MORE people than ever know there has never been a drowning between lifesavers’ flags.
That point was hammered home during a marathon swim from Bairnsdale to Lakes Entrance in November 2015.
The swim, which is longer than the English Channel at 44km, was to reiterate the message to ‘Swim between the flags’.
It was supported by South Gippsland Shire Council to the tune of $3000 as Venus Bay Surf Life Saving Club took a lead role in organising the event.
Since then, Venus Bay member Craig Watson reported the best ever season.
In figures presented to council of Wednesday, he said there was a 13 per cent increase in beach patrons, a 21 per cent increase in volunteer patrol hours and a 1200 per cent increase in rescues.
The club has reached 500 members for the first time, and has 183 Nippers, of whom 179 received new awards and certificates of competency – representing three awards per active member.
Member Kimberly G is the Victorian Lifesaving Trainer of the Year, and one of the club’s oldest serving members Dave Cumming is up to receive a Bravery Medal.
Mr Watson’s incredible figures, he said, was also why the Venus Bay Club was announced as ‘Victorian Club of the Year’.
In five weeks, Venus Bay will contest the national awards.
However, it wasn’t all good news.
“Our greatest challenge remains – funding,” Mr Watson said.
“It costs us $100,000 just to keep the doors open.
“We do not receive any money from council or the government – we’re in a unique situation, we are a sporting club that also performs a vital community service.
“Council does fund lifeguards, but they’re not part of our club – it actually costs us money to have them there.”
Mr Watson said it was difficult to garner funding from the Venus Bay community, as there were only limited businesses to approach for sponsorship.
Mr Watson said the Venus Bay club would be working with the Waratah Bay Surf Life Saving Club to find a way to get more funding.
Councillors breathed a sigh of relief when Mr Watson confirmed the group was not looking for funding on Wednesday.
He did call for support and was presenting to council on a new endurance event – a six hour relay ironman on the Tarwin River.
The program will highlight that 20 per cent of drownings in the last year were in inland rivers, lakes and dams.
The full details of the ‘Respect the Rivers’ Venus Bay and Tarwin River Enduro, are yet to be finalised.
Mr Watson said Venus Bay was working with Inverloch and another club to progress the event.