By Katherine Crowther

As a self-funded rescue boat service, Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat (PLIRB) has been struggling since the pandemic closed down all of its planned fundraising events for 2020. But it has just received a welcome boost thanks to a determined cycling enthusiast and some generous community sponsors. 

Despite the awful wet, windy weather of Saturday 26th September, Sean O’Sullivan of SOS Entertainment stuck to his plan of cycling 54 miles to help fundraise for the charity. Although Sean’s route, from Rye Harbour out towards Ashford, then back along the coast to Pett Level – finishing at the PLIRB boathouse – had been carefully planned, the predictably unpredictable weather swept in.

Friends, colleagues and supporters following Sean’s progress on social media were treated to video footage and photos of Sean battling the elements, with gusting headwinds against him for most of his route. And by the time Sean reached the point of making his return journey back along the coast, the wind had worsened. Despite having cycled in excess of 30 miles in training, this continued cycling into the headwind on the day made the whole route much more exhausting than even Sean had anticipated.

“It was a lot tougher than I thought, and that’s purely due to the wind,” Sean said afterwards. “I regularly ride 30 miles or more and the 54 miles wouldn’t have been a problem if it wasn’t for that wind – I literally had it against me all the way round! It felt like it doubled the distance with the strain and effort it took.”

For Sean, the stage of the journey presenting the most problems came between Camber and Winchelsea Beach. This stretch, followed by that last long slog along Sea Road to Pett Level, became an equal battle between the worsening effects of the ferocious wind and severe muscle-burn in Sean’s legs, caused by the effort of cycling against it. But what made a difference for Sean was knowing that his test of endurance was for a good cause, as well as the backing he got throughout.

“I’m so glad I did it because I was well supported,” Sean said the next day. “The way the PLIRB volunteers thanked me when I got back … I couldn’t get over it.There were people out by the road clapping and applauding as I came through, that was great.”

The PLIRB volunteers intend to hold a proper ‘thank you’ for Sean at the boathouse once restrictions are eased, but after Sean arrived safely there was time for a quick photo and refreshments to say thank you for all his hard work.

Newly appointed Chair of the PLIRB committee, Kev Nuttall said “all the volunteers here are very grateful to Sean for raising so much to help PLIRB at this difficult time. We’d also like to say a big thank you to everyone who donated online and in cash to support Sean’s amazing effort.”

Between the sponsorship donations through Sean’s giving page, online via the PLIRB website and through cash donations on the day, the final total raised in Sean’s epic pedal for PLIRB should be around £600, which Sean’s delighted with.

“It’s going to a great cause, so it’s well worth it,” he said afterwards, rubbing his sore muscles. “But next year, I think I’ll just bake a cake or something!” 

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