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Nearly five years into his epic project to photograph every RNLI lifeboat station with a Victorian-era camera, Jack Lowe this week began the Northern Ireland leg of the mammoth undertaking.

Starting yesterday (Tuesday 3 September) at Red Bay, Lowe’s four-week swing also includes Portrush tomorrow (Thursday 5 September), then Enniskillen, Carrybridge, Newcastle, Kilkeel, Portaferry, Donaghadee, Bangor and Larne before he returns home to Newcastle-upon-Tyne — via Portpatrick and Stranraer in Scotland.

Lowe will capture each lifeboat station and its crew using wet plate collodion, a process developed in the 1850s — when the RNLI also began — that creates stunning images on glass.

Following this 19th leg, the end of The Lifeboat Station Project will be in sight as the remaining station count will be down to double figures.

When completed, The Lifeboat Station Project will be the very first time every station on the RNLI network been documented as one complete body of work. It is also one of the biggest photographic projects ever undertaken, the RNLI says.

As with the rest of his adventure, Lowe travelled to Northern Ireland on Monday (2 September) with ‘Neena’, a decommissioned NHS ambulance purchased on eBay, which he converted into a mobile darkroom.

Along the way Lowe has been sharing the ups and downs of his mission on social media. He also makes videos and sound recordings, enabling his followers to get a real sense of what life is like within lifeboat communities.

Almost a year ago, Lowe reached the halfway mark of his epic project that previously took him to Ireland’s South Coast, where he completed his 100th station in Valentia.

By the end of September 2018, he estimates to have used around 1,500 glass plates, 120 litres of developer and 45 litres of collodion.

Lowe had also driven some 28,000 miles — the equivalent of more than once round the world.

“It’s a privilege spending time with so many lifeboat volunteers, preserving their bravery and devotion for future generations,” Lowe says.

“This journey is unprecedented in so many ways. The further I travel, the deeper the body of work becomes on just about every level and in ways that I could never have foreseen or imagined.”

The Lifeboat Station Project’s dedicated website has links to Lowe’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds, as well as his Patreon campaign.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Northern Ireland lifeboat crews marked the end of the summer season with a number of callouts over the weekend.

On Saturday afternoon (31 August) Portaferry’s inshore lifeboat wad called out to reports that two Flying Fifteen keelboats had capsized on Strangford Lough.

On arrival it was found both vessels had been righted and were returning to shore, Portaferry RNLI said.

But while out on the lough, the lifeboat crew were also tasked to aid a 36ft yacht which had run aground on Don O’Neill Island some four miles away.

At the scene, the lifeboat crew ensured that all on the yacht and their dog were safety aboard their vessel and that there was no water being taken on.

The following afternoon (Sunday 1 September), the inshore lifeboat launched to a motorboat with two adults and three children that had run aground in the Narrows.

Another vessel had taken the casualty boat under tow to deeper water and the lifeboat crew followed up by escorting the motorboat to Portaferry Marina.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Carrybridge RNLI’s inshore lifeboat and rescue water craft were launched to a vessel with four on board which had grounded west of the Share Centre on Upper Lough Erne.

After carefully navigating the shallow waters and assessing the condition of the two adults and two children on board, the lifeboat crew checked the vessel for water ingress and none was found.

With the owner’s permission, the volunteer crew set up a tow line and proceeded to refloat the casualty vessel in deeper water.

The barge was again checked for water ingress and the steering and propulsion also checked before they were allowed to continue their journey.

Carrybridge lifeboat operations manager Stephen Scott reminded all boaters to plan their routes carefully using revenant charts to avoid difficulties in unexpectedly shallow waters.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Five people were rescued off North Co Antrim yesterday afternoon (Friday 30 August) when their 33ft yacht got into difficulty near Rathlin Island.

Red Bay RNLI’s volunteer crew were requested to launch their all-weather lifeboat 1.20pm following a report that the yacht was struggling to make headway in difficult conditions at sea some five miles south-east of Rathlin.

Two of the crew onboard the yacht — which was on passage to Carrickfergus — were also suffering from seasickness, Red Bay RNLI says.

The lifeboat crew set up a tow and brought the vessel to Ballycastle. Speaking later, Red Bay RNLI press officer Paddy McLaughlin said: “Conditions at sea were challenging this afternoon and the crew made the right decision to call for help.”

