RNLI release figures showing soaring number of people saved off Britain's coasts in summer 2020

Lifeboat crews from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution saved almost one life every day last year, new data released by the charity has shown.

By Susie Beever
Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 8:50 am

Figures of rescues carried out by the organisation in 2020 which have been published today (Tuesday) revealed that some 349 lives were saved in rescue missions around Britain's coasts.

Of these, 140 were during the summer months between June and August – a rise of 32 per cent from the previous summer as families opted to holiday at home instead of going abroad.

There were also, on average, 42 lifeboats launched a day last summer, which the organisation said was almost double the daily figure throughout the rest of the year.

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Image of RNLI volunteer Becs Miller issued by charity as it reveals rising number of rescues carried out last summer

Around Yorkshire’s coasts, some 36 lives were saved in 2020, although there is no further breakdown for how many of these were carried out in the summer months. Among these was the rescue of a 10-year-old boy who was swept out to sea near Scarborough in August.

RNLI crews in Scarborough, Whitby, Bridlington and Filey overall deployed 1,094 lifeboat launches last year. Meanwhile, lifeguards stationed on the region’s shores responded to 1,117 incidents saving five lives.

RNLI said it was predicting the numbers to rise again this summer as lockdown restrictions are set to be fully eased from June 21, anticipating its "busiest summer yet", and is issuing a national plea for funding so that it can continue to carry out its work.

As part of the calls it is issuing, lifeboat crews in North Yorkshire came together to etch a huge image of a lifeboat into the sands at Scarborough Beach to highlight the importance of what they do.

RNLI Scarborough lifeboats as charity reveals it saved 349 lives in 2020. Picture: Erik Woolcott/RNLI Scarborough

The striking 100m design depicts a Shannon Class lifeboat - the newest class of lifeboat being used by the charity - branded with the number 349 on the side to represent each life saved from waters around the UK and Ireland last year.

Created alongside the help of sand art group, Sand In Your Eye, it is hoped the anamorphic image will inspire visitors to Scarborough Beach to take part in the charity’s Mayday Miles campaign, challenging people to cover one mile by swimming, walking, running, cycling or any other chosen means throughout May, and raise vital funds.

Adam Sheader, volunteer crew member at RNLI Scarborough, said today’s figures had made him extremely proud of his colleagues and urged others to get involved in the campaign.

“It’s amazing to see the number of people we rescued last year across the UK and Ireland represented by this installation,” he said.

Sand art at Scarborough Beach depicts RNLI lifeboat as charity issues plea for help from the public ahead of anticipated rise in calls this summer

“It makes me very proud to be a volunteer crew member.

“For almost 200 years, we have answered Mayday calls across the UK and Ireland, and my fellow crew members have often risked their lives to help rescue others.”

“Heading down to the coast or out on the water during the summer is a great way to have fun and stay active. But, if you are not careful, it’s a lot easier to get into trouble in the water than you might think.

“I hope seeing the lifeboat, and knowing the number on the bow represents someone like them, inspires people to answer our Mayday call – after all no one knows when they might need our help.

RNLI Scarborough lifeboats as charity reveals it saved 349 lives in 2020. Picture: Erik Woolcott/RNLI Scarborough

“Through The Mayday Mile, we’re hoping to raise enough funds to keep crews and lifeguards kitted and trained to deal with emergencies – and to come home safe themselves.”

Often described as the fourth emergency service, the RNLI has been saving souls swept out to sea for nearly two centuries after it was first founded in 1824 as the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, and was heavily involved in the rescues at Dunkirk between May 27 and June 4, 1940.

All monies raised through The Mayday Mile will give RNLI lifesavers the training, equipment, and kit that they need to rescue others and come home safe themselves, as well as allowing the charity to continue delivering water safety activity for those visiting the coast.