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Ilfracombe RNLI launched to swimmers in difficulties off Woolacombe beach

Lifeboats News Release

The Ilfracombe RNLI lifeboat was launched to assist two swimmers who were in difficulties in large swells off Woolacombe beach. This was the second time in two days that the lifeboat had been tasked to assist swimmers in the bay.

Shannon class lifeboat at sea returning to station

RNLI/Neil Perrin

Ilfracombe RNLI lifeboat returning from Woolacombe

The Ilfracombe RNLI all-weather lifeboat The Barry and Peggy High Foundation was paged by Coastguard at 6.18 p.m. on Friday 26 July and the volunteer crew launched and made their way to Woolacombe Bay to arrive on scene only 13 minutes later. Conditions from Ilfracombe were calm allowing the lifeboat to make good speed however, as the lifeboats rounded Morte Point the crew encountered a large two to three metre swell, which increased to three to four meters as they approached the beach.

As the lifeboat reached the scene the first swimmer was found to have been rescued by a surfer who had managed to take them to the beach. A second surfer had been unable to reach the other swimmer, but was able to point out their location to the crew. The crew began to make their way to the second swimmer, however, as the crew approached Mill Rock in the centre of the bay, outside the breaking waves, in the green water, a large four meter wave unexpectedly broke directly over the lifeboat. The huge volume of water swamped the crew at the wheelhouse and caused the lifejackets of the two crew in the bow to be set off. Despite this the lifeboat continued on its way looking for the swimmer. A few moments later it was seen that another surfer had found the second swimmer and had managed to get them to the beach.

The Croyde and Morthoe Coastguards were on scene at the beach and the swimmers were taken Morthoe and Croyde Coastguard stations to recover. The lifeboat then returned to station.

This was the second rescue of swimmers off Woolacombe beach in two days for Ilfracombe RNLI. Whilst on normal training exercise on Thursday 25 July, the crew were tasked to assist two swimmers who had got into difficulties in the same place.

Andrew Bengey, RNLI Volunteer Coxswain says: ‘as the main school holiday starts we would advise people to take care when entering the water and take note of local conditions and rip tides. Where possible swim at a lifeguarded beach and between the yellow and red flags. If you do get into difficulties remember to float rather than fighting the water. The RNLI website has lots of good advice to help people enjoy the water safely this summer.’

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

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