Lifeboat crews in the region had a 'summer like no other' – with a 33 per cent per cent increase in the numbers of rescues compared to the previous year.

After the initial pandemic travel restrictions were eased, tens of thousands of people headed to the coast.

With fine weather and people unable to travel abroad, Dorset beaches – particularly around the Lulworth area – were packed out with authorities having to close some areas and turn people away. Major incidents were declared in Dorset as thousands flocked to the coast and there were multiple incidents in a short space of time.

The RNLI, whose crews were kept extremely busy at the seaside with a range of different incidents, has released figures which focus on beach, recreational activities because there was such a huge influx of people heading to the beach in the summer after the lockdown.

As previously reported, HM Coastguard also saw its busiest ever summer on record this year.

Preliminary RNLI figures for the south west (June 1 to August 31) – which includes Weymouth and Lyme Regis stations – revealed that although the number of call-outs was down slightly, lifeboats went to the rescue of 108 people involved in watersports compared to 81 last year.

A breakdown of the figures shows 13 people were helped on inflatables (8 in 2019) – a 62 per cent increase and 20 people involved in 'waterside activities' were rescued (12 in 2019) – an increase of 66 per cent.

The growing popularity of paddleboards this year is also reflected in the figures. In 2019 the south west’s lifeboats launched five times and two paddleboarders were assisted. In 2020 the number of launches to this activity increased to 12 and 13 people were assisted by the volunteer crews.

The RNLI’s Head of Water Safety, Gareth Morrison, said: "Our volunteer crews have been on call throughout the pandemic. This year, they faced a summer like no other.

"When lockdown restrictions eased, we saw people flock to the beaches to enjoy our coastlines instead of holidaying abroad. But that resulted in a huge number of people getting into difficulty around our coasts, with our lifesavers facing an incredibly busy summer."

He added: "If you find yourself in trouble at the coast this winter, call 999 and ask for the coastguard."