James Cracknell Visits Chiswick Lifeboat Crew Ahead of Boat Race

Double Olympic gold medallist is the event's oldest ever competitor

James Cracknell with the crew at Chiswick Pier. Picture: RNLI

March 28, 2024

Members of the RNLI Chiswick Lifeboat received a visit from the oldest ever competitor in the University Boat Race this Thursday (28 March) as they were making preparations for the event this Sunday.

Former Chiswick resident James Cracknell paid them a visit as they geared up to provide safety coverage for rowers and spectators this Sunday.

The 51-year-old, who has won gold medals at two Olympics as well as six world championships, is also notable for being the oldest person ever to row in the race between Oxford and Cambridge being in the winning light blue crew in 2019.

James said: ‘It was great to get on the water today with the crew at Chiswick RNLI, it was far easier going down the Championship course on a lifeboat than rowing it.

‘The lifeboat crew are ready to respond at a moment’s notice 24/7 and I hope this year’s race goes without them needing too much involvement.’

With thousands of people expected to gather on the banks of the River Thames in London along the four-mile course, RNLI lifeguards and volunteer lifeboat crews will be on the water on eight rescue craft.

But it’s not just the spectators they are keeping safe. In last year’s men’s race, as the rowers crossed the finish line, one of the Oxford team became unresponsive and required medical assistance. Chiswick’s crew were quickly on-scene taking the unresponsive rower onboard and transferring them ashore for further medical care.

With the race taking place on the tidal part of the Thames, RNLI crews have often assisted those cut off by the tide back to a safe location. On race day in 2015, lifeboats assisted in evacuating more than 50 people cut off along the foreshore at Hammersmith.

Chiswick RNLI Station Manager, Wayne Bellamy said, ‘Our advice to those coming to enjoy the day is to be aware of your surroundings, as slips trips and falls can happen easily, and keep children close by when near the water’s edge.

‘If you do fall into the water unexpectedly, remember to float to live. Keep calm and try not to panic, lean back extending your arms and legs to keep your airway clear of the water and if you need to, gently move your arms and legs in a gentle motion to help you float. Once you have your breathing under control then consider swimming to a point of safety.

‘If you do see anyone in trouble, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard and if you can, try and give a location as this will help rescue services get to those in difficulty quicker.’

This year, the RNLI celebrates its 200th birthday and during that time has saved more than 146,000 lives. RNLI lifeboats have been operating on the River Thames since 2002 and during that time have launched 18,544 times, aided 6,184 people and saved 680 lives.

For further information about the RNLI’s 200th anniversary, visit RNLI.org/200.

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