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The NSRI firmly believes that the old adage “knowledge is power” is one to live by.

When it comes to an emergency situation, the experience and knowledge we fall back on is key to handling it in the best possible way.

“One of the things that I always ask my crews is, when you have something traumatic happening in your life, do you rise to the occasion?” says NSRI Training Manager Graeme Harding. “The bottom line is, you can only rise to the level that you have been trained for. So for us, drill training and repetitive training is so important. It is probably responsible for 95% of the training of our crew. Because if they don’t have training, they are going to get into some serious trouble. You’ll see that the older stations that have guys with many years of experience pull off some really miraculous rescues, and have far fewer incidents happening within their crew, because their level of training is so high.”

In line with this thinking, the NSRI has a rigorous training schedule. Their calendar is full, and there is a training session every second weekend.

“We have some instances where we have two or three training weekends in a row,” Graeme says. “Basically, we run a training calendar every year and we have to run the same training courses year on year, because volunteers come and go, so we need to keep the ball rolling.

“There’s myself and three youngsters whom I train with, and then there are four or five guys from around the country who I use for training sessions that we can’t get to – bearing in mind that we spend half of the year outside of Cape Town. With the guys being volunteers, we often have to go out to them. It’s only the specialised coxswain assessment courses, for example, where we fly the guys here.”

NSRI training

This year the NSRI is placing a big emphasis on the Class 1 coxswain training as well as swift-water training.

“We’re replenishing our fleet with R200-million-worth of vessels and we need to have people who are trained to use them,” Graeme explains. “Our schedule then also encompasses everything from general crew training to different classes of coxswain training. We lost swift-water training over the last two years, because with the Covid-19 regulations we couldn’t have that number of people together. A big focus will also be on swift-water training now that the rules have been relaxed.”

Covid-19 threw a big spanner in the works when it came to training, and Graeme and his team are still feeling the after-effects of the various lockdowns.

“The first year of Covid-19 really knocked us and we spent a lot of time last year trying to catch up. Then we had Covid-19 restrictions again, so we couldn’t catch up completely, so this year we’ll still be catching up a bit,” Graeme says. “We did establish e-learning platforms to help during Covid-19, like the Facebook training page, so that we could keep the crews involved. But there’s nothing better than hands-on training. Theory only goes so far – there’s no better training than when you’re out there in big weather on big seas, getting saltwater in your face.”

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