Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

The man who helped lifeboats go 50% faster

Speed boats: Peter Eyre who designed the new hull for the Shannon lifeboat

A young Northern Ireland man’s passion for all things nautical has led to him playing a leading role in designing the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s new all-weather rescue craft.

Peter Eyre’s hull design for the new Shannon Class lifeboat makes it up to 50% faster than the existing design. It’s estimated the new fleet of boats will rescue 56,000 people and save 1,500 lives over their service.

The 28-year-old’s love of boats stems from a childhood sailing on Lough Swilly, close to his home in Londonderry.

This led to a University Degree in Ship Science at Southampton and then to a job with the RNLI.

He started working on his hull design in his own time four years ago, but when his boss saw what he was doing, it became his full-time job.

Christened the Shannon Class after the Irish river, the vessel is the first modern RNLI all-weather lifeboat to be powered by water jets, not propellers.

More than 50 new Shannons will need to be built within the next 10 years to replace the older classes of lifeboat and the former Foyle & Londonderry College pupil was a vital part of the team that came up with the new design.

Four years after Peter’s original design, the prototype of the Shannon is undergoing sea trials around the coasts of the UK and Ireland, with the first lifeboat going into service in 2013.

Work on the next generation of boats has already begun and these will be operational first in England. Peter hopes it will not be too long before there are at least one or two patrolling the waters around Ireland.

He said: “I have always been a sailor, right from when I was a boy sailing on Lough Swilly. When I was 14, racing on our family yacht our mast broke and we had to be assisted by the RNLI, so I suppose you can say I have experienced every aspect of the work the RNLI do.

“I am so proud to have been involved in this project. The Shannon is designed to go 50% faster than the boats it is replacing and is designed to be able to launch in very rough weather.

“This is important because the RNLI set out in all weathers including extreme conditions so this will help keep the crews, who are all volunteers, safe during rescue missions.

“I’m chuffed it was named after a river in Ireland. I think the moment it first goes out on a service will be the pinnacle. My parents will be so proud.

“It’s a great legacy to be a part of, especially at this age. I think it will sink in gradually. When the first life is saved I think that’s when it will really hit home.”

The Shannon Class is expected to make up almost a third of the RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat fleet and once rolled out all RNLI all-weather lifeboats will be capable of at least 25 knots.

Owen Medland, RNLI Training Divisional Inspector for Ireland, added: “This is the first time that the RNLI has named a class of lifeboat after an Irish river — which is very fitting considering that Peter has been so fundamental in its design.

“All of the crews who have tested the new lifeboat have been thrilled with its speed, manoeuvrability and crew safety features.

“We don’t yet know which Northern Ireland lifeboat stations will receive a Shannon class lifeboat, but the Shannon is designed to replace the majority of Mersey and some Tyne class lifeboats. We look forward to seeing the Shannon here.”

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