In its biggest lifeboat story for a generation, Hastings RNLI lifeboat station this week announced further details about the arrival of the town’s brand new all-weather lifeboat.

Building of the new Shannon class lifeboat, which will be named as the Richard and Caroline Colton, has now been completed. The boat has been launched and is currently undergoing sea trials at the RNLI’s headquarters at in Poole in Dorset. If all goes to plan, the new boat is due to arrive in Hastings by mid-October.

The Shannon is the latest class of all-weather lifeboat to join the RNLI fleet, and being capable of 25 knots it is almost 50% faster than the Mersey class lifeboat currently stationed at Hastings. She is also the first modern all-weather lifeboat propelled by waterjets instead of propellers, making her the most agile and manoeuvrable all-weather lifeboat in the RNLI fleet.

Waterjets allow the Shannon to operate in shallow waters and be intentionally beached. And when precision really matters, such as operating alongside a stricken vessel or navigating around hazards, they come into their own. At maximum power, the Shannon lifeboat pumps 1.5 tonnes of water each second from her waterjets.

Measuring just over 13m in length and weighing in at 18 tonnes, the Shannon is the smallest and lightest of current all-weather lifeboats, meaning she can be launched straight off the beach via a new and improved Shannon Launch and Recovery System (SLARS), which will also be coming to Hastings.

The new tractor-borne carriage allows a faster and safer launch and recovery time than the present Mersey system. After being recovered from the beach bow first, a turntable in the carriage rotates the Shannon 180º ready for her next launch. This means casualties can be reached sooner and our volunteer launching crews are better protected.

The safety and welfare of the RNLI’s volunteer crews was a key priority in the development of the Shannon class lifeboat. The hull is designed to minimise slamming of the boat in heavy seas, while shock-absorbing seats further protect the crew from impact when powering through the waves. Also, an improved Systems and Information Management System (SIMS) allows the crew to operate and monitor many of the lifeboat’s functions from the safety of their seats.

As with all RNLI all-weather lifeboats, the Shannon class is designed to be inherently self-righting, returning to an upright position in the event of a capsize. The Shannon lifeboat also carries comprehensive medical equipment including oxygen and full resuscitation kit, Entonox for pain relief, large responder bag and three different stretchers. The basket stretcher can be securely mounted on the wheelhouse floor.

None of this state of the art design is cheap, and the Shannon’s price tag comes in at £2.2 million, all of which comes from voluntary donations. The new Shannon-class lifeboat to be stationed at Hastings is to be named Richard and Caroline Coltonafter the late Mr Richard Colton of Wellingborough and his late wife Caroline Colton.

Although Richard was not keen on the cold waters of the British Isles, during his younger years – and in warmer waters – he was a keen water skier and diver. Throughout his lifetime, Mr Colton was a supporter of the RNLI and he participated in the Ecurie Ecosse Historic Motor Tour in 1991 to raise funds to build a new lifeboat station at Invergordon.

Richard passed away in March 2015 and left an extraordinary legacy to the RNLI of two of the world’s rarest Ferraris. The classic cars were sold at auction for an impressive £8.5 million – making the vehicles the most valuable items ever left to the RNLI – and part of this has been used to fund the all-weather lifeboat Richard and Caroline Colton at Hastings.

Richard Colton’s legacy is also funding the new Shannon Launch and Recovery rig for Hastings, which will be named Richard and Mark Colton, after his late son Mark.

All this means it will be a busy time for Hastings RNLI station and its volunteer crew, not least because the new boat and launch rig will place a heavy demand on crew training. Peter Adams Hasting Lifeboat’s Operations Manager says: ‘This is fantastic news for the town. The RNLI has shown its faith in us by allocating a brand new Shannon lifeboat to Hastings. The challenge for us now is learning to handle the very best that 21st century lifeboat technology has to offer.’

The current Mersey will stay as the operational lifeboat at Hastings, being used for all call-outs, until the crew have been fully trained and passed out as competent to handle the new lifeboat at which point the Sealink Endeavour will leave, as yet to an unknown fate.

Here’s some important Shannon arrival dates for your diary:

4 August – Carnival day. This will be your last chance to see the current all-weather lifeboat Sealink Endeavour lead the carnival procession. In coming years the new Shannon won’t be able to take part as the width of the rig means it can’t squeeze past the traffic lights!

20 August – The new launch and recovery rig Richard and Mark Colton will arrive in Hastings and training will immediately start on the beach the following week.

13 October – The new boat is due to arrive after sailing up from Poole during the preceding week, and spending the previous evening in Eastbourne. She is due arrive at midday and it is hoped that a huge crowd will turn out to see her arrive.

15 October – Crew training starts, with the new boat being launched, sailed and recovered every day this week.

27 April, 2019 – The new boat will be officially named in a ceremony at the station. Look out for more details closer to the time.

You can see our new Shannon Class Lifeboat undergoing Sea Trials by clicking the video link below:


Many thanks to kentphotopics via YouTube for capturing the footage