Just over 100 years ago, the crew of the Courtmacsherry RNLI lifeboat Keiza Gwilt had to row for over three hours to reach the sinking of the Lusitania off the Old Head of Kinsale – but their successors are now proud possessors of one of the fastest lifeboats in the RNLI.
Founded in 1825, making it one of the oldest RNLI lifeboat stations in Ireland, Courtmacsherry has just taken possession of Val Adnams, a state-of-the-art Shannon Class All Weather Lifeboat that will assist the volunteer crew as they face into their third century of saving lives off the Cork coast.
RNLI public relations officer Vincent O’Donovan explained the delivery of Val Adnams from RNLI HQ in Poole in Dorset had to be postponed for a week due to bad weather, but the new lifeboat received a warm welcome when a flotilla of local boats sailed out to greet her on Sunday.
“The arrival of Val Adnams marks the start of a new chapter in the story of search and rescue in the south coast. We got our first RNLI lifeboat, The Plenty, in 1825 and in the 198 years since, we have a proud tradition of life saving, with our station having won six medals for life saving over the years,” Mr O’Donovan said.
“Val Adnams is the 11th lifeboat to be stationed in Courtmacsherry since the station was founded here in 1825 – it replaces the Trent Class lifeboat, Frederick Storey Cockburn, which came here in 1995 and gave us great service over the last 27 years,” he added.
Courtmacsherry RNLI lifeboat operations manager Brian O’Dwyer said that the local crew have spent the past few weeks and months in preparation and training so as to be ready to take possession of Val Adnams, which is the most technologically advanced lifeboat in the RNLI fleet.
He explained that Val Adnams, as a Shannon Class Lifeboat, has a design by Derry man Peter Eyre – it is the first modern all-weather lifeboat to be propelled by waterjets instead of propellers – offering greater manoeuvrability.
“The Shannon has two 650hp Scania engines help her achieve 25 knots and she only needs 80 per cent of her power to do so, meaning the engines don’t have to work so hard and should last longer while each engine has its own 1,370 litre fuel tank that can be refuelled at a rate of 200 litres a minute.”
“Waterjets allow the Shannon to operate in shallow waters and be intentionally beached. And when precision really matters, such as operating alongside a stricken vessel or navigating around hazards, they come into their own,” he said.
Mr O’Dwyer said the Val Adnams, like all Shannon class lifeboats, is just over 13m in length and weighs 18 tonnes, making her the smallest and lightest of the RNLI’s 25-knot lifeboats, which enables her to be launched straight off the beach via a new and improved launch-and-recovery system.
Mr O’Donovan said new boat was named after British woman Val Adnams, a donor who grew up in Preston and Weymouth in the UK but now lives in Idaho in the United States. She has remained a proud supporter of the RNLI and provided a significant portion of the funding for the new boat.
‘We are incredibly honoured to receive it and we are grateful to our Val and to all those involved at our station down through the years, who have made this day possible. We hope to bring many loved ones safely home in this new lifeboat.”