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SAVING LIVES

Andy Butterfield talks about his work as an RNLI volunteer, staying safe in the water and his enjoyment of open water swimming

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is staffed primarily by volunteers. While its tagline is “The Charity that Saves Lives at Sea”, it also works inland. In fact, its busiest station is Tower, on the Thames at Victoria Embankment in Central London, which receives around 500 call-outs (or shouts) per year. The busiest coastal station is Poole, which receives around 180 shouts per year. Teddington, at the tidal limit of the Thames, had 80 last year.

The nature of the work naturally depends on the location of the station. While we do also get boat-related incidents at Teddington (typically breakdowns or boats running out of fuel), these are far fewer than you would get in a coastal station. On the river, we are often called to alcohol and mental health related incidents. These typically involve jumping or the threat of people jumping from bridges or sometimes people who have gone missing and were last seen ‘heading towards the river’. Unfortunately, we also get too many young men swimming when drunk and then drowning.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

One of the things that keeps me going through the winter is my daily outdoor dip, whatever the weather or temperature. A few years ago this would have been considered pretty odd behaviour by many, but opinions seem to be changing as outdoor swimming and cold water swimming is featured more and more in the media. Indeed, a group of sea swimmers now feature daily on the BBC in the short films between programmes! Find out the story behind the swimmers in our news section. Elsewhere in the magazine we hear from Beth French about her close encounter with a shark in the Molokai Channel, we meet English Channel swimming legends Kevin Murphy and Sally Minty-Gravett and gain an insight into what happens when a swim goes wrong from Mickey Helps’s story of his unsuccessful two-way English Channel swim. I have really been enjoying Terry Laughlin’s series on mindfulness in swimming, which he brings to a close this issue with a look at swimming as ‘moving meditation’. It is a really interesting element to introduce to your training sessions. If you haven’t decided what swims you would like to complete in 2017, check out our event listings. And remember, events are not just for competitive swimmers – a race is only a race if you race it, otherwise it is just a lovely swim. We have some exciting news to share about H2Open – turn to page 27 to learn about our big plans for 2017 and how the magazine is changing. Enjoy the magazine and happy swimming.
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