1996: The Severn class lifeboat

In the late 1980s, the RNLI realised that its fleet needed upgrading in order to save more lives saved at sea. Enter the 25-knot Severn class lifeboat.
Buckie RNLI’s Severn class lifeboat, the William Blannin, out on exercise

Photo: RNLI/Nicholas Leach

Buckie RNLI’s Severn class lifeboat, the William Blannin, out on exercise

In the late 1980s, the RNLI realised that its fleet needed upgrading in order to increase the number of lives saved at sea.

The Arun class and Waveney class lifeboats provided a 48km coverage with operating speeds of up to 18 knots. However, by ensuring an all-weather fleet capable of 25 knots, we knew that we could get to those in trouble further out to sea, quicker – and for those in trouble at sea, seconds can make the difference between life or death.

In 1991, the RNLI launched the prototype Severn, the Peter and Marion Fulton, and rigorously tested it for several years.

The Severn class prototype, Peter and Marion Fulton 17-01, with the Trent class prototype, Earl and Countess Mountbatten of Burma 14-01
The Severn class prototype, Peter and Marion Fulton 17-01, with the Trent class prototype, Earl and Countess Mountbatten of Burma 14-01

During this time, we discovered problems with the skegs that protected the propellers. They were designed to protect the hull by breaking off if she hit the rocks, but they were broken too easily. The hull was also being damaged coming through heavy seas.

Finally, when the design and testing teams were happy that the 25-knot Severn class lifeboat was fit to save lives and keep the crews as safe as possible, she was released into the fleet.

Margaret Joan and Fred Nye 17-46 was the last Severn class lifeboat to be built and entered our relief fleet in 2004.

The lifeboats undergo a regular condition-based maintenance regime to check their condition.