‘Safest ever boat race’ – London RNLI applauds river users after zero incidents

Lifeboats News Release

Lifesavers at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in London are thrilled after the weekend’s University Boat Race went off without a single casualty or incident on the River Thames.

The lifesaving charity traditionally launches its lifeboats during the iconic rowing race between Oxford and Cambridge universities, to stand by and respond to all manner of incidents. In recent years the lifeboat crews have had to deal with as many as 80 different incidents including lost children, people in the river, and slips, trips and falls.

Recently the charity also began bringing a small team of its beach lifeguards up from the coast, as well as its face-to-face fundraising team, to take advantage of the huge crowds and drum up support.

But Wayne Bellamy, manager of Chiswick RNLI Lifeboat Station, said the 2017 event was a massive milestone for everyone concerned, with not a single incident for its lifeboats crews and lifeguards.

Wayne said: ‘This is fantastic, when you consider two years ago we had 88 incidents on race day, things like spectators having a few too many drinks and ending up in the river, and even a boy who got separated from his parents and ended up sat on a wall cut off from the foreshore by the rising tide.

‘Last year there were only eight incidents which we responded to, and the worst it got was a person with a broken leg. This year – not a single incident. That is fantastic, and is testament to the great organisation of the event and – the RNLI would like to think – people heeding safety warnings by ourselves and other agencies.’

For this year’s University Boat Race, Chiswick RNLI Lifeboat Station had its usual presence of two lifeboats on the water, crewed by a mixture of full time and volunteer lifeboat crew members. In addition, the RNLI utilised 18 lifeguards garnered from beaches around the south east, and 8 inshore rescue watercrafts, which are usually used by said lifeguards to rescue people in distress in the water.

‘Wayne said: ‘Not only were there no incidents, our face-to-face fundraising team spoke to more than 3,500 people about the work of the RNLI, so we hope a significant proportion of those learned a bit more about what we do and will consider supporting the charity in some way in the future.’

The RNLI was established in 1824 and to this day remains a charity that relies almost entirely on voluntary contributions. In 2002 the RNLI set up a lifeboat service on the tidal stretches of the River Thames, and two of those stations – Tower and Chiswick – are the busiest ones year in year out.

‘I’d like to pay tribute to everyone who was involved in making this year’s University Boat Race such a safe and enjoyable event,’ said Wayne, ‘including the organising committee, the Port of London Authority, and the UK Coastguard in London. Long may this record of safety continue.’

RNLI media contacts

  • Tim Ash, RNLI Public Relations Manager (London/East/South East) on 0207 6207426, 07785 296252 tim_ash@rnli.org.uk
  • Paul Dunt, RNLI Press Officer (London/East/South East) on 0207 6207416, 07786 668825, paul_dunt@rnli.org.uk
  • For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.