Turning the tide

Words by Rosie Cattrell


The lifeguards of the RNLI are there for us in our hour of need, but who’s there for them?

© Robert Bye


Cornwall is famed and beloved by residents and visitors for its enchanting stretches of beach and rapturous crystal-clear waters that make for a utopic scene for any beachgoer, and on the right day the calm, glassy waters can be utterly irresistible. After an hour of lying on the soft Cornish sands, soaking up the rays on that long-awaited summer’s day, a dip into the big blue can be the perfect antidote when the heat starts to rise, and under the right conditions many of us enjoy a salty swim in perfect safety under the watchful eye of the lifeguards of the RNLI. But if caution isn’t exercised and rules aren’t followed, the results can be fatal.

RNLI assisting grounded cruiser

Newly clad lifeguard unit at Constantine

In the summer of 2001, the RNLI launched a trial project across 26 popular beaches throughout the south west with the aim of preventing loss of life for anyone who gets into trouble, as is so easily done, in the unpredictable waters off the coast of Cornwall and the surrounding areas. As of today, there are over 1,000 lifeguards patrolling over 240 beaches in the UK and just over 90 in the south west as part of a world-class lifesaving service. The results of their efforts speak for themselves, with 229,871 incidents attended and 1,462 lives saved by the lifeguards in the past 20 years. The four main attributes that the RNLI stand by is to be trustworthy, courageous, selfless and dependable, and it’s clearly being put into action!

Founded in 1824 by Sir William Hillary, the RNLI is entirely independent from the Coastguard and Government, which means they can really put their lifesaving ethos into action away from external influence, but this does mean exclusion from any sort of Government funding.

Left, Youghal RNLI called to a capsized kayaker near Knockadoon, right, RNLB Grace Darling

The brave deeds of the volunteers of the RNLI rely solely on donations from members of the public like you and I, and last winter the lifeguard team over in Constantine felt the warm embrace of their generous supporters thanks to three remarkable donations. The lifeguard hut at the top of Constantine beach was looking a little ragged after years of taking a battering from stormy winter seas, but thanks to the kind donation of materials from roofing and façade company Cedral, the hut has been re-clad and now has a fresh, contemporary feel, in keeping with its surroundings and better protected from the storms that hit the north Cornish coast, reducing any future maintenance costs which may hinder our lifesavers.

Alongside this much needed upgrade, the lifeguard team were astonished to receive an incredible donation of £10,000 from a supporter who had seen these heroes in action, which has gone a long way to improving their lifesaving facilities. A new ‘board bin’ has appeared in front of the facility, storing rescue boards and first aid equipment, which now allows lifeguards and other trained members of the community to access the equipment out of hours if there is an emergency.

The team are putting the money to excellent use, with the remainder going towards fitting out a brand-new garage store, generously provided by developers Acorn Blue, with an inshore rescue boat and an all-terrain vehicle. The garage store in question has been kindly built for the RNLI on the former Treglos Hotel site, having now been sold to Acorn Blue by Jim Barlow, who had sensibly stipulated that as part of the sale, the new owners replace the lifeguard storage garage with a purpose built one, providing better facilities and available for use all year round, which means that the new vehicles are kept closer to the beach, and can be cleaned and maintained in situ, so they’re ready for action all season round. All this beach tech brings a level of lifesaving service that Hasselhoff himself would be proud of.

As a local company, Acorn Blue has a particular interest in the lifesaving team, as Regional Managing Director, Stuart Brereton, explains: “With our regional office based in Newquay and numerous beach side developments, we see the incredible lifesaving work the RNLI do first hand, so I am thrilled that we have been able to provide the RNLI team at Constantine Bay a purpose-built unit for them to store and maintain their equipment year-round.”

The new garage store donated by Acorn Blue

As you can imagine, RNLI Lead Lifeguard Supervisor for the area, Max Setti, has been blown away by the kindness of these supporters: “We are so incredibly grateful to have received three separate donations this winter. These generous gifts have enabled us to significantly upgrade our facilities at Constantine, both for the lifeguards and the public using the beach. The upgrades mean our equipment and buildings can be protected and cared for throughout each season, and it will also enhance the service we can provide to the public, as well as the working environment of our lifeguards.”

While it is important to remember to exercise caution if you’re planning a seaside trip, there’s nothing to stop you enjoying the sparkling Cornish sea this summer if you follow the safety guidelines and listen to Max’s advice: “We’re expecting a busy season ahead as many people will chose to holiday closer to home this year. If you’re heading to the coast please choose a lifeguarded beach and follow our safety advice, as well as the latest government advice on social distancing, travel and contact with others when visiting the beach to keep yourselves and our lifeguards safe. If you see anyone in difficulty, alert the lifeguards and call 999 and ask for the Coastguard. The lifeguarding team will be following the same protocols and measures introduced last year because of coronavirus and will be very happy to speak to you.” A list of lifeguarded beaches can be found on the RNLI website, every one of them a shining gem of Cornwall.


rnli.org