By Robert Gofton, CEO

It’s been a busy few weeks for RLSS UK and Ireland, with 2020 set to be an exciting year in the history of the Charity.

Typically, I can’t say too much yet as that would spoil the surprise but keep an eye out for our new strategic plan, accompanied by some great new innovations and initiatives!

RLSS UK and Ireland is a great organisation and we are building on the solid foundations entrenched at the beginning of this year. I believe we can do much more to help save lives, reduce the number of drownings across the UK and Ireland and lessen the impact on those affected by tragedy. Collaboration and partnership are a key theme for me as I believe that one organisation, on its own, could struggle to make a significant individual impact on the drowning statistics.

I’m a big fan of Sir David Brailsford’s ‘marginal gains*’ philosophy - a philosophy he developed that is credited with transforming British Cycling into the global success it is today. I believe that, in our organisation, in order to achieve our mission, we need to look at small, incremental, collective improvements to make bigger cumulative gains. The best way to do this is to work with like-minded organisations, so we are pooling all our collective skills.

And speaking of live sport, this leads me nicely into my first experience of lifesaving as a sport when I recently attended the Commonwealth Festival of Lifesaving. This magnificent international sporting event was followed by the incredibly technical, RLSS UK National Lifesaving Championships and National Simulated Emergency Response Championships; all the events were held at Leeds’ John Charles Centre for Sport and I would like to thank everyone involved for helping put on a fabulous few days.

As a newbie to these events I was struck by their contrast: the speed and explosiveness of the sport and some of the events, versus the brilliant technical skills of lifesaving performed in a high-pressure environment. There really was something for all ages and abilities…so much so (and for a very brief moment) I did think about getting in the pool and giving it a go!

Congratulations to everyone who entered the competition and, whether they won a medal, earned a PB or it was their first event, they should be incredibly proud of their performances.

A special mention goes to all our home nations and there were some fine individual performances from Zara Williams of Team Wales, who topped the podium with a fantastic 00:33.67, nearly three seconds faster than the nearest competitor and Andrew Morley of Team England, with his Commonwealth record in the 50m manikin carry.

Seeing Team England take the National Team Trophy, the Prince Michael of Kent silver salver, for the very first time was amazing! But also, I’d like to particularly acknowledge the Jersey and Northern Ireland athletes, who competed for first time in the new competition format and saw Jersey’s Adrian Attwell take away a medal, in the challenge event. The Medley Relay finished up the programme for the Championships element of the Festival and the team, consisting of Richard Jagger, Ben Taylor Walsh, Sam Lawman, Andrew Morley started the 3rd leg in a comfortable second and absolutely flew down the pool to pip the Australians at the finish – a race I’m sure the spectators will never forget.

I was also incredibly struck by the positive spirit in which everyone competed, demonstrated magnificently by cheers and a standing ovation for Oba Waiyaki from Kenya, who was awarded the Mrs Henry Cup. It was a moment to behold, raised a lump in your throat and perfectly summed up the Festival. I had the absolute honour of presenting him with his trophy and it was awarded, not only for his points score but also, on his participation and engagement throughout the Festival including support of his team, support of other competing teams and engagement with other competitors and officials. An absolute testimony to the joie-de-vivre he brought to the event. 

Behind all events is a great team and, although I don’t like singling out individuals when so many have contributed, I do want to give a specific mention to Elouise Greenwood and Teresa Myatt from RLSS UK HQ, who worked tirelessly to make both events a success. It’s a privilege to work with such talented and committed individuals.

With Christmas around the corner we have two core focal points in the build-up:

Monday 2 December sees the start of our winter Don’t Drink and Drown campaign week. Running 2 -8 December but with the important advice valid for the whole winter, our message is clear: have fun but stay safe, particularly if you’ve had an eggnog too many and you are walking home near water.

Remember: #Beamate and make sure nobody gets left behind!

For most of us, the festive season is full of joy, happiness, celebration and a time to spend with friends - at such a hectic time of year, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of parties, purchases and presents.

Our Christmas Appeal introduces our A-Z of festive fundraising ideas, with something to suit everyone from colleagues to friends and families. Using the strapline ‘Yule Save A Life’ the pack opens with a heartfelt letter from Vicki Jones, Tom’s mum, with a strong personal message of support for our lifesaving work.

We’ve created two e-cards for you to use in lieu of traditional cards – why not donate your saved postage to RLSS UK this year? It’s an easy step to raising funds and a climate-considerate choice, win-win!

You can download the cards and the pack from the fundraising section which can be found here.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, stay safe, look out for each other and I look forward to catching up with you in 2020!



* A quick internet search will bring up lots of information if you want to find out more about a ‘marginal gains’ approach.