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Sigma sailors Tea Party Challenge raising funds for the RNLI

By Paul Fenner on 22 Jul 2011 8 August 2011

The Sigma 38 OOD Class Association is setting out to raise funds for the RNLI by hosting what they hope will be a record-breaking tea party during Cowes Week. Sigma 38 Sailors will be serving up Lifeboat Tea and biscuits in return for a voluntary donation towards the RNLI ‘Brew for the Crew’ campaign sponsored by Williamson Tea, creators of Lifeboat Tea.

The afternoon tea challenge takes place on Monday 8th August at the RNLI station on Shepherd’s Wharf from 16:00. To get the ball rolling, the Sigma 38 Class has donated £500 towards ‘Brew for the Crew’, which has already raised over £100,000 for the RNLI.

With 8,500 sailors expected at Cowes Week this year, the Sigma 38 Sailors are hoping that their tea party will be the biggest Brew for the Crew yet, and nowhere could be more apt than Cowes, where it is claimed afternoon tea first had its origins.

The invention of afternoon tea is generally credited to Anna the 7th Duchess of Bedford a Lady–in–Waiting to Queen Victoria and as such a frequent visitor to Osborne House, the Queen’s residence in East Cowes. Traditionally in the 1840’s dinner was not served until 8:30 or 9:00 in the evening. It’s rumoured that the bracing sea air gave the Duchess an early appetite, especially in the summer when dinner was served even later. So she would order a small meal of bread, butter, cakes and biscuits, to be brought secretly to her boudoir. When she was exposed she was not ridiculed, as she had feared, but her habit caught on and eventually became the institution we know as 'afternoon tea'.

The volunteers on the Cowes lifeboat, along with all the RNLI's Solent lifeboat stations, are always busy during Cowes Week, so a cup of lifeboat tea and biscuits will be welcomed by the Cowes crew who have launched 19 times and rescued 26 people during the last three years of the regatta. It's also an opportunity for the crew to meet the Sigma 38 Association's members and swap tales of the sea and discuss sea safety tips.

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