First Christmas on call for St Davids Coxswain following proud family tradition

Lifeboats News Release

The RNLI in Wales will see hundreds of its volunteer lifeboat crews sacrifice time with their loved ones to save others this Christmas, as 2021 figures show an increase in the number lifeboat launches during the festive season.

RNLI

Mike, Dai and Will Chant
It will be a proud occasion for Will Chant, who will be on call over Christmas as the station’s newest full-time Coxswain, following in the footsteps of his dad.

Saving a space for the pager on the Christmas dinner table is nothing new for the Chant family from Pembrokeshire, who have spent decades bracing themselves to swap Turkey for turbulent seas.

This Christmas Eve, Will celebrates 26 years of being a volunteer crew member at St Davids. He is following in the footsteps of proud dad Dai, a former station Coxswain who joined the St Davids crew in the early 60s. He’ll also be in good company should the call come over Christmas as brother Mike is also the station’s full-time mechanic.

Like crew members across Wales they will prepared to leave their loved ones to save others at Christmas. Over the past five years, RNLI lifeboats in Wales and the North West have launched nearly 100 times, with 49 people aided over the Christmas period.

In Wales alone, there were 56 lifeboat launches in that five year period with 30 people aided.

Last year, RNLI lifeboats in Wales launched 12 times over the Christmas period, saving two lives and rescuing three people. This was compared with seven launches, and three people aided in 2020.

Will has vivid memories of holiday celebrations being cut short over the years, including a shout on 27 December 1997. A French fishing trawler Toul an Trez which had sunk suddenly some 35 miles out to sea in violent storms on Christmas Eve, with all five of the French fishermen lost during the tragedy. The St Davids crew launched their inshore and all-weather lifeboats a few days later to search for the casualties and the wreckage. It had began to wash up around the south west coastline of Wales.

A fire on board the Yves Marie Amil trawler on 21 December 2004 also saw the St Davids RNLI crew abandon their pre-Christmas celebration. The RNLI crew had assisted in the rescuer of the crew from the burning trawler in rough seas and then volunteers, including Will were called upon for a second time to stand by the vessel for much of the following day until she eventually sank.

This year, Will is hopeful for a quiet Christmas with wife Lottie and their son Harri, 12. They are looking forward to paying a visit to his dad and much-needed relaxation time.

He says:

‘Being brought up as a lifeboat family, we didn’t really flinch if the pager sounded and dad headed out of the door – it’s just what happened. There was no doubt I’d follow in his footsteps and answering the call over Christmas is not really any different to any time of the year. If someone needs your help, your training springs into action and you don’t really give it a second thought.

‘It’s an absolute privilege to be spending my very first Christmas on call as Coxswain of the St Davids lifeboat. Whilst I keep my fingers crossed the pager remains silent, but if it doesn’t, whatever the situation, myself, Mike and the crew will be there and I know dad will be so proud waiting at home for news.’

If the pager does remain silent, Will plans to open presents with his family, check on his horses and chickens before walking the dog. He will be following a tradition in visiting dad Dai and catching up with Mike, before settling down to Christmas dinner later in the early evening.

Winter can be one of the most challenging times to be a lifeboat volunteer with shorter days and the worst weather conditions of the year. But the dedication and courage shown by RNLI lifesavers means that, when the call to rescue comes in, they are ready and willing to head out. No matter if it’s the middle of a dark winter’s night, or in freezing sub-zero temperatures.

Mike adds:

‘We wouldn’t do what we are able to do without the support of the public, who work tirelessly throughout the year to raise the donation we so vitally need to enable us to continue saving lives. This is our opportunity to say thank you to all those who have supported us throughout the year. As Christmas approaches and the RNLI launches it’s Christmas appeal, your support is more important than ever and so appreciated.’

The RNLI provides a lifesaving service using volunteers wherever possible, with voluntary donations supplying the funds needed to do so. To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit: RNLI.org/Xmas

Ends

Notes to editors

  • The Christmas period refers to 24 December to 1 January.
  • Lifeboat crews are ready to launch 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and Christmas is no exception. Over the last five years*, RNLI lifesavers have aided over 350 people, saved 18 lives, launched 619 times, and have spent over 840 hours at sea during the holiday season.
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For more information please telephone Danielle Rush on 07786 668829 [email protected] or the RNLI’s press office on 01202 336789 or [email protected]

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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