RNLI launches 'best lifeboat in the world'
A new chapter has begun for the RNLI which has unveiled the "best lifeboat in the world" – with two bound for the Westcountry.
The Shannon class is the most advanced craft of its type and uses water jets rather than propellers to reach speeds of up to 25 knots.
Among the first to receive the new multi-million pound crafts, which come with a £1 million recovery vessel designed in Devon, will be Ilfracombe and St Ives.
Leigh Hanks, mechanic and deputy coxswain at the North Devon port, said the whole crew were excited.
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"It will be brilliant, everyone is looking forward to it," he said.
"We're all keen to get on with it now. We are looking forward to doing the training and all having a go in the new Shannon."
Mr Hanks said he was convinced the high tech and high specification Shannon would enhance their work.
"There is a high level of computer control and it will mean that every crew member has a screen in front of them which they can access everything on the boat. It is going to be amazing."
The Shannon is the first modern RNLI all-weather lifeboat to be powered by water jets rather than propellers, which means it can operate in shallower waters.
With a top speed of 25 knots the Shannon is 50 per cent faster than the lifeboats it replaces and is more comfortable for crew thanks to special shock absorbing seats. The boats will be rolled out over the next decade, along with their launch and recovery vehicle, which was designed and built by Honiton-based Supacat.
Paul Boissier, RNLI chief executive, said it was a proud day for the charity which relies on public funding.
"This is the best lifeboat in the world," he said.
"It is the result of public support and RNLI expertise.
"It will be pulling people out of the water when they are at their most vulnerable."
Mr Boissier said it was the right time to think about retiring some of the older vessels.
"In St Ives, for example, the lifeboat is getting old, although you would never know it because it is so well kept by its crew.
"We need to innovate and the Shannon is another chapter for the RNLI and a new way of looking after people who are in trouble."
He said the ship was capable of handling "the worst that seas around the coastline can throw at it."
Mr Boissier also paid tribute to the communities in the South West who provide crews and fund lifeboats: "They should feel very proud and I want to thank them."