Matt, see first post. :-) Yeah, I wasn't greatly taken with that one either.
I've done a fair bit of sailing myself, mostly in dinghies but a reasonable amount of inshore cruising as well. The sailing club in Lytham is right next to the lifeboat house, and quite a few of the lifeboat crew are from the club. My folks have their own boat, and they required the services of a lifeboat once on the way back from Ireland when my mum fell and fractured her eye-socket - it wasn't that they wouldn't make it back under their own steam, more that the wind was against them and she needed medical attention as quickly as possible.
As you say, Gareth, next time it might be you.
Incidentally for US readers, the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) is still an organisation of volunteers and is run entirely off donations from the public. Some time ago, the government wanted to fund it on the condition that they started acting like the US Coastguard and interdicting drug-runners and stuff. The RNLI refused on the grounds that they were interested in saving lives, not running military operations, and they didn't want saving lives to become dependent on the vagaries of government finance.