Newhaven Lifeboat took a call this week from Ruth Rose, an 87 year old open water swimmer and founder of Seaford Mermaids' All Year Round Daily Swimming Group. In 24 hours the members, some 170 locals, raised more than £6,700 in donations between them for the RNLI. Donations continue to roll in.
The Mermaids were moved to action by news of a tragic loss of life on Sunday 15 November at Cuckmere. A swimmer, unrelated to the group, had got into difficulty in the water. Despite the best efforts of an HM Coastguard swimmer, who swam out to the casualty and recovered them to shore, the swimmer was pronounced dead after being helicoptered to Eastbourne District General Hospital. The Newhaven RNLI lifeboat was also on scene, but due to sea conditions, was unable to come in close enough to shore to assist.
The Seaford Mermaids began with its first swimmer, Ruth Rose, thirteen years ago when she moved to the area. Ruth was not new to open water swimming herself and soon the confidence of her daily dip attracted others to join her.
The Mermaids swim every day, whatever-the-weather, throughout the year on Seaford Beach, most often in the early morning at Tide Mill. There are usually as many as thirty swimmers daily. So far this year Ruth has missed only two days, in February, when the weather was particularly stormy.
On Monday 16 November, the group gathered as usual. Conversation turned to the tragedy of the previous day. The swimmers collectively reflected that they have had a few close-calls between them over the years, but managed to self-recover or assist one another in those instances. They realised however, that they might not always be so fortunate and one day might need urgent help themselves.
Later that day Ruth sent out a message on their WhatsApp group suggesting they might all consider making a small annual donation to the RNLI. She was bowled over by the speed and size of response. Since her first tally on Tuesday 17 November, further donations have rolled in. Now totalling in excess of £7,000 with indications from the group that it will exceed £10,000.
Ruth Rose said of the group’s swell in positive action, ‘I am overwhelmed by their generosity.’
The Mermaids take pride in their keen eye for recreational safety. A rope is always to hand on the beach. Leader Ruth explains, ‘We keep an eye out for one another.’ But above all, the group unanimously praise the extensively detailed forecast that Ruth shares every evening via WhatsApp for the day ahead. It covers: sun rise and set, air and sea temperature ranges through the day, wind speed and direction, sea state and swell, tide times and localized hazards to beware of such as rips and currents.
Lewis Arnold, RNLI Coxswain for Newhaven, went along to meet the Mermaids at their 7am swim on Wednesday morning to thank them in person for their inspiring fundraising response. He said, ‘The funds raised by the Mermaids are critical for the RNLI. They make it possibly for us to be there when we are needed, to save lives at sea and we thank them.’
Ruth and her team plan to share their inspired story with other open water swimming groups around the country and further their support for the work of the RNLI.
Notes to editors
• The RNLI relies on public donations to provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the coast of the UK and Ireland, and on the Thames.
• RNLI top safety tips for Open Water Swimming:
- Never swim alone. The safest way to wild swim is at an Open Water swimming site, with a club or between the red and yellow flags on a lifeguarded beach. If you can’t get to a lifeguarded beach, learn more about your chosen location and check hazard signage by finding an organised swim group in your local community.
- Acclimatise to cold water slowly and enter gradually to reduce the risk of cold water shock.
- Check weather and tide times before you go, avoid swimming in dangerous conditions.
- Take a means for calling for help in a waterproof phone pouch and have this on you at all times.
- If you see someone in trouble, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.
- Wear a brightly coloured hat plus a tow float for increased visibility.
- Always swim parallel to the shore and not straight out. Cold water, waves and currents can tire you out quickly and make it harder to return to shore.
- Never swim under the influence of alcohol.
RNLI media contacts
For more information please telephone Roz Ashton, RNLI volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer on 07900 887423 or Rosalind_Ashton@rnli.org.uk or Paul Dunt, Regional Media Officer on 07785 296252 Paul_Dunt@rnli.org.uk or contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.
For more information on the RNLI please visit rnli.org. News releases and other media resources, including RSS feeds, downloadable photos and video, are available at the RNLI News Centre rnli.org/news-and-media.
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.
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.