THE heroic lifeboat crew involved in some of the state’s most dramatic rescues are training in England this week to prepare for the arrival of a state-of-the-art new vessel.
The RNLI confirmed last night that Baltimore lifeboat station in West Cork will take delivery of the €3.5 million hi-tech Tamar class RNLB Alan Massey next month.
The powerful all-weather lifeboat will replace Baltimore’s ageing Tyne class Hilda Jarrett vessel.
It will be just the second Irish Tamar class lifeboat — the other is based at Kilmore Quay.
“We couldn’t be asking for a better boat,” said Baltimore RNLI spokesperson Sheelagh Broderick.
“The Tamar class has a much higher top speed than the Tyne class, which will allow us get to casualties faster — essential when minutes count. It will ultimately help us provide a better and much more effective service.”
The RNLB Alan Massey has been primarily funded from the legacy of Dorothy May Massey,from Watford in Hertfordshire.
Ms Massey, who died in December 2003, bequeathed her entire residuary estate to the RNLI on condition that it be used to buy a lifeboat to be named in memory of her brother, who had an interest in sailing.
Baltimore’s new six-crew 16-metre vessel is powered by two Caterpillar C18 marine diesel engines, each of which generates 1,000 horse power — more than a Formula 1 racing car.
They give it a top speed of 25 knots, compared to the Tyne class’s top speed of 17 knots, and a range of 250 nautical miles.
They also provide it with a towing capability of up to seven tonnes, allowing it to tow most boats or even hold a coaster off-shore while other help arrives.
The ship is equipped with a sophisticated array of search, navigational and communication equipme- nt, and a special computer system which allows the crew to control the ship’s functions from their seats.
This reduces their risk of injury while moving around inside the vessel as it ploughs at high speed through rough seas.
The lifeboat is completely water-tight, allowing it to self-right with up to 60 people on board, but it can carry up to 120 passengers.
A month after the vessel arrives, the Hilda Jarrett will become part of the RNLI’s relief fleet.
The 14-metre vessel was first used to respond to a callout in May 1988.
In its lifetime, it has launched 356 times and rescued 346 people.
The Baltimore crew made headlines around the world last year when they were involved in the rescue of over a dozen sailors from the stricken Rambler 100 super-yacht, which capsized during the Fastnet race.
The vessel was involved in the retrieval of dozens of bales of cocaine from the water off Dunlough Bay in July 2007 when a botched international smuggling operation resulted in a record- breaking cocaine haul.
The Baltimore crew have also been involved in some of the state’s most dramatic rescues over the years.
They were honoured for bravery for rescuing stricken sailors during the 1979 Fastnet race disaster. They rescued Charlie Haughey when his yacht sank off Mizen Head in 1985, and they were honoured for rescuing 15 people, saving the Spanish fishing vessel Japonica, and saving the yacht Atlantis Adventure, during a mammoth 26-hour operation in storm force winds in 1991.
Meanwhile, work has started on upgrades to the Baltimore lifeboat station.
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