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VIDEO: Exmouth and Ilfracombe to get two of the UK's first RNLI Shannon class lifeboats

By This is Devon  |  Posted: October 15, 2012

  • Prototype Shannon class lifeboat in launch and recovery trials. Picture: RNLI/Nathan Williams

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Devon is to be home to two of the RNLI's innovative new class of RNLI lifeboat, the Shannon.

The state-of-the-art 25-knot lifeboats will be stationed at Exmouth and Ilfracombe and will replace the current 17-knot Mersey class lifeboats based in the two towns. In both cases the charity’s volunteer fundraisers are today beginning local appeals to help fund the launch and recovery vehicles that is essential to move the lifeboats to and from the sea.

The Shannon has been designed in-house by RNLI naval architects who have harnessed cutting edge technology to ensure the new lifeboat meets the demands of a 21st century rescue service while allowing the charity’s volunteer crews to do their lifesaving work as safely as possible in all weather conditions.

The new lifeboat features twin water jets instead of conventional propellers, allowing her to operate in shallow waters and be highly manoeuvrable, giving the crew greater control when going alongside other craft and when in confined waters. The water jets also reduce the risk of damage to the lifeboat during launch and recovery, or when intentionally beached. She will be the first RNLI all-weather lifeboat to run on water jets instead of propellers.

Tim Mock, RNLI Coxswain at Exmouth, says the new lifeboats represent an exciting future for the two lifeboat stations:

‘With a top speed of 25 knots, the Shannon is almost 50 per cent faster than the current Mersey class lifeboats based at Ilfracombe and Exmouth, and then there’s all the new technology that will be onboard to make life safer and easier for the volunteer crews. It’s hoped that the Exmouth lifeboat will arrive late next year and the Ilfracombe one sometime in 2014. We’ve already trialled the lifeboat and her new launch and recovery vehicle at Exmouth and we’re all very keen to move on to this new chapter at both stations.’

Devon has played another role in the story of the Shannon with Honiton based Supacat Ltd having worked in conjunction with the RNLI to design a new launch and recovery vehicle for the lifeboat. It can operate in many different beach and sea conditions and allows a faster launch and recovery time. Today the fundraising volunteers at Exmouth and Ilfracombe are launching appeals to raise a proportion of the £1 million needed to fund the vehicle.

Tony Gillam is the Chair of the Fundraising Guild in Ilfracombe: ‘We want the communities of Exmouth and Ilfracombe to feel they are playing a part in this new chapter for both lifeboat stations. The residents of the two towns were absolutely superb in their support for our appeals for new lifejackets, now we hope they’ll put their energy behind supporting our challenge to raise funds for the new launching and recovery vehicles we need. So look out for news of fundraising activities that will be taking place in both towns and let us know if you’ve got an idea for an event or are going to be doing something yourself to help us. Collectively we can work together to ensure we have this exciting new equipment that ultimately will give our volunteer crews the opportunity to respond even more quickly to those who need saving at sea.’

The Shannon’s seats are designed to protect the crew members’ spines as much as possible from the forces of the sea in rough weather. Additionally the Shannon incorporates SIMS (System and Information Management System) which allows the crew to monitor the lifeboat from the safety of their seats, again reducing the likelihood of injury to the volunteer crew members during search and rescue operations.

With a top speed of 25 knots, the Shannon is faster than her predecessor the Mersey, which has a top speed of 17 knots. The introduction of the Shannon will be the first step in enabling the RNLI to fulfil its commitment to ensure that all its operational all-weather lifeboats have a top speed of 25 knots – a crucial factor when lives are at risk.

Like all RNLI all-weather lifeboats, the Shannon is self-righting and it will return to an upright position in the event of a capsize during extreme weather or sea conditions.

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