Tales of Eastbourne RNLI drama and heroism

With more 18,000 copies sold last year, Surviving the Storms – a collection of first-hand accounts of some of the most dramatic rescues carried out by RNLI lifesavers – has been released in paperback.

Dave Riley
Dave Riley

It features the story of a former Eastbourne volunteer.

Surviving the Storms recounts 11 of the charity’s most remarkable rescues from the past two decades. These are stories of extraordinary courage and compassion at sea, providing a rare insight into the life-or-death decisions the RNLI’s lifesavers have to make when battling the forces of nature to save lives.

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Current Poole RNLI volunteer Dave Riley was a crew member on board Eastbourne RNLI’s Mersey class lifeboat when it launched in gale force conditions in October 2002 to go to the aid of two people onboard Paperchase, a 33ft yacht in difficulty at the entrance to Sovereign Harbour.

This rescue story features in the book.

“Working as a team under the command of coxswain Mark Sawyer, the Eastbourne lifeboat launched in darkness and into breaking seas as the yacht was hit by waves and taken off course into the shallows,” Dave recalls.

“As events unfolded, things went from bad to worse as the yacht started to sink with two people in the water. One of the volunteer crew, Dan Guy, risked his own life and found himself in the water tethered only by his lifejacket harness as he held onto the skipper to save his life.”

The chapter is written from Dave’s perspective and tells of that night’s events which saw coxswain Mark Sawyer receive a Silver Medal for Gallantry and Dan Guy, a Bronze Medal for Gallantry.

Dave said: “That night is one I’ll always remember. As we arrived at the yacht’s location I could see the waves hitting it and one person clinging to the mast. They were in real danger.

“The coxswain of the lifeboat had to make some rapid decisions as we were also batting breaking seas. We fired a line over to the yacht only for it to start sinking a short time later, throwing two people into the water.

“Thankfully, both people were recovered onto the lifeboat, cold and shaken, but otherwise unharmed.

“I’m proud to see this story featured in the book alongside so many other incredible rescues by the RNLI’s lifeguards and lifeboat crews right across the UK and Ireland.”

The paperback, which has a recommended retail price of £9.99, is available to buy now.