South East Wales

Atlantic College lifeboat sets sail for exhibition

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Media captionThe lifeboat was designed in the 1960s

A pioneering lifeboat has been rescued from the scrapheap and has returned to the sea in south Wales.

The original rigid hull inflatable boat (RIB) was designed in the early 1960s by students from Atlantic College in the Vale of Glamorgan.

It went on to become the model for RNLI inshore boats across Britain - known as the Atlantic class.

Now one of the earliest examples found in storage in Barry will sail 550 miles to East Sussex for an exhibition.

The college aims to raise funds from the 10-day mission to design a new flood rescue vessel.

Atlantic College, a coastal boarding school for students from around the world, was founded in 1962 at the 12th Century St Donat's Castle near Llantwit Major and was initially run by retired Admiral Desmond Hoare.

Image copyright uwc atlantic college
Image caption Students built several prototypes, including the Psychedelic Surfer in 1969
Image copyright UWC Atlantic College
Image caption The rediscovered boat was tested for seaworthiness

As part of the pupils' maritime studies and community work, they came up with improved designs for rescue boats, selling the patent for the RIB to the RNLI for £1.

The four-metre lifeboat recovered from storage will be the focus of an exhibition devoted to the history of the RIB at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, where it is due to arrive on 5 July.

The college hopes to raise funds from the voyage to support a project to design a new flood rescue vessel.

Scrapheap challenge

Former student Robin Jenkins, now a RNLI crew member in London and curator of the exhibition, said the boat was literally saved from the scrapheap about two years ago.

"It was discovered at Barry Yacht Club where they were clearing out a shipping container," he said.

"They were about to throw it out but someone took a look and said it probably belonged to Atlantic College.

"It was in a bit of a sorry old state but a group of us took a look and decided it was worthwhile renovating.

"We stripped it down and an expert said the wood was in pretty good condition."

Image copyright uwc atlantic college
Image caption The boat was stripped down and given fresh varnish

When invited to curate the RIB exhibition at the De La Warr Pavilion, Mr Jenkins said he thought the restored boat would be an ideal attraction.

He said he was "extremely excited" about the journey ahead around the south coast of England in the boat, named Naomi in memory of Admiral Hoare's wife.

"We've given ourselves a 10-day window for a five-day journey in case of weather problems along the way," he said

"But if we arrive early, we arrive early."

Mr Jenkins said there was a possibility the exhibition would go on tour, but the boat would eventually return to the college where it would be used in showcases and special events.

Image copyright UWC Atlantic College
Image caption The restored boat has been tested ready for its journey around the coast to Sussex

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