A second RNLI inshore lifeboat has gone into service at Blyth, Northumberland today following three months of intense training and familiarisation for the volunteer crew.

The B class Atlantic 75 lifeboat, the Vic and Billy Whiffen, has been stationed at Blyth for a two year trial by the charity, to evaluate whether or not it will enhance the lifeboat cover already provided in the area. It will operate alongside the station’s current D class inshore lifeboat.

The Vic and Billy Whiffen was first stationed at Southend-on-Sea from 2001 and while based there launched 651 times, rescuing 741 people. It then went into the RNLI relief fleet, serving at lifeboat stations when their own vessel was being serviced or repaired.

John Scott, Blyth RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager, said the crew have worked very hard for the past three months to make sure they are able to operate the new lifeboat as safely and effectively as possible.

He said: ‘The Atlantic is much larger and faster than the D class, with two engines, and so the crew have had to devote many hours to training and familiarising themselves with the new lifeboat. They have shown a huge amount of commitment to ensuring that we can get the lifeboat on service ready for the busy summer period.’

The new lifeboat has already been involved in two operational call-outs, when the crew were at sea on training exercises and were asked to help search for a kayaker thought to be in difficulty and on a separate occasion when concerns were raised over a group of surfers in the fog.

RNLI Divisional Operations Manager, Andrew Ashton, said Blyth, with its deep-water harbour, is well located to meet an expected increase in demand from sports, recreational and leisure marine users in the area while the development of the Blyth waterfront and harbour area may generate additional beach and coastal incidents.

He added: ‘The RNLI has to continually adapt its service to meet the changing demands of sea users and coastal visitors, and to match that demand with recent improvements to the speed and efficiency of the various classes of lifeboat.

‘The Atlantic 75 will operate alongside Blyth’s D class for two years, during which time RNLI divisional staff will monitor its operational performance and activity. They will also look at factors including launch and recovery arrangements, crewing and the effect on lifeboat operations in the wider area before a decision is made on whether it will be established as a permanent station lifeboat.’

The Atlantic 75 is almost 7.5 metres long and has a top speed of 32 knots. The Atlantic 75 lifeboat is being gradually superseded by the Atlantic 85, which was first introduced to the RNLI fleet in 2005 and is larger and faster than its predecessor. For more information go to: http://bit.ly/14SKxGq

The RNLI’s national fundraising event, Mayday, runs from 26 April – 2 May. For more information, go to: rnli.org.uk/mayday

RNLI Blyth - Atlantic 75 Lifeboat Vic & Billy Whiffin Goes Into Service At Blyth 1

RNLI Blyth - Atlantic 75 Lifeboat Vic & Billy Whiffin Goes Into Service At Blyth 2