Elsewhere, Clifden RNLI in Connemara launched its new all-weather lifeboat for the first time on Thursday afternoon (29 August) to reports of a RIB adrift and in danger in Ballinakill Bay between Letterfrack and Renvyle.

However, it was the D class inshore lifeboat Celia Mary which was first on the scene — where volunteers found two people on a 5.5m RIB with engine failure that was very close to the rocky shore in worsening weather conditions, with a Force 6 wind at the time.

Lifeboat helm Thomas Davis agreed with the two people on board the RIB that the vest course of action was a tow back to shore, which was safely completed.

Davis said: “We were glad to be able to help these people recover their boat today.

“We also wish to remind all water users in Connemara to contact the coastguard or emergency services at the earliest opportunity when things go wrong — we would always rather launch and be stood down than risk other possible outcomes.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Two people were evacuated from the Aran Islands for medical reasons by the area’s RNLI lifeboat yesterday (Wednesday 28 August).

At 4.50pm the all-weather lifeboat David Kirkaldy called to launch from Inis Mór to neighbouring Inis Meain where an elderly man had been injured in a fall.

Under coxswain John O’Donnell and a full crew onboard, the Severn class lifeboat braved difficulty conditions, with choppy 1.5-metres seas and Force 5-6 west to south-westerly wind, to transfer the casualty to the waiting ambulance in Rossaveal.

Later in the evening, just after 11pm, the volunteer crew were called out for another medevac, this time to a sick man elsewhere on Inis Mór who required further treatment, Aran Islands RNLI says.

Despite the even worse conditions at sea, the man was safely transferred to Rossaveal and the waiting paramedics.

O’Donnell said later: “Yesterday was a busy one for the volunteer crew members but they are always ready to answer the call and happy to help out. We would like to wish both patients a speedy recovery.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Kilkeel’s volunteer lifeboat crew worked fast to help clear a speedboat with engine troubles from a busy shipping lane yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 27 August).

The 16ft Bayliner, with one person on board, had broken down in Carlingford Lough and was in danger from incoming and outgoing shipping traffic, according to Kilkeel RNLI.

Kilkeel’s inshore lifeboat launched at 1.10pm headed south along the Co Down coast, and on arrival at the scene they found that the speedboat has been restarted.

Checking that the skipper was fine, they ensured there were no further issues before escorting the skipper back to his mooring in Greencastle.

The previous evening, Carrybridge RNLI’s inshore lifeboat Douglas Euan & Kay Richards and rescue water craft were launched to a vessel with its own engine difficulties some two miles downstream of the River Erne hamlet.

When the lifeboats arrived on scene, the casualty vessel — with two person on bard — was found floating close to the shoreline.

Once those on board were found to be well, a volunteer from the rescue water craft boarded their vessel to help set up a tow line and it was brought back to its private berth in the hamlet.

Carrybridge RNLI helm Chris Cathcart later advised all boat users: “Before setting out on your journey, please plan your route and carry out regular checks of their vessels. Also have a means of calling for assistance if you find yourself in trouble.

“If you see someone in trouble on the water or are in difficulties yourself, the number to dial is 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Larne RNLI’s volunteer crew were kept busy with two callouts in quick succession on yesterday’s Bank Holiday (Monday 26 August), while the Portaferry lifeboat had an early-hours launch to aid a yacht run around in Strangford Lough.

Larne’s inshore lifeboat Terry launched in calm seas to reports of an inflatable driving out to sea at Ballygally beach, Larne RNLI says.

After a brief search of the area, the inflatable was recovered, deflated and returned to its own owner, who was offered some advice on water safety.

Shortly after, while the crew were recovering the inshore lifeboat at East Antrim Boat Club, reports came through from the Portmuck Coastguard mobile team of a paddle boarder in difficulty just off Muck Island, near Islandmagee.

Relaunching at 3.30pm, the lifeboat approached the island to search for the casualty and were directed to his location by a passing’s jetskier.

When the lifeboat crew reached the boarder, Larne RNLI says they learned that the man had been on the water with his two daughters and hadn’t realised the currents had been taking them further out to sea.

One of the girls made it back to shore, but the father and his other daughter were in difficulty — however, the jetskier realised their predicament and offered to take the other girl back to shore while the father called for help.

