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South west RNLI volunteers remain on call this festive period

Lifeboats News Release

As with any other time of the year, RNLI volunteers across the south west remain on call 24/7 throughout the festive period, ready to respond to the pager at a moment’s notice.

D class inshore lifeboat

RNLI/Nigel Millard

D class inshore lifeboat

Over the last decade RNLI volunteers have saved 35 lives over the festive period, (Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day) launching 1078 times and aiding 488 people. Of those launches 96 took part on Christmas Day, taking crews away from family celebrations to help save others.

In the south west last year RNLI volunteers from stations around the region launched their lifeboats 25 times. In the last 10 years there were 159 launches, with 74 people aided and three lives saved.

This Christmas our dedicated volunteers will once again be providing a 24/7 rescue service, ready to react should their pagers sound whatever the weather or time of day. With many people marking this time of year with a walk along the coast, a bracing swim, or a party near the coast or a river, the RNLI’s message is to enjoy the celebrations, but stay safe.

James Millidge, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager, said: ‘We are very proud of our thousands of volunteers who will not think twice about missing their Christmas dinner and festive celebrations to answer the pager to somebody in need. The commitment and dedication they show every day is incredible and enables the RNLI to make a significant impact in saving lives at sea. We wish our crews and all our volunteers a happy and peaceful Christmas with their loved ones.’

Walking by the coast or along rivers is also a very popular activity at Christmas and is usually very safe, but slips and falls from walking and running are the biggest cause of death on our coast.

If you are planning a walk, be wary of all edges around the sea and waterside. Slips and falls happen in all locations, not just high cliff edges. Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back and take a means of calling for help. Getting cut off by the tide is a common cause of lifeboat launches so always check the weather and tide timetables before you go.

For thousands up and down the coast, a festive dip in the sea is part of a Christmas tradition. RNLI lifeboat stations, community groups and charities have organised dips for Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day from their local beaches. Anyone wishing to get in the sea is encouraged to take part in one of the many organised events around the region.

James added: ‘The festive dip is now a firm family favourite in the calendar as many brave swimmers take the plunge year after year with their families and friends over the holidays. We want to remind people that over winter the sea is at its coldest! We want everyone to enjoy the water but make sure they are aware of what do to if they or their fellow swimmers do get into trouble. Before going in, we urge people to remember the risks of cold water shock and what to do if it happens to them. The simple act of floating could save a life.’

Tips for cold water swimming:

  • If you run straight into cold water you are more likely to suffer from cold water shock. The best way to avoid this is to wear a wetsuit. If this isn’t possible, walk into the sea slowly and stay shallow. This will allow your body time to acclimatise gradually.
  • Cold water shock is a physiological response, which causes uncontrollable gasping. This increases the risk of you swallowing water and puts a strain on your heart- in extreme cases it can cause cardiac arrest. If you feel you this happening to you, fight your instinct to thrash around and swim hard, instead just lie back and float. The initial shock will pass within 60–90 seconds, and when you have regained control of your breathing, you can then try swimming to safety or calling for help. This skill will give you a far better chance of staying alive
  • If you see someone else in trouble in the water, fight the instinct to go in yourself. Call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.

The RNLI’s national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water, aims to raise awareness of key hazards like cold water shock, and lifesaving skills like floating. Find out more about how to float and about cold water shock by visiting

Details of some of the festive dips taking place in the south west are below. Please check local media for details of dips in your area.

Budleigh Salterton – Christmas Day, 10am

Exmouth – Christmas Day, 11am

St Agnes – Christmas Day, 11am

Bude – Christmas Day, 11am

Coverack – Christmas Day 12.30pm

Charmouth – Christmas Day in aid of the RNLI, 11am

Weymouth – Christmas Day, 11am

Teignmouth – Boxing day swim in aid of the RNLI, 11am

St Ives – Boxing Day, Porthminster beach, 12pm

Charlestown – Boxing Day swim in aid of charities including the RNLI, 11.30am

Torbay – Boxing Day dip, Corbyn Beach, 11am

Looe – Looe RNLI New Year’s Day dip, East Looe beach, 11am

Westward Ho! – New Year’s Day, 11am

Lyme Regis – New Year’s Day, 1pm

Notes to editors

*festive period 24 Dec – 1st Jan

Festive period launches:

2008-2017 – 1078 launches nationally, 159 in the south west

96 Christmas Day launches 2008-2018 nationally

RNLI media contacts:

For more information please contact Emma Haines, Regional Media Officer, on 07786 668847 or [email protected] or the RNLI Press Office 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 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.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.