Lifeboat saviours

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The Independent Online
Lifeboat crews around the British coast were as busy as ever this year as amateur sailors and holidaymakers ignored weather forecasts and tide tables.

Lifeboats launched 5,388 times during the year and saved an average of three lives a day, according to statistics released by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), which says that 1,248 lives were saved. In addition, 902 people at risk were "landed", and 3,224 people were "brought in" before their situation deteriorated to the point where they were at risk. Where ages were recorded, 302 call-outs involved children.

Pleasure sailors continued to account for the largest number of rescues. Pleasure craft, including wind-surfers, accounted for 3,022 of the call- outs, while people cut off by the tide or in trouble in the sea accounted for 1,165. Altogether, 4,133 leisure users were assisted and craft to the value of pounds 37m recovered. August was the busiest month, with 1,171 launches and 296 lives saved. Nationwide, the volunteer crews spent 39,250 hours at sea, 178 in winds over Force 7 and 1,990 in darkness.

An RNLI survey showed one in five people do not check the forecast before they set sail while more than one in four ignore tide tables and charts. Yet almost half the commercial fishermen questioned and a quarter of the leisure users had been involved in a life-threatening situation at sea.

"It is rather disheartening," said an RNLI spokeswoman. "We would urge people to check the basics and take fundamental precautions before they head out."

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