THE RNLI crew in Lyme Regis has been learning the ropes for new emergency rescue missions to help watersports enthusiasts in trouble.

Following the recent stormy conditions and an increasing social media presence from watersports shop Boylo’s, Lyme Regis is now becoming the go-to place for kitesurfing, and the RNLI decided to brush up on their skills to ensure they are well-equipped to help those in need.

Kitesurfing has been a popular sport in British waters for a number of years, due to the coastal winds and choppy seas making conditions for the sport ideal.

The sport involves the enthusiasts using a modified surfboard, whilst holding a specially designed kite to trap the air and use it for propulsion.

Murray Saunders, 28, is a volunteer for the RNLI and works at Boylo’s, which is on the seafront. He said: “When there is a storm coming through there can be up to seven or eight kitesurfers in the water.

“The problem we get here in Lyme Regis is there are reefs which create the good waves but when the wind picks up, and because of the angle of the bay, you can be a mile out to sea and not get back on land.

“If you are a mile out the next stop for dry land is Charmouth which is three or four miles away and that is the danger because it does go wrong.

“It is brilliant for the sport but the better it gets for the sport the more dangerous it gets, and that is half the buzz.

“It is not a dangerous place by any means but the sport has the potential that when it goes wrong it can go very wrong.”

The RNLI crew were taught vital lifesaving skills, such as how to correctly detach an unconscious person from a kite and how to ensure the kite’s lines were not tangled in the boat’s propellers.

Kitesurfing emergencies can be particularly difficult for the RNLI, as the kitesurfers are often dragged across the water at high speeds, and have vowed to conduct similar exercise training sessions throughout the year, to make sure they are equipped should an emergency arise. Mr Saunders added: “The training is going very well so far.

“We had a quiet summer really but we have had a busy start to the year, and a few instances with kitesurfers, but there have been no serious incidents yet. But it is only a matter of time until something happens. As it gets a more popular place more people will come here and that increases the likelihood of something happening, so it’s important to get the training in now and to make sure it’s hands-on training.”

Busy year for lifesavers

VOLUNTEER lifeboat crews have been praised for their dedication and commitment after the RNLI released figures on the number of ‘shouts’ in 2013.

In a year in which weather information from the Met Office showed we had the coldest spring since 1962, the hottest summer for seven years and the windiest December since 1963, RNLI lifesavers in the south-west spent 10,207 hours helping others in trouble at sea, the equivalent of 425 days. In addition they spent a further 23,368 hours (974 days) on weekly training exercises on the water. Lyme Regis inshore lifeboat launched 31 times, helping 34 people and spending 165 hours at sea.

That compares to 45 launches in 2012 – one of the crews’ busiest years ever. RNLI lifeguards at Lyme Regis and West Bay beaches dealt with 144 incidents, and assisted 145 people.

In 2012 they dealt with 177 incidents and assisted 179 people.

Andy Hurley, RNLI regional operations manager, said: “The figures go some way to illustrating the incredible dedication shown by the charity’s volunteers, without whom we could not carry out our core purpose to save lives at sea. These volunteers are equipped and trained to respond to all kinds of incidents whatever the weather throws at them. However it is a massive commitment, not only for them, but for their families, loved ones and employers who must also become part of the wider RNLI family.”

Sailing pleasure craft accounted for the greater number of rescues in the region of 326 and powered pleasure craft accounted for 317 call-outs.