Excitement builds along the Thames ahead of The Boat Race 2019

Lifeboats News Release

This weekend, up to 250,000 people are expected to line the banks of the Thames to enjoy The Boat Race.

Holly Jackson Walters, Chiswick RNLI volunteer crew member

RNLI/Holly Jackson Walters

Holly Jackson Walters, Chiswick RNLI volunteer crew member

The Oxford and Cambridge University men’s teams raced against each other for the first time in 1829, and along this stretch of the river for the first time in 1836. For the last 17 years of the event, both rowers and spectators have been kept safe by the RNLI’s inshore lifeboats, with 17 crew from the London stations and 18 lifeguards from the south coast. This year the RNLI is also The Boat Race’s official charity partner.

Although the RNLI is more often associated with saving lives around the coast of the UK and Ireland, the organisation also operates four stations located along the River Thames. The station at Chiswick leads the organisation’s activity on The Boat Race along with partners from London’s emergency services. Planning starts almost a year in advance with everyone involved working to make sure the event is a safe one for all involved. With thousands of spectators enjoying the day and many licensed premises along the river, there have been many incidents of people entering the water unexpectedly. However, the multi-agency safety planning has been so successful that for the past two years, no rescues have been necessary.

The lifeboat station at Chiswick is the second busiest in the RNLI responding to more than 200 shouts in 2018 and 96 people aided. The station has strong relationships with the many rowing clubs based nearby and even boasts an ambassador on the Cambridge crew this year with James Cracknell rowing for his university.

As well as supporting from the water and on the river banks, the RNLI will be represented on the podium when Holly Jackson Walters, a volunteer crew member from Chiswick, presents the medal to the winning women’s team.

Holly said:

'The Thames is a beautiful but potentially very dangerous waterway. Its unpredictable currents and strong tides are hazards to be treated with huge care. At Chiswick, we regularly rescue people, animals and boats but have occasionally gone to the aid of people on lilos and floating cinemas, not to mention rowers.

We are always excited to be a part of The Boat Race. It’s a really happy event with a brilliant atmosphere and huge spirit!'

Wayne Bellamy, RNLI Chiswick Station Manager, said:

'We look forward to welcoming everyone to this weekend’s event and hope that the weather holds. Remember that it’s easy to end up in the water even if you haven’t planned it. Enjoy your day, keep a close eye on young children, cheer on the rowers and all of the RNLI teams, and please remember to respect the water at all times.'

Chiswick RNLI crew on exercise

RNLI/Julie Rainey

Chiswick RNLI crew on exercise
Chiswick's Lifeboat Pub

RNLI/Julie Rainey

Chiswick's Lifeboat Pub

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, in a normal year, 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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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.