The arrival of Hastings’ new RNLI lifeboat came a step closer with the arrival of the boat’s launch and recovery rig.
Six volunteer drivers from the RNLI station at Hastings spent the week learning about the new rig and how to operate it safely.
This included practising with a new Shannon class lifeboat on Thursday.
The new launch and recovery system acts like a mobile slipway for the Shannon lifeboat, which can be driven directly onto the beach for recovery, making it ideal for lifeboat stations without harbours or slipways.
Weighing in at 37 tonnes, this impressive piece of kit can carry an 18-tonne Shannon over all kinds of beach terrain, from steep shelving shingle to wet, sticky sand.
It can drive straight into big surf and safely launch the lifeboat in up to 2.4m of water.
Not only that, in the event of a breakdown with an incoming tide, the watertight tractor can be completely submerged in depths of up to 9m before being retrieved once the tide has gone out.
The lifeboat is launched at the touch of a button and the whole system requires less manual handling by shore crew volunteers, making for a safer and more efficient launch and recovery.
When it is time to recover, the beached lifeboat is pulled bow first onto the tractor’s unique turntable.
The cradle rotates the lifeboat by 180 degrees, ready to be launched again within 10 minutes, which is just a third of the time it takes to recover and re-launch the current Mersey class lifeboat at Hastings.
Peter Adams, the lifeboat operations manager at Hastings said: “We’ve been talking about this for a long time, and now things are really beginning to happen.
“The crew have just started an intensive period of training, and we’re all really excited at the prospect of the new boat’s arrival at noon on bonfire day in October.”