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D class

​RNLI lifeboats can be divided into two categories: inshore and all-weather. The D class lifeboat is one of three classes of inshore lifeboat (ILB) – the B, D and E classes.

The D class has been the workhorse of the service for over 50 years. The inflatable D class is highly manoeuvrable and usually operates closer to shore than all-weather lifeboats and is specifically suited to surf, shallow water and confined locations, often close to cliffs, among rocks or even in caves.

In 2010, D class lifeboats launched 2,401 times and rescued 1,639 people, saving 103 lives. 

Key features

  • Systems and information Management system
  • Self righting
  • Righting and restarting
  • Navigation and communication

Launching from a trolley or davit, the D class lifeboat is ideal for rescues close to shore in fair to moderate conditions.
The D class lifeboat has a single 50hp outboard engine and can be righted manually by the crew after a capsize.

First introduced into the fleet in 1963, the design of the D class has continued to evolve since its introduction and the latest version (also known as the IB1-type) was introduced in 2003.

Equipment includes both fitted and hand-held VHF radio, night-vision equipment, and first aid kit including oxygen.

Seahouses D class lifeboat being launched on Winter training. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

Date introduced:

1963 but design has continued to evolve ever since​

Launch type:

Trolley or davit​

Number in fleet:












Max speed:

​25 knots

Fuel capacity:

​68 litres


​3 hours at maximum speed


​Hypalon-coated polyester


​1 x Mariner at 40 or 50hp

Survivor capacity:


Calshot D class lifeboat crew righting a capsized catamaran. Photo: Nathan East

Stranded teens

Eight teenagers tried to walk from Pembrey Country Park to Burry Port Railway Station on 19 March and became stranded. One called a parent and was advised to stay put and wait for rescue. The parent dialled 999 and soon police, coastguards and Burry Port’s D class lifeboat Young Watsons were searching the area.

After a lengthy search, a lifeboat crew member found the group south of Pembrey Harbour. They were brought aboard the lifeboat and back to the station, where they were given hot drinks and wrapped in blankets. They were cold and embarrassed but otherwise unharmed.

Three overboard

Three people were rescued from the sea by Dun Laoghaire lifeboat crew in force 4–5 winds in Killiney Bay on 14 June. The all-weather lifeboat Anna Livia, inshore D class lifeboat Realt na Mara and the Irish Coast Guard Rescue 116 helicopter rushed to the scene when the alert was raised at 2pm. The four were thrown overboard when their vessel capsized off Shanganagh cliffs. One person swam to shore to raise the alarm, two clung to a buoy and another was missing.

Dun Laoghaire’s inshore lifeboat recovered two casualties while the helicopter located the missing person in the water and transported the three casualties to Tallaght Hospital.

Lone sailor capsizes

Wicklow inshore lifeboat crew rescued a lone sailor after his sailing dinghy capsized off Wicklow harbour on 19 August.

The lifeboat crew were on a training exercise at the time and spotted the man waving for help from his upturned catamaran, drifting a short distance from the entrance to the harbour.

The lifeboat crew were quickly alongside and took the man onto the lifeboat. They took him back to East Pier and towed his vessel back into the harbour. Then they resumed their training exercise.

Surfers caught out by current

An evening surf session turned into a rescue drama when two men were caught in a rip current and swept out to sea from an East Lothian beach.

Members of the public raised the alarm as the pair, from the Livingston area, struggled to get back to shore against the current.

Dunbar’s RNLI inshore D class lifeboat Jimmy Miff assisted the pair, who were about a quarter of a mile off Belhaven Beach, on 13 July.

One of the surfers had been in a pretty bad state but RNLI Helmsman Alan Blair said: ‘A canoeist had been holding him above the waves before we got there, which made the difference.’ The surfer was treated by paramedics at the harbourside. 

  • Dunbar Dunbar D class. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard
  • Craster Craster D class towing a yacht off a sandbank.
  • Port St Mary Port St Mary D class entering a cave. Photo: Dave Kneale
  • Newquay Newquay D class. Photo: Phil Monckton
  • Blackpool Blackpool D class in surf. Photo: Martin Fish
  • Cromer Cromer D class launching through the surf. Photo: Nicholas Leach
  • St Agnes St Agnes D class assisting people cut off by the tide.
  • Seahouses Seahouses D class lifeboat being launched on Winter training. Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard
  • Calshot Calshot D class lifeboat crew righting a capsized catamaran. Photo: Nathan East
  • RNLI College D class lifeboats at RNLI College. Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams