2011 saw the 150th anniversary of the establishment of Selsey Lifeboat Station. The anniversary was celebrated in many ways including having a replica of the first ever lifeboat assigned to Selsey pulled by horses through the town just as it was in 1861 then on display on the green beside the current inshore boathouse.
Since then Selsey Lifeboat station has had a number of different lifeboats as boat design, safety and technology has developed so that our volunteer crews are always properly equipped to save lives at sea.
Recently the RNLI conducted its regular strategic review of all Lifeboat Stations around our coasts.
There are 204,747 (2010 data) commercial shipping movements within the area in which Selsey Lifeboat would be expected to launch, either alone or in company with other search and rescue resources, in emergencies. This does not include the large number of fishing vessels operating in the area, nor the extensive diving activity which takes place on a large number of well known wrecks and popular reefs off Selsey Bill. Nor does it include the fact that some 44% of UK’s leisure craft use waters in and around the Solent, some of which make use of the 2700 moorings and marina berths in adjacent Chichester harbour.
Following the visit of the coast review team it has been confirmed that Selsey Lifeboat station is a key strategic location for the RNLI for an all weather lifeboat. We will continue to operate an inshore lifeboat as well. We are therefore well on our way to the next 150 years of a lifeboat station at Selsey.
The current all weather Tyne class lifeboat “Voluntary Worker” has been on station since 2006 with its predecessor “City of London “, also a Tyne class on station for the previous twenty-three years. The Tyne class, though continuing to serve Selsey and the RNLI well, have been overtaken by newer designs with greater capability and improved technology.
As part of the coast review it has been confirmed that Selsey will be allocated one of the very latest design of all weather lifeboats, recently named Shannon class, to replace our existing Tyne class. The change is expected to take place within the next five years.
The new lifeboat has been designed in-house by RNLI naval architects who have harnessed cutting-edge technology to ensure the new lifeboat meets the demands of a 21st century rescue service and allow the charity’s volunteer crew to do their lifesaving work as safely as possible in all weather conditions.
The Shannon features twin water jets instead of conventional propellers, allowing it to operate in shallow waters and be highly manoeuvrable – giving the crew greater control when alongside other craft and in confined waters. The water jets also reduce the risk of damage to the lifeboat during launch and recovery, or when intentionally beached. It will be the first RNLI all-weather lifeboat to run on water jets instead of propellers.
Its 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 SIMS (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 its predecessor, the current Tyne class lifeboat based at Selsey, which is capable of 17 knots. The introduction of the Shannon will be the first step in enabling the RNLI to fulfil its operation 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.
Like all RNLI all-weather lifeboats, the Shannon is self-righting and it will return to an upright position in the event of a capsize during extreme weather or sea conditions. The new class of lifeboat is undergoing full sea trials this year, with the first operational Shannon class lifeboats going on station in 2013.
The next few years will be an exciting period for Selsey Lifeboat as we hear more details about the Shannon and the crew get to experience all its capabilities – and comforts!