By the time the lifeboat reached him he had been fighting the currents for 45 minutes and was tired.

After assessing him for injuries, he and his board were brought into Portmuck at Islandmagee.

Inshore lifeboat helm Pamela Leitch said following the callouts: “Please be aware of the strong currents and crosswinds around our coastline. It doesn’t take much for someone to get into real difficulty when they are blown out to sea.”

Much earlier in the day, Portaferry RNLI’s volunteers were tasked by Belfast Coastguard to assist a yacht with two on board that had run aground on Roe Island in Strangford Lough.

The inshore lifeboat launched under little moonlight at 12.50am and were on scene 28 minutes later, taking the yacht under tow to a safe place to anchor.

Portaferry RNLI press officer Jordan Conway said: “The yacht’s crew made the right decision to call for help as there was a falling tide and the situation could have got a lot worse.

“We would remind everyone planning a trip at sea to always respect the water. Always wear a lifejacket, always carry a means of communication and should you get into difficulty, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Dun Laoghaire RNLI launched to a 34ft yacht unexpectedly dismasted while sailing near Dalkey Island yesterday afternoon (Sunday 25 August).

The skipper aboard the yacht was able to call the coastguard by VHF radio, and the volunteer lifeboat crew were requested to launch the all-weather Anna Livia at 2.15pm in calm conditions, Dun Laoghaire RNLI reports.

Once on the scene, the lifeboat crew checked that the skipper was safe and uninjured, then he and his yacht were towed back to Dun Laoghaire.

Speaking after the callout, Dun Laoghaire RNLI’s coxswain Mark McGibney said: “In this situation where the yacht unexpectedly dismasted, the skipper was able to alert the coastguard as thankfully he had a backup handheld VHF radio. It is also essential to always carry a means of communication.”

Hours before, Larne RNLI was requested to launch by Belfast coastguard to reports of a sinking vessel with two people on board.

Launching both of their lifeboats, Larne RNLI’s volunteer crew made their way towards the casualty vessel’s reported position, just outside of Larne Harbour.

While en route, the inshore lifeboat Terry was stopped by a passing pleasure craft which reported they had recovered the two people from the casualty vessel, who were found to be safe and well and were returned to shore on the all-weather lifeboat.

Larne RNLI inspect the submerged vessel | Photo: RNLI/Derek ReaLarne RNLI inspect the submerged vessel | Photo: RNLI/Derek Rea

Later both lifeboats were requested to survey the casualty vessel to see if anything could be salvaged — but by then it was mostly submerged, as Larne RNLI reports.

Earlier in this Bank Holiday weekend for Northern Ireland, Kilkeel RNLI launched late on Friday (23 August) to attend a 10m yacht with two on board which had become stranded with a rope in the propeller.

Kilkee RNLI says the volunteer crew located the yacht Villa Vilja — which was on passage from Tromso, Norway to the Caribbean — seven miles north-east of Kilkeel in freshening conditions.

And with the yacht tossing about in the rough seas, the lifeboat helm brought the lifeboat safely aside and a crew member boarded the yacht to check all was well to establish a tow.

Despite the challenging conditions, the yacht was brought safely into Kilkeel Harbour where the local coastguard team ensured it was safely and securely berthed at the pontoon.

Kilkeel RNLI lifeboat operations manager John Fisher said: “The transfer of a crew member to another vessel is a manoeuvre the crew often practice but with both boats being tossed about, the transfer was particularly difficult — but was managed, as usual, in a very safe professional manner and we wish the sailors a safe onward passage to the Caribbean.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Wicklow RNLI brought two people and three dogs to safety yesterday afternoon (Saturday 24 August) after their 33ft motor cruiser got fouled in ropes off the Wicklow coast.

The all-weather lifeboat Jock & Annie Slater put to sea shortly at 11am, and 35 minutes later located the stricken Welsh motor cruiser 11 miles north east of Wicklow Harbour.

A towline was established and the cruiser was taken in tow back to Wicklow Harbour, but as they approached the harbour the skipper of the cruiser reported his vessel was taking on water.

As a precaution, the crew prepared a pump and the inshore lifeboat was launched to assist. However, the water was cleared with a bilge pump and the lifeboat pump was not required, Wicklow RNLI says.

It added that the motor cruiser was brought alongside the East Pier shortly before 2pm and the two people and three dogs were landed safely ashore.

