Torbay Lifeboat Lifesaving Plan

Torbay Lifeboat Lifesaving Plan
Reviewed and updated DEC 21

Ending preventable loss of life in the sea in Torbay Lifeboat’s area of operation through education, accident reduction initiatives, emergency response and community engagement.

There are three major towns within Torbay with an overall population of 150,000, a significant percentage of which are empty nesters and those actively retired. 

Tor Bay Harbour is 16 square miles of open sea with 22 miles of coastline with Torbay Lifeboat also covering an area outside of the harbour limits from Maidencombe in the north, to Scabbacombe in the south. The area extends considerably when covering the flank stations of Dartmouth and Teignmouth, neither of which have an AWLB.  The area also covers 50 miles seawards into Lyme Bay and the English Channel. 

The area is one of the UK’s major tourism destinations and is therefore the major industry.  All forms of water sport and coastal activity are undertaken with many visiting vessels either in transit or using Torbay as a destination.  There are three harbours, three marinas, hundreds of resident boats. Four slipways accommodate hundreds of slip launched boats, Kayaks, PWC and Dinghies during the summer season. During 2021 there has been a huge increase in Kayaking, SUPs, foils, and open water swimming, the latter all year round. The use of PWCs has also significantly increased. Shore angling, coastal walking (South West Coast Path runs through the area) and diving continue to expand

In addition to the leisure boating referred to above Brixham accommodates a major fishing fleet (the largest in the UK by value of catch). Commercial vessels anchor (awaiting orders, taking stores and crew changes) and Cruise ships RN vessels also visit. There are also numerous ferries operating out of each port together with leisure fishing charter vessels. The harbour authority have reported numerous near misses across all vessel types

 There will hopefully be numerous maritime events running out of all three harbours during the summer 2022 season (including national and international). The harbour also accommodates a significant number of heritage sailing vessels.

The area has many coves, sea caves, and 11 major beaches and is a global Geopark. The majority of the largest beaches have gently sloping access to the sea without any surf or rip or tidal currents with prevailing winds being off shore. They are therefore not manned by lifeguards or council/harbour authority Beach managers/staff. The area is covered by two coastguard rescue teams based at Paignton and Brixham.

The mix of activities across some of the beaches is becoming an issue particularly PWC, foils, windsurfers and swimmers. Broadsands and Elbury being the worst

Emergency Assets
Based at Torbay Lifeboat Station

RNLI ILB D class lifeboat
Based at Torbay Lifeboat Station.

NCI Lookout
National Coast Watch Look Out at Daddyhole Plain, Torquay.

HM Coastguard Coastal Rescue Teams
Based at Paignton and Brixham

SAR Helicopter on call

Who Is Most at Risk?

The Risks
In 2021 there were 100+ lifeboat launches. The reasons for launch have not changed to any great extent over the year with calls to asst Police/HMCG re vulnerable people remaining a major factor. SUP users needed assistance for the first time and the overall beach /related activity shouts increased. This in part was the brief   window of opportunity re Covid lock down/Staycations-

Mechanical failure in all type of vessels was down by 50%

The figures were based on Lifeboat launch data only and do not include HMCG data or incidents where the RNLI has not been involved. The majority of incidents where ‘Oscar 4’ the harbour authority patrol boat assisted in the main were to inflatables and mechanical failure and the authority recorded numerous near misses across vessel types

Incidents afloat all vessels incl MFVs

Vessels including MFVs
In 2021 the majority of calls to vessels with mechanical/electrical failure of one type or another, fire and adrift etc also occurred
Wind surfing and kite surfing generally only operates in high winds at Preston beach only.

MULTIPLE ACTIVITIES – The interaction between swimmers, manual craft, powered and PWC inside the seasonal 5kt buoys is a significant risk which has constantly registered with the harbour authority. There is a safety forum established and a consultative document produced re activity lanes. However changes and serious illness in TBHA has put this on the back burner. The establishment of TBHA volunteer beach wardens has also been put on hold

Manually powered craft
A low but growing percentage of launches to kayaks, and paddle boards.  This sport is growing rapidly particularly with the advent of sit-on kayaks and paddleboards. Rental of paddleboards is also growing.

Wind surfing and kite surfing generally only operates in high winds at Preston beach only.

Whilst a low percentage of calls for help, diving incidents have a high risk of loss of life and numbers participating from Boats and Breakwater beach is high all year round. Sadly one death occurred


Missing Persons/Persons at risk in distress
Persons reported as being missing, in distress , vulnerable,at risk of drowning, with assistance   being sought by the police/hmcg . Some are sadly repeat `offenders’ and most are recovered by emergency services. However, there are annually a  number of deaths that occur .

Cut Off By Tide
The areas where people, usually children/teenagers get cut off are well known i.e. Livermead, Corbyn and Roundham Heads but this number has reduced .

Off shore swimming
Growing number of participants with the major issue being collision risk with PWC/Vessels.

Injuries /illness
Most Injuries and illnesses occur ashore with the former the result of cliff falls and those scrambling on rocks, steps etc. Increased in 2021

Leisure Angling
Both shore and boat angling have risks especially as the former is often carried out alone from areas with difficult access. Not wearing lifejackets and not being aware of the dangers continues to be an issue

Dog walking
Every year there are instances where dogs/owners are rescued following coastal/cliff path falls.

Planned/Existing Intervention (PDF download)

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