'RNLI - always there, even two at once'
Yes that's the number, but when the all-weather lifeboat went out to help the young man, who was kitesurfing not sailing, they didn't realise what a milestone they were passing.
The rescue of the kitesurfer by the Fraserburgh crew in Scotland this year marked the 140,000th life saved by the charity since its founding in 1824.
A young man had got into to trouble when his legs became entangled with the lines of his kite. The Fraserburgh all-weather lifeboat, the Willie and May Gall, went to his aid. Two of the volunteer crew pulled the man onboard, helped untangle him and returned him to Fraserburgh.
A fairly routine rescue, albeit one for which the man was very grateful. And, as is usual, after the lifeboat was safely back in the station, the lifeboat coxswain filled out a form using an RNLI computer system, recording details of the incident and whether any lives were saved – a procedure that happens after every launch of every boat at every one of the charity’s 236 stations around the coasts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
These ‘service returns’, as they are known, are then double-checked at the RNLI HQ in Poole, and then the number of lives saved in each incident is logged on a central database. There are strict criteria that the rescue has to meet in order to qualify as a life saved. It has to be clear that if the lifeboat and or its crew had not been involved, a life would have been lost.
It was this database that revealed the rescue of the kitesurfer was the charity’s 140,000th life saved. That’s the equivalent of the entire population of Blackburn – or everyone who lives on the Isle of Wight. It also works out as 745 people saved for every year the charity has been in operation, or just over two people saved every single day since the RNLI began.
That figure is in addition to the thousands of other people the charity has helped in other ways. Many rescues do not qualify as ‘lives saved’ as the people involved were seen to be just ‘at risk’.
Unfortunately, the first individual saved by the RNLI is not known. However, one of the most notable early rescues came in 1824 when Charles Freemantle was awarded the first RNLI Gold Medal for Gallantry for his efforts to save the crew of a wrecked brigantine off the coast of Hampshire.
Many of the 140,000 lives saved also represent significant steps in the development of the RNLI. For example, the first life saved by an RNLI lifeguard was at Durley Chine in Bournemouth on June 23 2001, when a person was caught in a rip-tide. That year was the first year RNLI lifeguards began patrolling UK beaches.
The first life saved by an RNLI hovercraft was in July 2004 at Morecambe, when four people collecting cockles were cut off by the tide. Hovercrafts had been introduced to the RNLI fleet in 2002.
The year 2002 also saw the introduction of lifeboats on the Thames in London and the first life saved by the Tower station crew was on May 9 that year.
The earliest way of recording rescues was by hand in large ledgers which were kept at each station. In 1970, the RNLI started using a central database based at its headquarters in Poole to record all operational activity.
Paul Bossier, Chief Executive, said: 'We are very proud that the RNLI has reached this remarkable milestone.
'Every single one of those 140,000 lives was somebody’s son or daughter, somebody’s wife or mother or father or friend. It’s almost impossible to imagine how many families have been affected by the actions of our brave lifeboat crews and lifeguards.
'I am also extremely proud that, since its founding, the RNLI has always been a charity, supported by an army of tireless fundraisers and the enormous generosity of the public. It is also a great source of pride that the vast majority of lifeboat crew members are volunteers – ordinary people who do extraordinary things.
'And while we remember all these remarkable rescues, I would also like us to remember that more than 600 people have given their lives in the service of the RNLI.'
• In 1824, Charles Freemantle was awarded the first RNLI Gold Medal for Gallantry for his efforts to save the crew of a wrecked brigantine off the coast of Hampshire.
• The first ‘light’ motor lifeboat was named at Eastbourne on 27 September 1922.
• Over two terrible days – 9-10 December 1886 – two lifeboats were lost trying to save the lives on board the barque Mexico in a gale. Although the Lytham lifeboat carried out an historic rescue, the Southport and St Anne’s lifeboats capsized with the loss of 27 lives.
• In response to the loss of the two lifeboats, the first RNLI Lifeboat Day was held on 10 October 1891 in Manchester. It raises £5,000 (more than £2m in today’s money).
• During the First World War, the RNLI saved 5,332 lives, despite the fact the average crew member was over 50 due to the absence of so many young men away fighting.
• The first diesel engines were introduced in 1932. The last ever horse-drawn beach launch was in 1934. Instead, tractors were used to haul lifeboats into the sea.
• The Second World War saw the RNLI save 6,376 lives. Lifeboats also helped evacuate troops from Dunkirk.
• The 1950s sees diesel engines come into general use. 1956 sees VHF radio arrive and, in 1963, radar.
• In 1969 the lifeboat TGB left the Orkney village of Longhope to rescue a tanker. Next morning the lifeboat is found capsized and the eight crew members were lost. It is one of a series of incidents which prompt a return to the principle of self-righting lifeboats.
• 1969 also saw the first RNLI medals awarded to an inshore lifeboat (ILB) crew – Robert Stewart and Andrew Scott of Amble were awarded bronze medals.
• The Atlantic 21, a rigid inflatable lifeboat capable of operating in shallow waters, was introduced in 1970. Developed at Atlantic College in Wales, the Atlantic 21 goes on to save around 5,000 lives. Its successors, the Atlantic 75 and 85, are still saving lives today.
• Christmas 1981 was a tragic time for the RNLI, following the loss of the Penlee lifeboat Solomon Browne and all its crew.
• The RNLI’s Flood Rescue Team (FRT) was formed in 2000. It is a group of specially trained volunteer lifeboat crew members who are ready to travel anywhere around the world to undertake flood relief work.
• The first life saved by an RNLI lifeguard was at Durley Chine in Bournemouth on 23 June 2001, when a person was caught in a rip current. That year was the first year RNLI lifeguards began patrolling beaches.
• The first life saved by an RNLI hovercraft was in July 2004 at Morecambe, when four people collecting cockles were cut off by the tide. Hovercrafts had been introduced to the RNLI fleet in 2002.
• 2002 saw the introduction of lifeboats on the Thames in London and the first life saved by the Tower station crew was on 9 May that year.
• In 2003, Rod MacDonald becomes the first lifeguard to be awarded a medal for gallantry after saving a swimmer off Fistral Beach.
• Aileen Jones becomes the first female lifeboat crew member to be awarded a medal for gallantry in 2004.
• In 2005, the Tamar class lifeboat is introduced. This high-tech all-weather lifeboat can achieve 25 knots and handle the toughest seas.
• The number of lives saved on Christmas Day since 1970 is 23. The most ever was in 1984 when 5 lives were saved.
• The RNLI is now producing a new lifeboat, the Shannon, which will be the first modern generation all-weather lifeboat to run on water jets rather than propellers. This will allow the vessel to operate in shallow waters and to be intentionally beached. The first Shannon is expected to be operational in 2013.
by RNLI/Sail-World Cruising
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8:39 PM Sun 2 Dec 2012GMT
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