existing boat does a great job but we are rapidly outgrowing it and need greater capacity to ensure we can continue to respond safely to a range of emergencies that the bigger lifeboats can’t easily service due to shallow water depths close to rocky shores.

“In truth though, for a voluntary rescue association, the cost of a suitably equipped vessel as well as an upgraded track machine to launch and recover the boat safely in all conditions, was daunting.”

The Wildland funded new vessel will be an eight-metre inflatable with a higher operating speed of up to 40 knots, proper seating and room for casualties along with advanced radio and satellite communications.

ESRA expects to take delivery of the new vessel and Softrak launch and recovery vehicle this summer but will continue to operate Glen Cassley until full testing and training has been undertaken on the new vehicles.

Tim Kirkwood is chief executive of Wildand Ltd which manages Mr Povlsen's estates in Badenoch as well as a number of north Sutherland estates, focussed on conservation and some tourism.

He said: “ESRA is operated entirely by brave, dedicated volunteers, who put their lives on the line for tourists, fishermen, sailors and other marine users every year.

“Its inshore rescue boat provides a vital community service that is becoming increasingly important as visitor numbers increase on Sutherland’s beautiful coastline.

“The service the association provides is essential and well worth protecting and nurturing. We were delighted to be approached to play a small part by funding the purchase of a new craft, trailer and tracked vehicle.

“ESRA’s people, who go out selflessly even in the most horrendous sea conditions, deserve access to the best possible equipment, both for their own safety and to give them more opportunities to save other marine users who get into difficulties on our coastal waters.”

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