CREWS have marked the anniversary of a “groundbreaking” lifeboat arriving along the Tendring coastline.

The Irene Muriel Rees was unveiled nine years ago and became the station boat at Walton and Frinton RNLI.

The Duke of Kent was on hand to conduct the ceremony in front of a packed crowd on Walton Pier on May 26, 2011.

Since then the lifeboat, which cost more than £2.5million and is from the Tamar class, has been called out 107 times, most recently on Bank Holiday Monday.

It has assisted 192 people and four dogs and saved 11 lives.

“It was a groundbreaking moment for our station,” said Walton and Frinton RNLI volunteer press officer Miranda Rayner.

“It was a significant upgrade for us and made our service response time much quicker.

“The Irene Muriel Rees can reach speeds of 25 knots, which is about ten knots quicker than our previous vessel.

“It’s also got space for a small inflatable to be stored at the back, which is also a huge advantage.

“In nine years, the boat has been used to save 11 lives - people who would been lost had we not been able to reach them - and assisted nearly 200 people.

“On average, it’s launched 20 times a year, although last year was a particularly busy one and we had to go out 33 times.”

The lifeboat, the ninth to be stationed at Walton, was largely funded by benefactor Irene Muriel Rees, who the vessel is named after, with the help of two other legacies - those of Anne Cormack-Evans and Annie Clare Mabel Arnold.

A special naming ceremony and service of dedication took place to mark the occasion on May 26, 2011.

“It was such a wet day,” added Mrs Rayner.

“The heavens opened and I don’t think I’ve ever been as drenched in my life - out of the water, at least.

“It was still a great and very enjoyable occasion, though.”