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VIDEO: Staring down the sea

Saving lives is a tricky business — one that requires practice to be sharp when it counts most.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is Great Britain’s equivalent of the U.S. Coast Guard, but it is mostly composed of volunteers. We found this video of a lifeboat crew from Porthcawl, a port town on the south coast of Wales, about 25 miles west of the capital city, Cardiff, training recently in rough sea conditions.

Note that the Atlantic-class lifeboat they are aboard is anchored within the surf zone to help control the boat as the waves wash through to the beach behind them. Using this technique, the inflatable boat can be controlled by slowly releasing line out so the crew can get into confined positions where people in distress can be cut off by rising tides.

RNLI volunteers provide a 24-hour search-and-rescue service in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland from 236 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. RNLI lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 people since the organization was founded in 1824.