Much earlier, Baltimore RNLI in West Cork was called out to a yacht in difficulty south of Sherkin Island.

The inshore lifeboat was launched at 12.31am to assist a 30ft yacht, with two people onboard, that was in difficulty in the Gascanane Sound.

The lifeboat reached the casualty vessel within 20 minutes and found the yacht’s crew to be well before escorting their vessel to the north pier in Baltimore.

They assessed the situation and once the lifeboat crew were happy that the crew on board the vessel were okay, they escorted the vessel to the north pier in Baltimore.

Baltimore RNLI press officer Kate Callanan said: “Although they were not in any immediate danger, the crew of the yacht did the right thing in alerting the coastguard [who tasked the lifeboat].

“At the time of the call there was heavy fog, and the area they were in is notorious for strong tides.

“If you get into difficulty at sea or on the coast, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Arklow RNLI launched twice on Wednesday (21 August), first to go the aid of three onboard a broken down boat and later to search for a kayaker reported missing.

The volunteer crew were first requested to launch their all-weather lifeboat by the Irish Coast Guard at 1pm on Wednesday, Arklow RNLI says.

The Ger Tigchelaar was launched to reports of a fishing vessel with three aboard which had lost propulsion and was adrift one mile north-east of Arklow Harbour.

In south-westerly Force 4-5 winds and with moderate worsening sea conditions, the casualty vessel was located and, once on scene, Arklow RNLI volunteers secured a rescue towline and proceeded to tow the fishing vessel back into Arklow where all hands came ashore safely.

The second call out came later that evening at 6.20pm when reports had come in that a person was missing on a kayak somewhere north of Arklow.

The crew launched the lifeboat immediately and commenced a search. As they proceeded north along the coast, further reports came in that a kayak had been sighted on or near the beach at Ennereilly Strand, north of Arklow.

The lifeboat continued the search north as it headed for the reported position at Ennereilly.

In the meantime, some of Arklow RNLI’s volunteers had commenced a shoreline search to see if the person had managed to get ashore separate from the kayak.

A short time later, another volunteer located the owner of the kayak who had made his way ashore quite safely and was en route back to Ennereilly Strand to pick up his kayak.

The search was then stood down and the lifeboat returned to station.

Following the callouts, Arklow RNLI press officer Mark Corcoran said: “Thankfully, we were able to bring three people safely back to shore and given the worsening conditions and with the casualty vessel adrift near the rocks this could easily have had a much worse ending.

“Our second launch in more challenging conditions followed a report of a missing kayaker — thankfully he had made it back to shore safely and was en-route back to collect his beached kayak when he was located on shore.

“Thanks to the members of the public who made the report and all of our volunteers for their time in challenging conditions and a special thanks and congratulations to Sinead Myler on completing her first call out today.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Aran Islands lifeboat volunteers launched their all-weather lifeboat on Saturday afternoon (17 August) to carry out a medical evacuation for an injured tourist.

The female visitor to Inis Mór had sustained a suspected fractured leg while out sightseeing, Aran Islands RNLI said.

The casualty was transferred safely aboard the Severn class lifeboat David Kirkaldy under coxswain Tommy Dirrane and a full crew, and was brought to the waiting ambulance at Rossaveal Harbour.

Dirrane said later: “The volunteer crew members train regularly to maintain their quick response time and that can make all the difference to the casualty you are going to help. We would like to wish the casualty a speedy recovery.”

Elsewhere on Saturday, Rosslare Harbour RNLI volunteers were called to assist a small yacht with two onboard in difficulty off Cahore Point off the North Wexford coast.

Tangled in a lobster pot line and unable to sail in the freshening south westerly wind, the crew called the Irish Coast Guard for assistance, according to the RNLI.

Rosslare Harbour RNLI volunteers launched their all-weather lifeboat and reached the yacht in a short time.

Lifeboat volunteers reached the yacht in short order and set up a tow line to bring it close to Cahore Harbour, where the Cahore inshore rescue boat took over due to the shallow water.

Rosslare Harbour RNLI coxswain Eamonn O’Rourke said: “I would like to commend our volunteer crew who worked hard to attach a tow to the yacht in challenging conditions. We were glad to see the vulnerable yacht and her crew safe.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
Page 3 of 99

The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.

Competitions

The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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