RNLI Torbay celebrates the 20th anniversary of its Severn class lifeboat

Lifeboats News Release

Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of our Severn Class lifeboat ON17-28, entering service at our Torbay station on 31st October 2001. We celebrated with a business-as-usual joint exercise with the Teignmouth RNLI station.

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Torbay's Severn class lifeboat, the Alec and Christina Dykes.

RNLI Torbay celebrates the 20th anniversary of its Severn class lifeboat with a joint exercise.

Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of our Severn Class lifeboat ON17-28, entering service at our Torbay station on 31st October 2001. We celebrated with a business-as-usual joint exercise with the Teignmouth RNLI station.

This is actually a very important landmark in the history of our Torbay station. The Severn class lifeboat has provided a significant enhancement in our capability, enabling the station to extend its cover from a 30 to 50 mile radius reachable within two hours. Moored proudly outside our station at Brixham’s Breakwater, she’s also a tangible reminder of the public’s generosity in supporting our mission to save lives at sea.

The boat, ON17-28 (the ‘Operational Number’ on the side), or RNLI 1255 (the RNLI’s official vessel number), was named the ‘Alec and Christina Dykes’ at her formal launch ceremony on 31 October 2001; named after the lady and husband whose bequest paid for most of its £1.8 million cost. The remaining funding came from individuals and organisations, as noted on a brass plaque mounted in the wheelhouse.

Following a refit in 2018, she carries two MTU 10v2000 M94 engines, each of 1,600 hp, that enable a top speed of just over 25 knots. She is made from fibre-reinforced composite material whose hard chine semi-displacement hull is built so that she can stay afloat even if two of her five compartments are flooded. She accommodates a working crew of seven, and is self-righting, which is handy in heavy seas. She is one of only 46 such vessels made by Berthon Boat Company in Lymington, between 1992 and 2005.

Her sturdy construction has not only enhanced the reach of our services but has facilitated our ability to assist in heavy sea, as she did on 13 January 2008 when in force 9 winds and severely rolling, four metre swells, she allowed our volunteer crew to make repeated approaches to Ice Prince, a freighter in distress and listing at 45 degrees at the time, to take eight remaining people off the vessel before she finally broke up.

The Severn class OP17-28 ‘Alec and Christina Dykes’ has come a long way from our first open-air lifeboat, which was launched 155 years ago and funded by the citizens of Exeter after the great storm of 12 January 1866 claimed almost 100 lives. She is one of 458 lifeboats stationed around the coastlines of UK and Ireland, who last year alone assisted 8,374 people, saving 239 lives.

With more people coming to enjoy their summers in the West country, and in Torbay in particular, swelling our population in August from 134,000 to 200,000, and with more people enjoying water sports, we are fortunate in having this asset at our disposal.

As a registered charity, the RNLI relies financially on the public’s donations, our fundraising events and legacies. It’s also contingent upon the commitment and teamwork of the volunteer crews and the performance of our lifeboats and equipment. As Torbay RNLI’s Coxswain Mark Criddle put it: ‘We don't perform as individuals. We do our job as part of a team who in turn depend upon working seamlessly with our lifeboat. That’s why we weren’t celebrating our lifeboat’s 20th anniversary on Sunday, but rather taking part in joint exercises with our Teignmouth lifeboat station neighbours’.

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Torbay RNLI Lifeboat Station's Severn class lifeboat on the day it was launched in 2001.

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The launch of the Severn class lifeboat in 2001.

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In 2001, many locals and dignitaries visited the launch of Torbay's new lifeboat.

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Torbay's Severn class lifeboat during construction at Berthon Boat Company.

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The Alec and Christina Dykes lifeboat during construction.

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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