1994: The Trent class lifeboat

Built to provide the quickest possible response service, the new 25-knot Trent class lifeboat proved a swift and enduring addition to the RNLI fleet.
Dun Laoghaire RNLI's Trent class lifeboat, Anna Livia

Photo: RNLI / Nicholas Leach

Dun Laoghaire RNLI’s Trent class lifeboat, Anna Livia

Built to provide the quickest possible response service – and travel further out to sea than any of its predecessors – the 25-knot Trent class lifeboat joined the RNLI’s fleet in 1994.

These all-weather adaptations of the Severn class (designed at the same time) are now used at lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland and can provide a rescue service up to 50 miles out to sea.

When news emerged that both the Trent class and Severn class were coming, volume 53 of the Lifeboat journal wrote:

‘The announcement of two new classes of lifeboat made the year something of a landmark for the RNLI. The introduction of even a single lifeboat class, let alone two, is an achievement far greater than meets the eye …

‘Such state-of-the-art lifeboats cannot be bought off-the-shelf, and the specification, in-house design, construction and trials which result in a new lifeboat class takes several years of intense effort by the RNLI's technical and operations departments.’

Larne RNLI's Trent class lifeboat, DR John McSparran

Photo: Colin Watson

Larne RNLI’s Trent class lifeboat, Dr John McSparran

Efficiency and speed

The need for higher speeds and more rapid responses had been proven time and time again, and the RNLI had set itself the goal of replacing all traditional lifeboats with new, fast designs by 1993, when many of the early Waveneys and Aruns would be due for replacement.

But development of the new Trent class didn’t always run smoothly. As Ray and Susannah Kipling note in their book, Never Turn Back: the RNLI Since the Second World War:

‘Of course there were teething problems, as happens with any prototype. Large skegs, underwater fins fitted to the back of the boat, were provided to protect the propellers. They were designed to break off if the hull hit rocks, but unfortunately they were a little too willing to leave the ship and kept breaking free on trials, leading to the suggestion that they carry a freepost address for return to the RNLI in Poole.’

The Trent class’s first active service was at Alderney Lifeboat Station and, since then, many notable rescues have been conducted by crews using the boat, including the rescue of a female dolphin stranded in the River Tay, Perth.