On the Waterfront: Evolution in design

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WITH Sunderland’s RNLI station recently having taken delivery of its new inflatable D-class inshore lifeboat (ILB), Myjo, we look at the evolution of this design of craft on Wearside.

Ready for launching alongside her Atlantic 85 counterpart, the new D-class has replaced predecessor, Helen and Ian Tytler, which has been withdrawn from operational service a year earlier planned.

But, as Senior Helmsman, Paul Nicholson, explained, there is good reason for this.

He said: “Presently, there are some 155 D-class lifeboats operational at RNLI lifeboat stations. These are all now the improved IB1 variant, introduced in 2003.

“It has been decided to begin replacing the original D-class boats, which make up the RNLI training fleet, with older versions of the IB1 type. This will allow crews to train on the type craft they use operationally on a day-to-day basis.”

Designed in-house by the RNLI’s engineering team, the IB1 model is significantly improved in comparison to its forerunner.

Enhancements include superior hypalon-coated polyester construction, greater manoeuvrability, upgraded equipment and increased top speed.

D-class ILBs were introduced by the RNLI in 1963 to handle rescues close inshore due to growing use of the sea for leisure activities.

These boats could reach casualties in places where it would be near impossible for conventional lifeboats to operate, such as off beaches, near cliff bases, among rocks and upriver.

Originally designated as Inshore Rescue Boats (IRBs), the first to be stationed at Sunderland arrived in May, 1966 following a tragic accident the previous August, when a beach lifeguard drowned and many swimmers were rescued.

Designated as IRB-94 (later D-94), the boat was housed in a newly built concrete Nissen type building at Marine Walk, Roker.

Although Sunderland RNLI station’s ILBs and crews have provided 24/7 response for some years, this was not always the case. Originally, boats operated only during the summer season, with crews being drawn from local authority beach lifeguards and the police.

May 1998 saw completion of a new two-storey ILB house and crew facility at Roker. In early 2009, however, the ILB was transferred to the existing Sunderland Marina lifeboat station, as her premises were required by RNLI Lifeguards, who began their first season of operation at Roker and Seaburn that summer.

- Six RNLI ILBs have been permanently stationed at Sunderland since their inception, namely: 1966 – IRB-94 (later D-94), 1976 – D-217, 1987 – D-329 (BBC Radio Newcastle I), 1994 – D-470 (Landlubber), 2003 – D-608 (Helen and Ian Tytler) and 2011 – D-747 (Myjo). In addition, a number of boats from the relief fleet have deputised.

l The new ILB, Myjo, responded to her first call on Sunday, when she went to the aid of a broken down boat near Roker Pier.