RNLI has launched a new anti-drowning campaign after latest figures revealed lifeboats saved 17 people from death off Hampshire’s coast last year.

The charity’s Respect the Water message is being trialled throughout the summer in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and will highlight the risks around the coast.

It is focused on men aged 25 to 65, as they represent the biggest number of fatalities.

Six times as many men drown around the coast each year than women.

In 2012, RNLI lifeboats in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight launched 437 times to recreational incidents and rescued 552 people.

England rugby union star James Haskell helped the RNLI launch a new beach safety campaign in Brighton, where people were invited to the beach to take the Punchbag Challenge to see how quickly they tired against 250kg of cold water.

James said: “As a rugby player, I train to be as strong as I can be. But I know that even I’m no match for the strength of the water.

“This campaign isn’t about telling people not to go into the water – in fact, quite the opposite. The sea is a great place to have fun and relax in the summer.

“This is about being smart and safe when you are there.

“The water is the opponent that never tires, so make sure you’re never put to the test.”

RNLI figures show about 150 people die around the UK coast each year – more than those killed in cycling accidents.

Rip currents Key causes of coastal drowning are rip currents, cold water shock, slips, trips and falls, alcohol and fatigue.

A rip can travel at 4.5mph – that is almost the same speed as an Olympic swimmer.

Cold water shock can occur in any temperature below 15C. The average sea temperature in the UK is just 12C.

General waterside activities like coastal walking resulting in slips, trips and falls, account for about 19 per cent of coastal deaths each year.

Alcohol was a contributing factor in 27 coastal fatalities last year.

Ross Macleod, RNLI coastal safety manager, said: “The British seaside is so popular – especially in the good weather we’ve been enjoying recently – but it’s crucial to stay safe and remember key safety advice so you can enjoy it properly.

“That’s why we have launched the Respect the Water campaign – to raise awareness of drowning and water safety, ultimately reducing the number of people who lose their lives at the coast.”