Volunteer crews at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) have seen a huge surge in rescues during the festive period over the course of the past 40 years, latest statistics from the charity reveal.

Between 24 December 2018 and 1 January 2019 RNLI volunteers were called to emergencies 155 times compared with just 21 occasions during the same period in 1978-79.

And, while most people are enjoying the seasonal festivities, RNLI volunteers from 238 lifeboat stations across the UK and Ireland will be ready to abandon dinners and gift-giving to save lives at sea.

The charity reports that reasons for call-outs over the festive period have changed over recent decades. Whereas once the RNLI crews were mostly heading to the aid of commercial fishing vessels, today they find themselves regularly helping people who have got into trouble while visiting the coast.

This year, Christmas will be particularly cherished by some families thanks to the RNLI.

Ben and Natalia Taylor, for example, will be meeting up with the crews at Hoylake and New Brighton after the lives of their twin daughters, Evie and Lola, 12, were dramatically saved earlier this year.

The family was holidaying in Kent when the twins, who were playing in the sea on an inflatable unicorn, were swept along by the wind and rapidly started heading out to sea.

RNLI lifeboats were launched from Ramsgate and Margate and their crews quickly discovered the girls had clung to a buoy and were safe and well after being picked up by a passing boat.

Ben said: “I cannot put into words the terror we experienced that day, it really put into perspective how precious life and family is. The advice given by the RNLI just a couple of days before on the beach told Lola and Evie about what to do if they got into trouble and helped to save their lives.”

To continue to provide its crucial services, both at Christmas and throughout the year, the RNLI is currently running a major fundraising appeal, The Perfect Storm, aimed at raising £1.8M and recruiting 12,000 new supporters.

The appeal has a dedicated web page at RNLI.org/ThePerfectStorm

Image: RNLI/Stephen Duncombe