RNLI blames 'tricky' weather for SW lifeboat launch rise

St Helier's Tamar-class lifeboat
Image caption In the Channel Island of Jersey, the St Helier lifeboat was launched 33 times

"Tricky" weather has led to an increase in the number of lifeboat launches in south west England this summer, according to the RNLI.

Between 1 June and 31 August, lifeboat crews had 653 emergency call outs - 26 more than the same period last year.

Although the rise was slight, it bucked the national trend which saw a 2% fall in launches.

The charity said the unseasonable weather resulted in some extremely difficult rescues for its crews.

The RNLI's south-west region includes Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset and the Channel Islands.

Poole in Dorset and Falmouth in Cornwall were the busiest stations, with 45 call outs each, followed by Plymouth in Devon with 39 launches and St Helier in Jersey which dealt with 33 emergencies.

"This has been an unusual summer with some tricky weather," the RNLI's Insp Tom Mansell said.

He said the recent rescue of a surfer off Salcombe in strong winds and a heavy swell, showed how much was expected from the volunteer crews.

Insp Mansell also highlighted the rescues of two men who were rescued when their yacht capsized off Padstow and four groups of kayakers in trouble off Ilfracombe.

"These were all rescues carried out in very unseasonable weather," he said.

St Mary's all-weather lifeboat travelled the furthest distance in a single shout, when it was launched to rescue the catamaran Orinoco Flo 85 miles (137km) off the Isles of Scilly.

Meanwhile in Somerset, the Burnham-on-Sea lifeboat crews dealt with the longest shout of the summer - nearly 18 hours - when they joined the search for four-year-old Dylan Cecil, who drowned last month after slipping from a jetty while on a family holiday.

"Once again our volunteer crews have shown that they are committed and brave individuals, on standby to save lives at sea some rain or shine - even during summer when they deserved their own time off to be with their families," Insp Mansell added.

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