THEY’RE a dedicated team of volunteers who save lives at sea.
Now the RNLI has launched an awareness campaign which highlights the risks of being out on the water.
The aim of the ‘Respect the Water’ initiative is to educate swimmers in the hope the number of lives lost will be reduced.
A water punchbag challenge is running at the eastern side of South Parade Pier until Saturday to show people how difficult it is to fight against the sea.
There will be a cubic metre of water – weighing one tonne – on display to make people realise how heavy it really is.
In the Portsmouth area last year the charity was called out to help 14 boats that didn’t run on engines, of which two were in life-threatening situations.
Help was also given to 12 people who were in trouble on the shore, 13 swimmers in the water – of which one was in serious danger – 36 engine-powered vessels and 21 yachts.
Ross Macleod, the RNLI’s coastal safety manager, said: ‘The RNLI has been saving lives at sea now for 200 years.
‘In the south east last year there were about 34 coastal fatalities.
‘The drowning figures across the board are relatively high.
‘In order to achieve our vision of preventing loss of lives at sea we want to make to make people aware of the dangers.
‘Walking around the coast and going for a swim is more dangerous than you think.
The campaign was launched by England Rugby International and London Wasps flanker James Haskell at East Street Bastion on Brighton Beach on Friday.
He tried the punchbag challenge and gave up after six minutes.
The charity is urging people to make sure they swim on a beach that has lifeguards and keep between red and yellow flags.
People are also being advised to wear thermal protection because cold water can drain body heat very quickly.