A CHALLENGE which recreates the sea rescue of heroine Grace Darling has been launched as the 175th anniversary of her feat is marked.
On September 7, 1838, Grace and her father William rescued survivors from steamship the SS Forfarshire after it foundered on the Big Harcar rock off the Northumberland coast.
Risking their own lives, Grace and Farne Island lighthouse keeper William bravely rowed a mile out from shore in a 21ft boat to the wrecked ship before getting the people onboard and then heading back to land.
Both Grace and her father were awarded the RNLI Silver Medals for Gallantry after carrying out the daring rescue.
Now, Sunderland RNLI is replicating the effort in honour of Grace’s rescue at the city’s Aquatic Centre in Monkwearmouth.
They are asking people to don a sou’wester hat, put on an RNLI lifejacket and row one mile on a rowing machine, lifting weights to equivalent to five people before then rowing another mile.
Those taking part can then make a note of their time with Aquatic Centre reception staff. James Jamieson, lifeboat operations manager at Sunderland RNLI, said: “I think Grace is still a real inspiration to us today.
“When the other gyms around Sunderland found out the Aquatic Centre was going to do this, they all said they wanted to get involved.
“We aren’t asking for money up front – just a donation once people have had a go at the challenge.”
The challenge is also on offer at the city council’s other wellness centres at Seaburn, Washington, Hetton, Houghton and Silksworth.
Those who enter will be put into a prize draw to net a month’s free gym membership.
Proceeds from the fund-raising week will go towards the RNLI, which is funded solely by donations.
RNLI volunteer Alex Richards, of Seaburn, said that Grace’s efforts continue to inspire future generations.
“Grace is still the “Darling” of the RNLI, I suppose,” said Alex.
“It’s a great local story and it’s good that we are carrying on the tradition with the challenge.” The charity effort finishes on Sunday.
The RNLI also carried out a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary at the weekend, with its members laying flowers at Longstone Lighthouse and at sea.
The volunteers also took part in a row using one of the charity’s historic lifeboats.
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