“Paddle do nicely” – RNLI lifeguard supervisor crosses channel in just 5 hours

Lifeguards News Release

An RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor from Anglia has crossed the English Channel in an amazing 5 hours, using just a paddle board and the power of his arms.

Nick Ayers, who manages RNLI beach lifeguards in Norfolk and Suffolk, crossed through one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes on Wednesday (21 September) when he paddleboarded from Dungeness to Boulogne.

The challenge was set up to raise funds for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the charity that saves lives at sea, as well as clock up practice hours with a view to competing in future races.

Nick, 25, set off at 6am on Wednesday, accompanied by a pilot and safety boat to administer food and drink and aid with navigation. But despite estimating anything up to 8 hours to reach French soil, Nick reached Boulogne in just over 5 hours – in time to have lunch in the town!

He said: It was an early start – we met at 5am, got the pilot boat ready and motored round to Dungeness as the sun was just coming up. I was paddling from 6am and between then and 7.30am the sun was steadily rising. It was beautiful, really nice.’

The paddleboard Nick used was similar to the rescue boards RNLI lifeguards use on some 200-plus beaches when keeping people safe and saving lives. Nick explained how he put the board through its paces, and was able to get some real speed up at times.

‘I was getting up to about 6 knots – equivalent to 7mph on land – and there was a 2 knot current,’ he said. ‘There were some sections where I was going faster or slower, than that, but the boat pilot did a great job of finding the currents to ensure I found the easiest and quickest way across the channel.’

To minimise the strain on his body Nick switched positions at regular intervals, which again helped him keep up the pace for such a fast result: ‘I had my watch go off every five minutes to tell me to switch between being on my knees, and lying down on my stomach to give my shoulders and back a break. It wasn’t really painful - I did feel the strain mostly in my shoulders because that’s where you have constant motion when you’re paddling.’

And he explained how he spotted the French coastline after just three-and-a-half hours. He said: ‘At that point England was well out of the picture. You could see massive boats coming past though. Some of them were pretty high, four containers stacked on some of them. I made sure I didn’t get more than 100 metres from those.

‘When we got to Boulogne I couldn’t believe how quickly it had all happened. You can’t actually get up over the harbour wall, so the boat took us around to the port where we showed our passports – then popped into town well in time for lunch!’

The challenge to complete the crossing was also arranged to mark the end of the RNLI’s lifeguarding season, in what has been a very busy year for the RNLI. Vince Pank, RNLI Lifeguard Manager, said: ‘This was a fantastic time for Nick, I’m so pleased that he completed the crossing in such a great time. All our lifeguard staff are obviously trained to be fit and fast, and Nick is certainly no exception. A huge congratulations to him for doing this to raise funds for the RNLI, and raise awareness of the work the RNLI does.’

Nick has so far raised around £1,000, but people can still make donations to the RNLI - visit http://bit.ly/2cznQ3G to find out more

RNLI media contacts

• Tim Ash, RNLI Public Relations Manager (London/East/South East) on 0207 6207426, 07785 296252  tim_ash@rnli.org.uk
• For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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