Two long walks for a great cause…

Stephen Wheatley

This is a brief interview with Founder Freeman of The Guild of Entrepreneurs and Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), Stephen Wheatley.

So how did you get involved with the RNLI?

It started like a lot of great adventures, in a pub. The pub in question was the Founders Arms on the south bank of the Thames to the west of the Tate Modern, I was with an old friend, Bob and it was September 2005.

Bob suddenly asked ‘What adventures have you got planned?’

To be honest I hadn’t got anything planned, but as I was considering my reply a Lifeboat came out of (what I now know to be) number four arch of Blackfriar’s Bridge at speed with its blue lights on.

Quick as a flash I said ‘I am going to join the Lifeboat crew’.

Bob’s reply was ‘I bet you (expletive deleted) don’t!’

It was decided that £50 would be a decent wager on the outcome and four weeks later I put a £50 note into the RNLI collection box on Tower Lifeboat Station.

And so at 50 years of age began the most extra ordinary 15 years of my life…

Why do you do it?

In simple terms because I get to work with some of the best people you could every wish to meet helping others who are in need. It is also acts as a counterbalance to my working life as a high tech CEO.

What is the commitment?

Volunteers are expected to complete a minimum of 24, 12 hour shifts a year, over 15 years I have done around 350 shifts and a probably a similar number of jobs.

What is the most rewarding aspect?

Being involved in a team that saves a life (a restricted term in the RNLI that means you are the only people that could rescue the casualty) is a very special and rewarding experience. In 15 years I have been on five or six jobs where our crew has saved a life.

What is the worst part of the job?

I am not very keen on cleaning, but as the boat is run with military discipline I have got used to it.

What is the age limit?

Originally it was 55 but now it has changed to a fitness and capability based assessment. As long as I am healthy and fit and I can do the job I will continue to serve. 

I hear you are raising money for the RNLI?

This is my 15th year of service and I want to say thank you to the RNLI for the most amazing adventure and have decided to raise more than £10,000 for them.

To do so I will be attempting the London Landmarks Half Marathon in March and the London Marathon in April in all of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) we wear when on service on the Thames.

The PPE (modelled above) consists of helmet, life jacket, overalls and work boots which have a combined weight of about 10Kg. The boots have reinforced toe caps and soles to prevent penetration injury and whilst ideal for our role are not suitable for the marathons.

If anyone would like to donate to the RNLI they can visit my

If they would like to be associated with these attempts in some way and would like to discuss how please contact me direct at [email protected]

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