Volunteers of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) will be on standby during the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race, which takes place from 1 to 19 November at the V & A Waterfront, ensuring that all yacht crew as well as water sports enthusiasts are safely welcomed onto the shores of Cape Town. The NSRI has over 900 unpaid volunteers who respond 24/7, 365 days a year to save lives in South African waters. They also teach disadvantaged children about basic water safety through their proactive educational initiative, the WaterWise Academy.
Says Andrew Ingram of the NSRI, “It’s fantastic to welcome the Volvo fleet again this year – the teams and all the visitors who come to visit Cape Town as well as the magnificent yachts. The excitement is extraordinary and we look forward to the very well organised event. One of our duties will be to see off the fleet on 19 November – a real honour.” According to Ingram, the NSRI volunteers will respond to any emergency as usual, “We’ll only respond to emergencies or when asked to assist by the race officials. Yachts will come into Cape Town under their own power and be assisted by the Volvo RIB as needed. In previous years, we have been asked to assist yachts into their berths. It’s seldom that the racing fleet needs assistace. More often it’s the boats going out to watch the fleet departing that need our help. At the start of the race, we’ll have four sea rescue boats on the water, including our 10m deep sea rescue boat Spirit of Vodacom, as well as the 5,5m Rotary Endeavour.” With regards to the event, there will be two rescue displays. Ingram continues, “The first one will take place on 1 November and the second on 2 November in front of the Volvo Ocean Race Village. The displays will include the SAPS dive unit as well as the AMS helicopter.”
When asked what participants can expect of the Cape of Storms, Ingram comments, “Who knows? Perhaps dead calm, or South Easterly gale force winds. Regardless of what Mother Nature has in store, the Mother City will no doubt welcome the teams with open arms. It’s early November, so the South Easter may well make things very exciting.” It all started for the NSRI in 1966 at Stilbaai on the East coast, just below Mossel Bay. Says Ingram, “Seventeen fishermen drowned after three fishing boats sank in a terrible storm. There were four boats out that day and only one came back. Oom Gerhard Dreyer, now deep in his 80’s, was the skipper of that boat and remembers how he and his crew threw everything that they could, including the fish that they had caught, off the ‘skuit’, making it as light as they could. He then turned the bow into the storm and headed out to sea. In the small hours of the morning, as the storm was abating, Oom Gerhard turned back to shore, and amongst the wreckage of the other boats he found a lone survivor from the other three ‘skuits’. It was fisherman John Aries, who was clinging to a life ring, and was so shocked that he could not talk.”
Following this tragic incident, Miss Pattie Price (whose own life had been saved by a RNLI lifeboat in the English Channel) began a committed letter-writing campaign to motivate for the formation of a sea rescue organisation in South Africa. Ingram continues, “Captain Bob Deacon and Ray Lant were the first volunteers to respond to this call and in 1967 the South African In shore Rescue Service (SAISRS) was born – its first rescue craft – a 4.7m inflatable boat called Snoopy was donated by the Society of Master Mariners. Soon the SAISRS became the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and today carries on the proud tradition of volunteering started in 1967.” All rescue crew of the National Rescue Institute (NSRI) are still unpaid volunteers.
“From that first inflatable boat, which was manned by two men who sometimes had to strap it to the roof of their vehicle and drive it to where it was needed for a rescue, the organisation now has over 900 highly trained volunteers at 31 bases around the coast and on 4 inland dams,” comments Ingram. A massive organisation, with phenomenal support from the community, NSRI has an annual running cost of over R52.5m that is used to run 90 rescue craft, 29 rescue vehicles, 10 quad bikes and 10 tractors. According to Ingram, the NSRI’s proactive educational initiative, the WaterWise Academy, was launched in 2006. “The Academy has twelve instructors spread out from Soweto to Ceres to Nyanga, and their jobs include teaching children how to avoid danger, what to do in an emergency, who to call for help, as well as giving them the confidence to initiate basic bystander CPR while they wait for an ambulance to arrive.”
The WaterWise Academy is aimed at disadvantaged youth and since its inception is very proud to have taught over 550 000 children about basic water safety. Last year, the NSRI responded 662 times with 3 992 total operational hours and 7 903 hours of training rescuing 1131 people. Ingram concludes, “By far the largest contribution (47%) of funds donated to Sea Rescue comes from private individuals, the majority of them through incentivised giving. Our other income comes from interest on our savings, corporate donations, events, legacies, ACSA, trusts, the state, shipping levies and fuel companies.”
Enter the NSRI’s debit order competition for only R50 per month . Each month your donation will automatically come off your account. Each month five lucky people can win R10 000 – and at the end of the year a grand prize of R100 000 is drawn. All you have to do participate is call the (NSRI) Call Centre on 021-430 4701 or send an email to email@example.com.
Alternatively you can donate R595 and stand the chance to win one of two Mitsubishi vehicles. The number of tickets is limited to 28 000. Second prize is R250,000.00 cash (a quarter of a million Rand) and third prize is a fantastic trip for two on the Queen Mary 2 to Southampton, including return flights valued at over R75,000. To participate, phone the NSRI Call Centre on (021) 430 4702 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.