A routine training exercise for the crew of Weston’s Atlantic 75 lifeboat, Paul Alexander, culminated in an invitation to board a French Naval Ship which was enroute to a scheduled stop in Cardiff.
The Léopard class training ship, FS Panthère (A749), which was commissioned in 1982, was visiting British waters as part of a five ship flotilla. At the time of the unplanned meeting with the RNLI crew, they were sailing in the Bristol Channel for the second period at sea of first-year students of the French Naval Academy.
The voyage was planned to develop skills in navigation along with practical training of French officer-candidates.
The ships of this class can compose a crew of 1 officer, 10 sailors, and 4 quartermasters; plus 1 or 2 officers, 2 instructors, and 18 students. This varies depending on the mission which the ship is assigned.
The RNLI crews conduct extensive training across their operational area and see many different vessels navigating the channel, but they rarely see Naval ships, especially from other nations.
Simon Cresser, Atlantic 75 lifeboat helm said: ‘It was a privilege to be invited aboard by the French Captain who was keen to learn about the RNLI’s purpose of saving lives at sea. We were introduced to the officers and students and were able to explain the dangers we have at the coast in Weston with the fast moving tides. We also described the range of work that the RNLI undertakes in its vision of ending preventable loss of life at sea’.