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Irish Naval Architect Pioneers New Lifeboat 50% Faster than the Rest

25th September 2012
Irish Naval Architect Pioneers New Lifeboat 50% Faster than the Rest

#rnli – A young Irishman has played a significant role in developing the RNLI's most advanced class of lifeboat - the Shannon class.  Named after the River Shannon and almost 50% faster than the lifeboats it will replace - the Shannon will help the charity's volunteer crews reach those in need even quicker.

Capable of 25 knots, the Shannon is the first modern RNLI all-weather lifeboat to be powered by water jets, not propellers. Over 50 new Shannons will need to be built within the next ten years to replace the older classes of lifeboat and the charity estimates that the 50+ Shannons in their class will rescue over 56,000 people and save the lives of over 1,500 in its lifetime.

Peter Eyre, an RNLI Naval Architect from Derry in Northern Ireland was instrumental in the development of the new lifeboat, designing the hull form at the age of 24 in his spare time. Four years after Peter's original design, the prototype of the Shannon class lifeboat is undergoing sea trials around the coasts of the UK and Ireland, with the first lifeboat going into service in 2013.

Peter Eyre, RNLI Naval Architect says:

'I kept the design under wraps in the early stages. After a while my boss could see I was working on something and encouraged me to continue. My job was to find the design by working with other naval architects, not to design it. I was the youngest in the team and before long I had designed the new lifeboat hull.

'I'm chuffed it was named after an Irish river and the strong connection the boat now has with Ireland. I think the moment it first goes out on a service will be the high point of my career. My parents will be so proud. It's a great legacy to be a part of, especially at this age. I think it will sink in gradually. When the first life is saved I think that's when it will really hit home.'

The Shannon class is expected to make up almost a third of the RNLI's all-weather lifeboat fleet and once rolled out all RNLI all-weather lifeboats will be capable of at least 25 knots. The Shannon class will also improve the safety and welfare of the charity's volunteer crews, thanks to its shock absorbing seats and computer monitoring and operating system.

While Peter was not to become actively involved with the RNLI till later in his life, he had a brush with the charity in 1998 when the Lough Swilly RNLI Lifeboat came to his aid.

Peter explains:

'I was just 14-years-old at the time when my family's 30ft cruiser racer yacht was dismasted in rough seas and force 7 winds. The yacht lost its mast and was escorted back to shore by the volunteer lifeboat crew. We were so relieved'

Owen Medland, RNLI Training Divisional Inspector for Ireland says:

'This is the first time that the RNLI has named a class of lifeboat after an Irish river – which is very fitting considering that Peter has been so fundamental in its design. All of the crews who have tested the new lifeboat have been thrilled with its speed, manoeuvrability and the improved crew safety features. We don't know yet which Irish lifeboat stations will receive a Shannon class lifeboat, but the Shannon is designed to replace the majority of Mersey and some Tyne class lifeboats. We look forward to seeing the Shannon here in the near future.'

The RNLI has launched a €6M fundraising campaign across the UK and Ireland to fund two Shannons and their launch and recovery vehicles designed by Supacat for the relief fleet. These 'relief lifeboats'  will be used to replace station boats when they go for maintenance or repair and will therefore operate at many places around the UK and the RoI.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) in Ireland Information

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity to save lives at sea in the waters of UK and Ireland. Funded principally by legacies and donations, the RNLI operates a fleet of lifeboats, crewed by volunteers, based at a range of coastal and inland waters stations. Working closely with UK and Ireland Coastguards, RNLI crews are available to launch at short notice to assist people and vessels in difficulties.

RNLI was founded in 1824 and is based in Poole, Dorset. The organisation raised €210m in funds in 2019, spending €200m on lifesaving activities and water safety education. RNLI also provides a beach lifeguard service in the UK and has recently developed an International drowning prevention strategy, partnering with other organisations and governments to make drowning prevention a global priority.

Irish Lifeboat Stations

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland, with an operational base in Swords, Co Dublin. Irish RNLI crews are tasked through a paging system instigated by the Irish Coast Guard which can task a range of rescue resources depending on the nature of the emergency.

Famous Irish Lifeboat Rescues

Irish Lifeboats have participated in many rescues, perhaps the most famous of which was the rescue of the crew of the Daunt Rock lightship off Cork Harbour by the Ballycotton lifeboat in 1936. Spending almost 50 hours at sea, the lifeboat stood by the drifting lightship until the proximity to the Daunt Rock forced the coxswain to get alongside and successfully rescue the lightship's crew.

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895.

FAQs

While the number of callouts to lifeboat stations varies from year to year, Howth Lifeboat station has aggregated more 'shouts' in recent years than other stations, averaging just over 60 a year.

Stations with an offshore lifeboat have a full-time mechanic, while some have a full-time coxswain. However, most lifeboat crews are volunteers.

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895

In 2019, 8,941 lifeboat launches saved 342 lives across the RNLI fleet.

The Irish fleet is a mixture of inshore and all-weather (offshore) craft. The offshore lifeboats, which range from 17m to 12m in length are either moored afloat, launched down a slipway or are towed into the sea on a trailer and launched. The inshore boats are either rigid or non-rigid inflatables.

The Irish Coast Guard in the Republic of Ireland or the UK Coastguard in Northern Ireland task lifeboats when an emergency call is received, through any of the recognised systems. These include 999/112 phone calls, Mayday/PanPan calls on VHF, a signal from an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) or distress signals.

The Irish Coast Guard is the government agency responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue operations. To carry out their task the Coast Guard calls on their own resources – Coast Guard units manned by volunteers and contracted helicopters, as well as "declared resources" - RNLI lifeboats and crews. While lifeboats conduct the operation, the coordination is provided by the Coast Guard.

A lifeboat coxswain (pronounced cox'n) is the skipper or master of the lifeboat.

RNLI Lifeboat crews are required to follow a particular development plan that covers a pre-agreed range of skills necessary to complete particular tasks. These skills and tasks form part of the competence-based training that is delivered both locally and at the RNLI's Lifeboat College in Poole, Dorset

 

While the RNLI is dependent on donations and legacies for funding, they also need volunteer crew and fund-raisers.

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