Massive surge in RNLI distress calls this year

Hastings lifeboat crews. Photo by Paul Kelly
Hastings lifeboat crews. Photo by Paul Kelly

LIFEBOAT crews in Hastings had one of their busiest summers this year, rescuing stricken vessels and swimmers in distress.

The volunteer crews attended 36 incidents from June 1 to August 31, according to figures released by the RNLI. This represents a 140 per cent increase on last summer, where crews launched only 15 times.

Out of the eight stations in Sussex, Hastings was the second busiest this year after Eastbourne, which attended 44 call-outs. Across all stations lifeboatmen dealt with 206 incidents. Among those that Hastings crews were called to included kite surfers in distress, stranded yacht crews, and reports of a missing diver. One particular launch, to a report of a swimmer in difficulties, turned out to be quite the opposite, as the man was actually found to be overly excited by the fact he was swimming alongside a rather playful seal.

The figures also reveal that Hastings lifeboat crew conducted a search in the worst weather conditions anywhere in the south east over summer.

This happened in June when the lifeboat was tasked to assist a vessel with a history of electrical failure which was overdue on its passage from Boulogne, in France to Eastbourne. Crews braved gale force winds and rough seas.

Andrew Ashton, divisional inspector for the RNLI, said: “As ever, our brave volunteer crews remained committed to their pagers, heading out to sea to help others whenever the alarm was raised. Summer 2012 was a rather mixed bag. On the one hand we’re told that 2012 was the wettest summer for 100 years in parts of the UK. But then reports also say that June, July and August were, technically at least, warmer than 2011. Perhaps people were forced to assess the weather and take last-minute decisions on whether to visit the coast or go afloat. Either way, our crews did the RNLI and the general public proud by being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Steve Warne, coxswain for Hastings lifeboat station, said: “It has been a combination of the weather and people being unaware of the conditions. We had a lot of off-shore winds that blew lilos out to sea. People sometimes don’t realise how the wind can take hold once out at sea.”