Weston RNLI has been using the Atlantic 75 lifeboat for over 20 years, but now it has been replaced by a newer Atlantic 85 class lifeboat.
The Atlantic 75 lifeboat first came to Weston in the year 2000. She was a major advance over the Atlantic 21 that was used before. The Atlantic 75, with two 75 HP engines, a top speed of 32 knots and a crew of 3 volunteers, was a great success.
The first such craft, named the ‘Coventry and Warwickshire’, launched 302 times, saved 17 lives, and rescued 239 people. However, the lifeboat had, as for all its fellows, a rough time. Launched not only in shouts, but often twice a week on training, into the heaviest weather conditions. The sea and general wear and tear took its toll.
To make matters worse, the Weston volunteer crew have been operating out of a temporary station for the last nine years, resulting in the lifeboat being kept outside, subject to the wind and the waves on the seafront. It was replaced in 2018 by another Atlantic 75, named ‘Paul Alexander’ and finally the ‘Joan Bate’. Both were relief fleet boats, meaning that they were used at various RNLI stations when needed.
All the other operational stations in the UK and Ireland with Atlantic lifeboats have now moved on to the newer, heavier Atlantic 85. More powerful, faster and with increased sophistication of instrumentation. Weston, because the lifeboat was outside, stuck with the Atlantic 75. However, Weston was one of the last 2 RNLI stations in the UK and Ireland to operate the Atlantic 75. By the end of the year there will be no more on active service. Weston was the last in the whole Southwest, one of the busiest coastal regions in the RNLI.
The past few weeks have been used to train the crew on the new lifeboat. This has now been completed and the new boat is operational, on service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. At the weekend we launched both the Atlantic lifeboats, old and new, together with our D Class lifeboat to say goodbye to a type of lifeboat which has served us well.
One of the crew afloat was David Ridout who a couple of weeks ago became the last lifeboat crew in the UK and Ireland to gain a pass as a helmsman of the Atlantic 75. He has now passed as a helm for the Atlantic 85.