THE RNLI in Hastings is celebrating 50 years since its first inshore rescue boat arrived in the town.
The first boat, named IRB No 21 arrived in April 1964 and was made of black neoprene – not orange like the inshore lifeboats of today.
It could be launched in minutes and, just like today’s boats, was ideal for dealing with incidents such as swimmers in trouble, or people stranded by incoming tides.
Over the 50 years Hastings has seen 10 RNLI inshore lifeboats. Today’s boat Daphne May arrived in 2008 following a public fundraising appeal. Clive Mayhew, spokesman for Hastings RNLI, said: “With a top speed of 25 knots she is both faster and better equipped than her predecessor of 50 years ago – and also bright orange.”
Of the hundreds of rescues undertaken by Hastings’ inshore lifeboats two are particularly notable. In 1985 Chris Cooper, Graham Furness and Steve Martin rescued a man and an 11-year-old boy off Castle Rocks, and in 2006 Simon Hodgson, Glen Barry and Sloane Phillips pulled a man out of the sea off St Leonards.
Mr Mayhew said: “Both of these rescues were undertaken in extremely challenging sea conditions and the crews on both occasions were later officially recognised by the RNLI for their bravery.”