South West RNLI crews issue Mayday after figures show a busy 2020

Lifeboats News Release

The RNLI in the South West has today released its annual rescue figures which show that despite much of the year spent under lockdown restrictions, the regions volunteer lifeboat crews were as busy as ever and launched on average four times a day.

RNLI all weather lifeboat in big waves off of St Ives

Mike Price

All weather RNLI lifeboat in big waves off the coast of St Ives
The latest annual statistics for 2020 show the RNLI’s volunteer crews at the 33 lifeboat stations in the South West* launched 1,291 times, aided 1,225 people and saved 30 lives, up on the 29 lives saved in 2019. During the summer, RNLI lifeguards on beaches across the region attended 6,287 incidents and aided 9,179 people and saved 56 lives.

This year with more people expected be holidaying close to home, the RNLI predicts another busy summer. The lifesaving charity is calling for people to support its Mayday campaign to raise funds to ensure volunteer crews can continue to save lives at sea.

The RNLI’s Mayday campaign launches on Saturday 1 May and runs throughout the month. Lifesavers in the south west are calling on supporters to join the Mayday Mile and cover at least one mile in any way they chose and raise vital funds to keep people safe on our coastline.

People have already been signing up to support the challenge, such as AJ Roberts from Tiverton who has recently recovered from a kidney transplant and will be covering her Mayday Mile backwards. Teresa Drage who heads up the fundraising team in Weymouth, has challenged herself to do a mile day throughout May, Teresa uses a walker to get around and will be carrying a yellow welly to raise awareness. While at Five Islands Academy on St Mary’s in the Isle of Scilly all pupils will be covering a mile to raise funds for the RNLI. In Exmouth, crew members Geoff and Dougie have nearly reached their £2k target to complete a relay of no less than 72 kilometres, representing one kilometre for every lifesaving emergency Exmouth RNLI were tasked to attend in 2020.

The latest figures show in the RNLI’s South West region the majority of call outs were to people out sailing or motorboating. RNLI lifeboats launched 290 times to people out on the water on sailing or motor boats – one of the highest figures in the UK and Ireland.

Figures also show that the number of incidents involving people kayaking and canoeing was 33% above the national average in the south west, and incidents involving paddle boarding were 25% above. 74 lifeboat calls out were to people finding themselves in trouble on these craft in 2020.

Nationally the summer of 2020 saw a big increase in the call outs to swimmers in trouble, with 152 service calls for volunteer crews.

Tom Mansell, RNLI Lifesaving Lead for the South West says:

‘We all saw the images of packed beaches around the coast as restrictions lifted last summer, which meant a hugely busy season for the RNLI in South West as a whole. As another summer approaches, we know that our lifesavers face more huge challenges in keeping everyone safe, which is why we’re now the ones sending out our own Mayday call and asking for help.

‘Our annual Mayday fundraising campaign is our call for your support to help keep you and your family safe at the coast this summer.’

Tom added: ‘Our lifesavers drop everything to run to the lifeboat station when the call comes, so we’re asking our supporters to put themselves in the crew’s boots and join the Mayday Mile. Every penny raised during Mayday will go towards ensuring we are ready to save even more lives this year.’

Mayday Milers can sign up to join the South West team and either create their own Mayday Challenges or contribute to the collective effort to walk the 630 mile south west coastal path at

Or to find out more or make a donation in support of the RNLI’s lifesavers, visit

Note to editor

· Interviews available on request

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· *The RNLI’s South West Region encompasses 33 lifeboat stations between Portishead on the Bristol Channel, round to Weymouth in Dorset including the Isles of Scilly and the Channel Islands.

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Amy Caldwell, RNLI Regional Media Manager on 07920818807 or or Claire Fitzgerald-Smith at or the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.

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Burnham on Sea D class lifeboat

Craig Lee

D class lifeboat moving through the water in Burnham on Sea
Mayday Mile graphic


The Mayday Mile fundraising campaign

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.