‘The Boat Race’ returns to the Thames as RNLI crews battle it out on the river

Lifeboats News Release

The Thames will echo to the iconic sound of oars hitting water this week as ‘The Boat Race’ returns to the river for a summer showdown. But rather than the dark and light blues of Oxford and Cambridge, spectators are more likely to see yellow, as crews from RNLI lifeboat stations battle it out.

For the first time, teams of four volunteer crew from RNLI lifeboat stations at Chiswick, Tower and Teddington will go head-to-head in their own crew rowing challenge to celebrate the charity’s partnership with The Boat Race in 2019 and to raise money to fund vital crew training.

While the university crews battle for victory on the river once a year, the lifeboat crews take part in a very different race and one that happens 365 days a year – the race to save lives. It’s also a race that takes an enormous amount of training and preparation and has saved hundreds of lives since RNLI lifeboat stations were opened on the Thames in 2002.

This year, as hundreds of thousands of people lined the banks of the Thames to watch The Boat Race, a highly skilled team of RNLI lifeguards and lifeboat crew were also in attendance. They were there to ensure the crowds were safe alongside a river which, though beautiful, can often be deadly, flowing at twice the speed of an Olympic swimmer and with a daily tidal rise and fall of seven metres.

But the crew’s training doesn’t come without a cost. Training exercises and courses need funding, as does the equipment the crews use in life and death scenarios. As a charity the RNLI relies on donations to make sure the crews have everything they need to save lives, which is why all the money raised from the RNLI Boat Race Challenge will go toward ensuring supporters of The Boat Race and those living and working beside the Thames are kept safe for years to come.

Very few the RNLI crews taking part in the challenge have experience of rowing, but they will receive a fast-track training course on the afternoon of the race, thanks to the support of the Fulham Reach Boat Club which will be hosting the event.

Neil Withers, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager for the Thames, said the event will be great fun for the crews, but it will also get across a serious message:

‘Although the crews have huge experience of search and rescue on the river none of them are experienced rowers, but I’m expecting them to be every bit as competitive as the Oxbridge teams!’ he said. ‘Not only will it be a fun event but it should also help raise funds for and awareness of the extraordinary work the crews do on the river every day.’

All three RNLI stations at Teddington, Tower and Chiswick will remain fully operational throughout the rowing challenge.

To support the challenge please use the following link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rnlitheboatracechallenge

For those who want to watch the teams battle it out, the races will be taking place between 5.30pm and 7.00pm on Friday 14 June outside the Fulham Reach Boat Club, Unit A, Distillery Wharf, Chancellors Road, London W6 9GX.

Note to Editors:

The RNLI is the official charity of The Boat Race 2019.

Fulham Reach Boat Club is a community focussed rowing club and a charity that aims to unlock the potential of young people through rowing. They are a Boat Race partner and provide the Future Blues programme with local state schools: https://www.fulhamreachboatclub.co.uk/future-blues.

RNLI media contacts

For more information please telephone Paul Dunt, RNLI Regional Media Manager, South East and London on 07785 296252 or paul_dunt@rnli.org.uk.

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.

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