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History made in preparation for new Ilfracombe lifeboat

PUBLISHED: 16:03 28 May 2015 | UPDATED: 17:50 29 May 2015

Training with the new £1m launcher for the Shannon class lifeboat in Ilfracombe harbour. Heading down the slipway.

Training with the new £1m launcher for the Shannon class lifeboat in Ilfracombe harbour. Heading down the slipway.


Ilfracombe’s new £1million lifeboat launching carriage has made history by becoming the first ever to launch the new Shannon lifeboat in a UK harbour.

RNLI boat and shore crew have been busy training with the launcher and a Shannon class boat from the relief fleet, preparing for when Ilfracombe’s own Shannon arrives on Saturday, June 6.

The new vehicle is able to drive into the sea and launch the boat on any state of tide on the harbour. Its carriage can rotate full circle, so once the lifeboat is recovered it can be turned around ready for immediate re-launching is required.

Trainers and a fleet coxswain from RNLI headquarter at Poole worked with local crew on Wednesday and Thursday, attracting plenty of interest from bystanders.

“At the moment we are doing everything in slow time but when we are up and running it will take us less than 10 minutes to launch,” said Ilfracombe mechanic Leigh Hanks.

Training with the new £1m launcher for the Shannon class lifeboat in Ilfracombe harbour. Training with the new £1m launcher for the Shannon class lifeboat in Ilfracombe harbour.

“Our people are taking to it really well and no matter the pressures of outside work, they are all down here, as they want to know that when this becomes the Ilfracombe lifeboat they are prepared for anything.”

The Shannon has water jet propulsion and would actually be capable of coming in to the beach at 25 knots in an emergency, though Ilfracombe Harbour’s four knot speed limit prevents that.

Ilfracombe is the first harbour to receive a Shannon and the new boat, The Barry and Peggy High Foundation, will arrive at exactly 13.09 on Saturday, June 6 – to match the number on its side.

At 12.30pm the current Mersey class lifeboat will head out to meet it as Ilfracombe crew bring it home on the final leg of its journey from Poole.

Recovering the Shannon lifeboat. Picture: RNLI/Ilfracombe Recovering the Shannon lifeboat. Picture: RNLI/Ilfracombe

Demonstrations and a boat handling display will take place after it arrives.

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