Blyth gets second lifeboat for trial

Atlantic 75 Lifeboat Vic & Billy Whiffin goes into service at Blyth.
Atlantic 75 Lifeboat Vic & Billy Whiffin goes into service at Blyth.

A second RNLI inshore lifeboat has gone into service at Blyth on a trial period.

Crew have undergone three months of intense training and familiarisation with the B class Atlantic 75 lifeboat, the Vic and Billy Whiffen.

It will be stationed at Blyth – alongside the station’s current D class inshore lifeboat – on a two-year trial to evaluate if it will enhance the lifeboat cover in the area.

The Vic and Billy Whiffen was first stationed at Southend-on-Sea from 2001 and while based there launched 651 times, rescuing 741 people.

John Scott, Blyth RNLI lifeboat operations manager, said the crew have worked very hard for the past three months to make sure they are able to operate the new lifeboat as safely and effectively as possible.

He said: “The Atlantic is much larger and faster than the D class, with two engines, and so the crew have had to devote many hours to training and familiarising themselves with the new lifeboat.

“They have shown a huge amount of commitment to ensuring that we can get the lifeboat on service ready for the busy summer period.”

The new lifeboat has already been involved in two operational call-outs, when the crew were at sea on training exercises and were asked to help search for a kayaker thought to be in difficulty and on a separate occasion when concerns were raised over a group of surfers in the fog.

RNLI divisional operations manager Andrew Ashton said Blyth, with its deep-water harbour, is well located to meet an expected increase in demand from sports, recreational and leisure marine users in the area while the development of the Blyth waterfront and harbour area may generate additional beach and coastal incidents.

He added: “The RNLI has to continually adapt its service to meet the changing demands of sea users and coastal visitors, and to match that demand with recent improvements to the speed and efficiency of the various classes of lifeboat.”

“The Atlantic 75 will operate alongside Blyth’s D class for two years, during which time RNLI divisional staff will monitor its operational performance and activity.

“They will also look at factors including launch and recovery arrangements, crewing and the effect on lifeboat operations in the wider area before a decision is made on whether it will be established as a permanent station lifeboat.”

The Atlantic 75 is almost 7.5 metres long and has a top speed of 32 knots.