A lifeboat chief has urged the 'Birmingham Navy' to get proper training before going out to sea to ensure their safety and reduce the number of rescues that had to be carried out.
Andrew Freemantle, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution's chief executive, said that unless land- locked amateur sailors received proper training, there would be mounting pressure for Britain to follow the example of other nations and introduce laws on compulsory lifejackets, boat-handling exams, and breathalyser tests.
The warning came after a man acting as a judge in a dinghy race off Hartlepool suffered a heart attack on a boat and died on Sunday.
Mr Freemantle said that 2005 was on course to be the RNLI's busiest ever year, and that more than half the organisation's 7,600 lifeboat rescues each year involved pleasure craft.
He said: "The sea is one of the last unregulated areas of our lives and that itself has a tremendous appeal . . . It would be a great shame if we lost that."
He said: "These are people who do not live by the coast and who therefore do not go to sea very regularly. They like to drive to the coast, towing their boat behind them. Clearly, if you are less familiar with the sea, you are less familiar with some of the dangers.
The RNLI, which costs £ 120 million a year and receives no Government funding, fears that if amateur seafarers do not take greater care, there may be growing calls for it to charge for rescues.
In France, a tow back to the shore can cost £3,000.