The RNLI and the National Maritime Museum Cornwall have launched a new partnership with the installation of an interactive, family-focused lifeguard and beach safety exhibition called Rescue Zone.

The exhibition, which opened last Thursday, celebrates the work of the charity’s lifeguards with the opportunity to get up close to the rescue equipment the lifesaving teams use on the beach.

The ribbon was cut by 10-year-old Rae Murphy, whose mum Vicky was 35 weeks pregnant when her and husband Marc were rescued from the incoming tide by lifeguards at Chapel Porth beach.

In May 2009, in the place where they got engaged, the couple were taking a stroll around the headland at the beach near St Agnes.

As they reached a secluded cove, the tide appeared far out. But it wasn’t long before the water was waiting for them around both corners, completely cutting them off from the shore.

"At first it was only ankle deep," Vicky said. "But then it was at our knees. Then our shoulders – then before we knew it, waves were crashing over our heads. I had no idea how we were going to get out.

"I asked Marc: 'Be honest with me, we are not going to make it, are we?’ I’ll never forget the look in his eyes when he replied: “No!”

"I was trying to fight the current, but it was dragging me out to sea. Marc hooked his arm through my dungaree straps, clinging onto the rock with both hands to stop us from being washed away. As I looked up at my husband with such desperation in his face – it was telling me: I can’t hold on. Marc and I said our goodbyes to each other, and that we loved each other."

Vicky and Marc were facing waves up to six feet tall and were being pushed up onto the cliff face. They were in desperate need of help, which came in the form of a surfer who spotted them and raised the alarm with the lifeguards.

RNLI lifeguards Chris Lowry and Damian Prisk, who were patrolling the beach at nearby Porthtowan, immediately launched their inshore rescue boat and made their way to Vicky and Marc’s location.

Due to the sea conditions they were unable to bring the boat close enough, so lifeguard Chris took a risk and jumped in. He managed to scramble up the rocks to Vicky and Marc’s location and, together with Damian, transferred them one at a time into the boat.

Vicky spent the next three days after the rescue in hospital to keep an eye on the baby, as she had taken so many knocks and had not felt the baby move. When the nurses said there was still a heartbeat, Vicky and Marc were told: ‘You should count your lucky stars’.

Vicky said: "The relief of seeing the lifeguards in the rescue boat coming around the corner still gets me emotional to this day. I can’t thank the RNLI enough for saving me and Marc. I’m in awe of their bravery, they are the reason I have my family today. My daughter, Rae, is 10 years old now, with two younger brothers and a healthy mum and dad. You are all heroes in our eyes, you are the reason I have my family today.’

Former RNLI lifeguard, Chris Lowry, said: "Ten years on, I still vividly remember this rescue. The conditions that day, the situation we found Vicky and Marc in, knowing that if we took any longer to reach them it could have been a completely different outcome.

"As lifeguards for the charity, we receive the training and the equipment for these situations, but we were still shocked by what we faced that day. The sea can be powerful and unpredictable, and the tides can change so quickly, it’s easy to be caught out. We are so thankful that we were close by, it makes me feel emotional knowing that we have made a difference."

At the current exhibition, visitors can dress up as an RNLI lifeguard and learn more about their safety and prevention work through fun, interactive games and displays aimed at teaching and testing players on their beach safety knowledge.

Martin Gregory, RNLI council member, said: "This exhibition is so important in so many ways, at the forefront, it is an engaging and educational experience where groups and families can immerse themselves in the lifesaving experience and come away equipped with the information and knowledge to stay safe when visiting the beach.

"The exhibition tells the story of RNLI lifeguarding and establishes the lifesaving charity within the maritime history of Cornwall, and it is a wonderful and physical representation of the partnership between NMMC and the RNLI which fits perfectly with the aims of both charitable organisations."

For the first time, visitors can climb aboard a rescue water craft, on top of a lifeguard quad bike and inside a Inshore Rescue Boat (IRB), putting on a buoyancy aid and taking the helm to imagine themselves punching through the surf to reach a casualty.

Called an Arancia, these rescue boats were first designed and used for surf lifesaving in 1979 in New Zealand, light enough for two people to launch, they are also sturdy enough for use in heavy surf conditions.

The IRB on display in the NMMC has its own history, the A01 was the first Arancia to be introduced to the RNLI fleet in 2001 when the charity launched their lifeguard service on 21 beaches in the south west. The A01 was put on service at Fistral beach where it was used numerous times to rescue people in the water.