RNLI lifeboats can be divided into two categories: inshore and all-weather. The B class lifeboat is one of three classes of inshore lifeboat (ILB) – the B, D and E classes. The B class usually operates closer to shore than all-weather lifeboats, in shallower water, close to cliffs, among rocks or even in caves.
There are two types of B class lifeboat – the Atlantic 75 and the Atlantic 85.
The name Atlantic is derived from Atlantic College in Wales, where the rigid inflatable B class was first developed. ‘75’ and ‘85’ are derived from a length of nearly 7.5m and 8.5m respectively.
The Atlantic 75 was introduced into the fleet in 1993 and the Atlantic 85 in 2005.
In 2010, B class lifeboats launched 2,995 times and rescued 2,942 people, saving 101 lives.
Fast, manoeuvrable and very reliable, the B class operates in rough weather conditions, capable in daylight up to force 7 and at night to force 6.
The Atlantic 75 carries communication and electronic navigation aids, including VHF radio, DGPS and electronic chart, hand-held VHF, as well as a searchlight, night-vision equipment and parachute illuminating rocket flares for night-time operations. In the event of a capsize, a crew member activates a gas bottle to inflate the self-righting bag and the lifeboat turns upright in a few seconds.
The Atlantic 85 design allows room for four crew members and more kit than the Atlantic 75 lifeboat.
She is powered by two 115hp engines and has a stronger hull and greater top speed. The added radar allows the crew to operate more effectively in poor visibility and she also has VHF direction-finding equipment.
A manually operated self-righting mechanism combined with two 115hp 4-stroke inversion-proofed engines keep her operational even after capsize. She is also capable of being beached in an emergency without sustaining damage to engines or steering gear.
The Atlantic 85 carries a full suite of communication and electronic navigation aids, including VHF radio, VHF direction finding, intercom, DGPS and electronic chart, radar and hand-held VHF, as well as a searchlight, night-vision equipment and illuminating paraflares for night-time operations.
Carriage, davit or floating boathouse
Number in fleet:
54 at station plus 19 in relief fleet
38 at station plus 11 in relief fleet
Hull – polyester glass-reinforced fibre, with marine plywood stiffening
Inflatable collar – hypalon-coated nylon
Hull – carbon fibre and foam core laminate, structure includes epoxy glass and foam sandwich layup
Inflatable collar: hypalon-coated nylon
2 x Yamaha; 75hp each
2 x Yamaha 4-stroke; 115hp each
Medal for St Abbs volunteer
A volunteer lifeboat crew member from St Abbs is to receive the RNLI’s Bronze Medal for Gallantry after he swam 20m into a sea cave in rough conditions and rescued an injured angler.
Helm Darren Crowe (pictured), a 39-year-old fisherman, launched the St Abbs inshore lifeboat along with his brother and uncle after the angler, Simon Halston, was swept off a rock and into the cave.
Darren managed to swim into the cave and get Simon onto his back. Then Darren inflated his lifejacket and he and Simon were towed back out by a line attached to the lifeboat. Darren’s uncle, Alistair Crowe, and brother, James Crowe, pulled the pair aboard.
Simon was taken to hospital and later said: ‘If the RNLI had not been there I would have died that day. I just cannot thank them enough.’
Darren will be presented with the Bronze Medal in recognition of his courage and skill that day. Alistair and James are to receive a Framed Letter of Thanks signed by the RNLI Chairman.
David Wilson, a lifeboat crew member who was aboard a fishing vessel when he spotted Simon's fall and alerted the Coastguard, will receive a Letter of Appreciation signed by the RNLI’s Chief Executive.
There can be few scarier things than being swept off your own boat by mountainous seas.
Dan Oliver was fortunate to have been wearing both a lifejacket and safety line when a large wave washed him from the deck of his 10m yacht, battling 35–40-knot winds and 4m waves en route to Brighton Marina on 26 May.
The crew had been lowering the sails when they saw the skipper disappear into the water. They were unable to retrieve him in such savage conditions, so they broadcast a Mayday distress call.
Within 7 minutes, Brighton’s B class lifeboat Thelma Glossop had launched and a further 10 minutes brought them into close proximity to the yacht.
Just 3 minutes later, a volunteer crew member had been transferred to the yacht and the skipper was safely lifted back onboard. With the situation now under control, the lifeboat escorted the yacht through the marina entrance and into a visitor’s berth.
Given the horrendous conditions, RNLI Newhaven’s Severn class lifeboat David and Elizabeth Acland (pictured), the Solent Coastguard helicopter and multiple mobile Coastguard rescue units were also called to assist.
A spokesman for RNLI Brighton praised the crew of the yacht: ‘During this extremely stressful incident in hostile conditions, they managed to remain calm throughout.
‘This incident highlights dramatically the importance of wearing a lifejacket and safety
line when working on the deck of a yacht in these conditions.’
After 11 hours at sea, struggling to make headway in gale force winds, the skipper of the yacht Doxy called Solent Coastguard to ask for help.
Hayling Island’s B class Atlantic 85 launched into the teeth of the gale but Helm Peter Hanscombe couldn’t steer a straight course due to the beam-on rolling waves. With ‘waves like blocks of flats’ coming at them, an unusually large wave, estimated at 8–9m, lifted them vertically. As they came back down, the stern was buried in a foaming mass. The crew heard the piecing klaxon of the man-overboard alarm and for one brief second thought the worst. Thankfully, Crew Member Jasper Graham-Jones was still on the fourth crew seat.
The violent movement had reduced the engines’ power, so Peter had to work the throttles to restore full power quickly.
The Atlantic then came alongside the yacht. The two casualties were cold, tired and a little frightened, drained by the yacht's relentless pitching and rolling.
They towed the yacht towards Gosport Marina, but with winds at gale force, they requested that Bembridge all-weather Tyne class lifeboat assist them.
The crews worked quickly and confidently and although progress, at 4 knots, was slow, Bembridge towed them to Portsmouth Harbour and Hayling Island then escorted the yacht to Gosport Marina. The casualties were very grateful to see Hayling lifeboat and eventually dry land.
Locations of B class lifeboat stations:
Great Yarmouth and Gorleston
Kyle of Lochalsh
Staithes and Runswick
18 lifeboats (+1 B-772)
Bangor (Co Down)
Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Registered charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland | RNLI (Trading) Ltd - 1073377, RNLI (Sales) Ltd - 2202240, RNLI (Enterprises) Ltd - 1784500 and RNLI College Ltd - 7705470 are all companies registered in England and Wales at West Quay Road, Poole, BH15 1HZ. Images and copyright © RNLI 2015.