Kiteworld Magazine's Editorial Assistant, Ash Phelps was lucky enough to have recently been invited to the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) Headquarters in Poole, England for their Media Day. It was a superb opportunity for us at Kiteworld Magazine to show our support for the 'ordinary people, doing extraordinary things,' as their motto honestly states. It was also a great opportunity to learn more about the RNLI's history, where it aims to be in the future and to hear about the exciting new Serious Fun! campaign which aims to increase regular, committed financial support for the charity among leisure marine and watersports enthusiasts. Their goal for this is simple ? so they can continue to save lives at sea.
Ash Phelps talks about an exciting, testing and eye-opening day that he was proud to be a part of:
My morning consisted of being put through my paces in the RNLI's Survival Pool by trainers Perry Simpson and Chris Walker. After learning some sea survival skills and how to work in a team if I was to find myself unfortunately stranded at sea with colleagues, I was then thrown into a full scale simulation of how being stranded in a six person life raft during a storm can feel. The blinds were closed making the pool room pitch black. The rain and wave machines were then cranked up to the max and for the next 10 minutes I felt exactly what being in the heart of a storm was like. 'I'm just glad lunch was after the simulation,' I joked to Public Relations Officer Isla Reynolds, who also joined me for the days activities.
What really impressed me is knowing that the full training scenario lasts for over 45 minutes, rocking backwards and forwards in the life raft and trying to organise your kit bag and signal for help. Not an easy task let me tell you. To me 10 minutes felt like a lifetime and I was quite happy to be back on solid ground. To think that volunteers put themselves through this and more is truly amazing.
In the afternoon, and after my stomach had settled, I was then taken out on one of the RNLI's advanced Tamar lifeboats. The Tamar is the latest edition to the RNLI's all-weather lifeboat fleet and is capable of storming through even the worst chop at a solid 25kts. The lifeboat is a sure-fire way of making sure that the RNLI are first on the scene in the event of an emergency, which after my mornings escapades was understandably comforting. The average cost of launching an all-weather lifeboat is £5,800. For an inshore lifeboat it is £2,200. A small price to put on a life, yes. However for a charity that receives absolutely no government funding and has it's lowest cash reserves for 13 years this is an astronomical amount - £378,000 per day in fact!
For kitesurfers the RNLI are at hand to assist anyone in need. From kiters who have been dragged out too far by an offshore wind or for ones who have spent all their energy and struggle to return to shore. The crew have even been trained to make sure that the kite is rescued also, fully aware of the expense of the equipment. In 2008 129 lifeboats were launched for kitesurfers in distress. 2009's stats will be recorded shortly.
The volunteer lifeboat crew launched their lifeboats a total of 8,293 times last year, with 4,350 lifeboats launched to leisure craft including kitesurfers, windsurfers, wakeboarders and sailing boats. Currently the RNLI's crew members rescue an average of 21 people daily.
Only one in ten crew members join the RNLI with a professional maritime occupation so expert training to all volunteers is vital so that they can operate lifeboats, rescue casualties and bring the injured and traumatised safely home. I was amazed to learn that some of the crew members hold down completely separate nine to five jobs. They volunteer with the RHLI around this time and even if they are called out in the middle of the night they are more than willing and able to make a difference.
The Serious Fun! campaign, sponsored by Helly Hansen, has been set up to make people aware of the potential dangers that their watersport hobby can hold and how to prevent them. A free DVD is available for you to learn more about being safe in the water. The campaign also urges people to support the RNLI in their quest for sea safety, and at a time where kitesurfing and other watersports are bigger than ever the need for regular donations is huge. A regular contribution to the charity can ensure the upkeep of the RHLI's stations, boats, equipment, and its training facilities that provide lifesaving knowledge to all its volunteers.
To order your free Serious Fun! DVD click here
Thanks to Isla, Richard, Perry and Chris for making the media day happen
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