Proud Peter, lifeboat pioneer!

RNLI Naval Architect Peter Eyre stood with the prototype Shannon class lifeboat whose hull he designed.
RNLI Naval Architect Peter Eyre stood with the prototype Shannon class lifeboat whose hull he designed.

A Derry man has been speaking about the key role he played in developing the RNLI’s most advanced class of lifeboat - the Shannon class.

Named after the River Shannon and almost 50% faster than the lifeboats it will replace, the Shannon will help the charity’s volunteer crews reach those in need even quicker.

Peter Eyre, an RNLI Naval Architect from Derry, was instrumental in the development of the new lifeboat, designing the hull form at the age of 24 in his spare time.

Four years after Peter’s original design, the prototype of the Shannon class lifeboat is undergoing sea trials around the coasts of the UK and Ireland, with the first lifeboat going into service in 2013.

Capable of 25 knots, the Shannon is the first modern RNLI all-weather lifeboat to be powered by water jets, not propellers.

More than 50 new Shannons will need to be built within the next ten years to replace the older classes of lifeboat. The charity estimates that the 50+ Shannons in their class will rescue in excess of 56,000 people and save the lives of over 1,500 in its lifetime.

Peter, a past pupil of Foyle College, says: “I kept the design under wraps in the early stages.

“After a while, my boss could see I was working on something and encouraged me to continue. My job was to find the design by working with other naval architects, not to design it. I was the youngest in the team and before long I had designed the new lifeboat hull.”

Peter studied Ship Science at the University of Southampton and undertook a work placement with the RNLI.

After completing university, he returned as an intern, making such a strong impression that his contract was extended and made permanent. Peter is now a firm part of the RNLI Engineering team and a driving force behind the Shannon class, which will improve the safety and welfare of the charity’s volunteer crews.

He says: “I’m chuffed it was named after a river in Ireland. I think the moment it first goes out on a service will be the pinnacle.

“My parents will be so proud. It’s a great legacy to be a part of, especially at this age. I think it will sink in gradually. When the first life is saved I think that’s when it will really hit home.’

The Shannon class is expected to make up almost a third of the RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat fleet and once rolled out all RNLI all-weather lifeboats will be capable of at least 25 knots. The Shannon class will also improve the safety and welfare of the charity’s volunteer crews, thanks to its shock absorbing seats and computer monitoring and operating system.

Owen Medland, RNLI Training Divisional Inspector for Ireland says: ‘This is the first time that the RNLI has named a class of lifeboat after an Irish river – which is very fitting considering that Peter has been so fundamental in its design. All of the crews who have tested the new lifeboat have been thrilled with its speed, manoeuvrability and the improved crew safety features.

“We don’t yet know which Northern Ireland lifeboat stations will receive a Shannon class lifeboat, but the Shannon is designed to replace the majority of Mersey and some Tyne class lifeboats.

“We look forward to seeing the Shannon here in the near future.”

The RNLI has launched a £5 million fundraising campaign to fund two Shannons and their launch and recovery vehicles, designed by Supacat, for the relief fleet.

These ‘relief lifeboats’ will be used to replace station boats when they go for maintenance or repair and will, therefore, operate at many places around Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

To make a donation, visit: www.rnli.org/newlifeboatappeal