Friday, 17 April 2009


Is the project name for the replacement lifeboat for the Mersey class. It stands for 'Fast Carriage Boat 2' (the Mersey class was the first fast carriage launched boat in the fleet). Although the Mersey is no longer what could be considered a fast boat (16 knots), when it was introduced it roughly doubled the speed of the classes of lifeboats that it replaced. FCB2 will be almost as great an increase with a top speed of 25 knots. Once it has entered service and replaced all of the existing Merseys, every All Weather Lifeboat in the RNLI fleet will have a 25 knot capability.

And why is this important? Well, obviously it means that we can respond more quickly and get to casualties faster for any given distance. It might also reduce costs. It could do this because with faster boats it could be argued that fewer boats are required to maintain the current response times.

Of course here in Swanage we have been following the FCB2 project with a great deal of interest. Rob, our second Coxswain has been heavily involved in the trials programme and has been keeping us up to date with developments. However, the project has not been entirely straightforward. Some years ago a hull was designed and a prototype built. Rob was the Trials Officer then and took part in the testing of this hull. During the trials in 2008 it became apparent that the performance of the experimental FCB2 boat’s original hull design in rough seas did not meet the operational requirements for an RNLI lifeboat, especially when travelling up-sea in steep waves. The very difficult decision was taken to delay the project and introduction of the boats and redevelop the hull. (As a crewmember this was a very comforting decision. It sends a clear message that as far as the RNLI is concerned, they would not equipe with anything other that the best possible tool for the job).

So the design of the hull was put out to tender and 7 designs were received, one in-house and 6 from other companies. Six scale models were then built and tested by Seaspeed Marine Consulting Ltd both in open water and at QinetiQ’s Ocean Basin and Ship Tank at Haslar, Gosport (3 days of time in the Basin were generously donated by QinetiQ). The outcome of this testing was revealed yesterday. It was announced that the in-house had performed best in the widest possible range of conditions. This is no surprise as a I seem to remember that a similar thing happened with the design of the Atlantic 85. Many of the other designs could do something better than the in-house design, however, what the RNLI requires is an all-rounder...something which is good in all conditions is preferable to something which is brilliant in some conditions but poor in others.

So, what's next? The plan now is to further optimise the hull form to improve performance with fuel economy being an important factor. The hull will then be moulded and fitted out before completing sea trials scheduled for mid 2011.

You can read more about the trials here and there is also some video footage:

(Photo/video: RNLI, with thanks)


Mart said...

Have you room at Swanage for a carriage launched boat John?

Peter said...

What would Henry Greathead make of this?

lifeboatjohn said...

No Mart, but we currently have a carriage launched boat on a slipway. FCB2 will also be capable of being housed on a slipway in a boathouse I'm lead to believe.

Peter, I think he would have been very impressed!

All the best


Mart said...

Thanks for that John - I don't know why, I had assumed that the FCB2 would be carriage only. Would make sense to have it able to be slip launched as well I guess.

Out of interest, do you know the reasoning behind Swanage having a Mersey slip launched as opposed to a Tyne?

lifeboatjohn said...

It comes down to size Mart, the Tyne would never have fitted in our boathouse. Our boathouse is on a restricted site which has almost reached the limit of its development. We hope that there will be room for FCB2!

Mart said...

Ahha well fingers crossed then. From what I have seen the Mersey is 12m and the FCB2 13m so looks reasonable. I know the Tamar is a lot bigger than the Tyne, but I suppose there is a limit on how big a carriage launched boat can be.

Can see the blog title now - Jet Power arrives in Swanage!

lifeboatjohn said...

Actually, I've been talking complete rot, Rob's just informed me that we won't be getting FCB2 as it will not in fact be able to go on a slipway! It would seem that I completely got the wrong end of the stick...humble apologies!

Unfortunately the phone line was very poor last night so I didn't quite manage to hear the bit where Rob told me what we would be getting! Presumably if it is not FCB2 it will a Tamar but goodness knows how that will fit into the boathouse...perhaps it won't?

I'd better find out hadn't I...