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February 7 2012.

Crew members at lifeboat stations around the coast of Sussex and Hampshire launched their lifeboats a total of 990 times in 2011, assisting a total of 1,054 people.

Of the 15 Royal National Lifeboat Institution stations across the two counties, Eastbourne, in East Sussex, was the fourth busiest lifeboat station across the UK and the Republic of Ireland, according to the charity's annual statistics.

The number of rescue launches equates to a total of 6,188 hours spent on service by lifeboats - a figure made all the more impressive considering the RNLI remains a charity that relies on voluntary contributions and donations for its lifesaving efforts.

Fundraisers for the charity hope the annual statistics - which show the RNLI had its second busiest year ever - will highlight the need for funding towards the cost of replacement lifejackets for volunteer crew members.

The new lifejackets have been produced in collaboration with Crewsaver and were trialled at a total of 14 stations over a six month period allowing for additional feedback. They provide more buoyancy, greater freedom of movement and comfort, use a more flexible material, and offer improved fastening and easier adjustment when worn, meaning that one size fits all potential wearers. However, the new lifejackets come at a price - it will cost £46,500 to fund the replacement lifejackets at the 15 stations in Hampshire and Sussex.

The 2011 lifeboat statistics show the following number of launches in 2011:

Overall, lifeboats from the RNLI's 235 stations in the UK and Republic of Ireland launched a total of 8,905 times 2011, an increase on the 8,713 lifeboat launches in 2010. Overall crews assisted a total of 7,976 people, a slight decrease on the 8,313 people assisted in 2010.

Breaking the figures down, close to 18% (1,641) of lifeboat call-outs last year were attributed to machinery failure, of this 978 (60%) launches were to powered pleasure craft, 383 (23%) to sail pleasure craft and 217 (13%) to fishing vessels.

Andrew Ashton, Divisional Inspector for the RNLI East Division, said: "These figures show our lifeboat crews were once again involved in a great many rescues on the seas around the south east of England - nearly 1,000 incidents where people were in distress.

"From capsized rowing vessels to stranded kayakers, from drowning pets to broken down motorboats, from walkers cut off by the tide to sea anglers caught out by bad weather - our crews launch to whoever is in trouble, whenever they're in trouble. But they can only do what they do with training, and with the best equipment possible. Which is why the RNLI is replacing lifejackets around the coast of the UK and Republic of Ireland. Throughout the rest of the year we will be fundraising to help fund these new lifejackets, so we hope that these figures speak to the hearts of the nation and they can help us help others."

To find out more about the RNLI, visit