Report by Susan Stephenson
SCARBOROUGH will be one of the first lifeboat stations in the country to receive a pioneering new and faster class of RNLI lifeboat, the Shannon.
She will be the first RNLI all-weather lifeboat to run on powerful water jets instead of propellers.
The new £1.5m lifeboat will replace Scarborough’s RNLI Mersey class lifeboat, Fanny Victoria Wilkinson and Frank Stubbs, when she comes to the end of her operational life in three years.
It has carried out 216 rescue launches and rescued 329 people since 1991.
The new lifeboat will be funded by a generous legacy from Frederic William Plaxton, former chairman of Scarborough-based coach building firm Plaxton.
Colin Lawson, Scarborough RNLI lifeboat operations manager, said everyone connected with Scarborough lifeboat station was thrilled. “The Shannon is a revolutionary vessel, quite different to our current lifeboat, and the volunteer crew at Scarborough are very much looking forward to receiving her on station,” he said.
“We are so grateful for the generous gift from Mr Plaxton - legacies are a very important source of funding for our charity and without people like Mr Plaxton, the RNLI would be unable to carry out its vital lifesaving role.”
The Shannon has been designed in-house by RNLI naval architects who have harnessed cutting-edge technology to ensure the charity’s volunteer crew can 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 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.
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 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.
The Shannon can be launched and recovered from beaches independent of slipways and harbours and a new RNLI tractor and carriage is also being developed to accompany the Shannon.
The new class of lifeboat will undergo full sea trials later this year, with the first operational Shannon class lifeboats going on station in 2013.
Mr Plaxton, who was known as Eric, left the RNLI at Scarborough a generous legacy in 1995, administered by the Plaxton Charitable Trust.
The legacy was specifically for Scarborough’s next all-weather lifeboat and because at that time Scarborough’s current vessel was relatively new, the funds had to be set aside until the station’s Mersey class came to the end of her operational life and there was a need for a replacement lifeboat.
The new lifeboat will be named Frederick William Plaxton in honour of Mr Plaxton’s father, the founder of the family coach building firm.
John Parkinson, of the Plaxton Charitable Trust, said: “The RNLI was the main charity that Eric and his sister Gladys supported.
“I’m sure they would have been very gratified to hear about the new lifeboat - it’s great news.”
The current all-weather lifeboat went on station in 1991 and has so far carried out 216 rescue launches and rescued 329 people.
• Scarborough’s lifeboat was launched at 4.30am on Monday to assist a yacht.
Humber Coastguard requested the launch to help the vessel “Ayesha”, which had two people on board and had broken down about three and a half miles south of Scarborough Harbour.
The all-weather lifeboat went straight to the casualty and the yacht was towed back to Scarborough.