A love for being by the coast, and for being out on the road, came together for James and Belinda Richardson when they retired from full-time work. For most people, this would mean relaxing, holidays and, as sailing enthusiasts, even taking to the sea for fun. For this couple, however, retirement became a call to adventure; one which just so happened to start many, many miles from the sea at the Burton-on-Trent Pirelli Performance Centre in the Midlands.
The RNLI-911 Challenge began in 2018, which saw visits to 238 lifeboat stations around the British Isles in an impeccably planned 911 hours. Expanding on the success of last year, the current challenge is set to visit 77 stations in just 19 days on an anti-clockwise tour of Scotland.
In preparation for such an undertaking, the couple’s 911, affectionately named ‘Splash’ in an onomatopoeic nod to having fun at the seaside, were invited to the Burton depot for fresh P ZERO tyres ahead of its trip. While this first stop may have been over 55 miles from the coast, it was an essential step ahead of the journey on which the 911 will spend up to 14 hours a day on the road.
While the Pirelli Performance Centre team worked to fit the new tyres, focus shifted to the challenge car itself. “We’ve had this Porsche since March last year, so it’s just over a year old,” explained James. “It’s got four-wheel steer as well, which is a fantastic feature, particularly on the bendy roads that we go on. It’s also got front axle lift for getting on and off ferries, which is raised 40mm and of course a brand new set of tyres, which we needed, so this is incredible”
The Porsche 911’s paintwork reflects the signature RNLI colours of orange with a navy hood. Each of the cars doors also sport a decal detailing the challenge and their social links (Click the link to check out the challenge instagram - @RNLI_911_Challenge)
Following this same colour scheme are the challenge’s wristbands, which are sent out to those who donate to the cause. Sponsors will have their logo applied as a decal when the challenge begins, with Pirelli’s being applied during the PPC visit.
Speaking about the upcoming adventure at the Burton depot, Belinda said: “This year we’re not only spending more time at the stations but we’re actually trying to understand more about the RNLI and its heritage. There’s an incredible history in these stations – both the people and the rescues they’ve done and how the stations have developed.”
The ultimate goal of this passion project is to not only raise awareness for a great cause, but to also raise enough money to purchase a ‘D Class’ relief boat for the RNLI, which the couple hope might be called the RNLI-911 Challenge.
With fresh rubber fitted, the challenge started on August 23 when the clock struck a symbolic 9.11 am. The first station on the itinerary saw ‘Splash’ arrive at Lerwick in Shetland, at which James and Belinda presented the volunteer team members with a plaque commemorating the visit. Each station in Scotland will receive the same plaque and at the final stop at Kirkwall in Orkney the challenge will have covered over 2,800 miles.
Such an undertaking is not without its risks, however, they may not be what you’d expect. “Last year our faces were aching from smiling so much after only three days,” explained James. “We shook hands with around 1,400 crew members and they were just all so nice and you hear some incredible stories! That’s part of the reason why we’re now doing this journey, to experience the history and the anecdotes – these people give so much but they’re also so passionate about what they do.”
Follow the challenge and donate at www.rnli-911challenge.co.uk/. Be sure to follow their social channels to keep up with the adventure!