The late Derek Huffam had been the Chairman of the RNLI Yarmouth Lifeboat Management Group for 21 years. Following Derek’s sad death in January, retired Coxswain Dave Kennett MBE has been appointed to succeed him.
Dave Kennett is uniquely qualified for the role. He joined the crew of the Yarmouth Lifeboat in 1968 and became coxswain in 1971 and served in that role until his retirement in 1994.
He was awarded the RNLI Silver Medal for the rescue of the crew of the yacht ‘Chayka of Ardgour’ in mid channel in 1975. The yacht had five metropolitan police on board and was in severe danger in force 11 winds. Dave and his crew rescued all five safely.
The lifeboat was also called out during the 1989 hurricane force winds to assist a 4,000 ton Maltese coaster, the ‘Al Kwather’ in difficulties off Swanage.
Dave’s crew spent 18 hours at sea in mountainous waves and rescued two of the crew and the helicopter took off the rest. The ship was in danger of rolling over. Dave was awarded the RNLI Bronze Medal for this daring rescue.
In 1976, he was voted ‘Britain’s Man of the Year’ and was the subject of ITV’s ‘This is Your Life’ on 22nd November 1995 when one of his rescued crew came on the programme to pay tribute to him. He and his crew had pulled her from an air pocket in a capsized catamaran. A feat requiring immense seamanship skill.
Finally, Dave was awarded the MBE for his services to the RNLI in the New Year Honours in 1995. During his RNLI career he saved 221 lives and helped countless others.
His appointment has been greatly welcomed by the present crew. The current Coxswain, Howard Lester, served under, and was trained by Dave Kennett before taking on the role himself.
Appropriately, Dave’s first duty, as Chairman designate, was to present three commendation awards to members of the current crew.
On that occasion he said, ‘We have, and have always had, a bloody good crew. I owe all that I have achieved to them.’
Dave is West Wight born and bred. He owned and ran Mill Road Garage in Yarmouth for 30 years and his present house overlooks the lifeboat berth in the harbour so he will never be far from the action.