The construction of hulls for use by the RNLI requires specialist boatbuilding and laminating skills. Our lifeboats have to operate in the very worst conditions and cope with large amounts of wear and tear, while also remaining dependable and fit for the job of saving lives at sea for a minimum of 25 years.
The use of advanced composite materials gives the best combination of robustness and light weight to enable a lifeboat to do its job. The specialist materials used are able to withstand the enormous stresses that an RNLI all-weather lifeboat must undergo in her lifesaving work. The hulls are so strong that if the boat was upside down you could park a loaded articulated truck on each side of the hull bottom!
The composites used are laminates or pre-pregs. They are pre-impregnated with the resin that binds the material together and harden to give the hull its strength. The cloth is supplied on rolls and cut to shape, then carefully applied onto the surface of the mould. Several cloths are laid on top of the first to build up the required thickness.
Different areas of an RNLI lifeboat will use different types of fabric, typically glass fibre or carbon fibre with an epoxy resin system, and different types of varying weights are used to provide strength and stiffness in the right areas.