Spectacular mile-long flotilla finale for RNLI lifeboat festival

As the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) celebrates its 200th anniversary this year, more than 40 rescue vessels, including both current and historical RNLI lifeboats as well as international boats, have come together to form a flotilla more than a mile long.

The flotilla, which closed the two-day event held in Poole, Dorset, consisted of more than 20 historic RNLI lifeboats, the current lifeboat fleet including the most modern 25-knot lifeboat, the Shannon class, alongside current inshore lifeboats and the RNLI inshore rescue hovercraft.

International lifeboats were welcomed as part of the two-day event having travelled from France, Netherlands, Germany and Sweden. The oldest rescue craft taking part was a Swedish rowing lifeboat from 1868.

The All-weather Lifeboat Centre bustling with supporters
Credit: RNLI/Nathan Williams

RNLI Chief Executive Mark Dowie said: “As we commemorate the RNLI’s 200th anniversary this year, it was very special to be able to invite supporters, volunteers, historic lifeboat owners, and international search and rescue partners to this event showcasing our lifesaving work and providing a glimpse behind the scenes.

“The parade of sail was a wonderful spectacle to close the weekend’s festivities and illustrated the remarkable technological developments in lifeboat design since the RNLI was founded in 1824. Alongside our current fleet of state-of-the-art lifeboats and hovercraft, it was impressive to see lifeboats more than 100 years old on the water, which is testament to their original design and construction.”

The oldest RNLI vessel taking part in the flotilla, the rowing lifeboat, the William Riley, went on active service in 1909 and was credited with saving 35 lives in 1914 during the First World War. The hospital ship, SS Rohilla, which was carrying wounded soldiers from Dunkirk, was caught in a fierce storm and ran aground. Although being badly damaged itself in the rescue operation, the lifeboat spent 50 hours at sea.

The festival allowed supporters and enthusiasts to get a glimpse behind the scenes of the lifesaving charity. With doors open at the RNLI College, there were capsize demonstrations, water-based displays, guest speakers and an opportunity for visitors to step aboard some of the current fleet of lifeboats.

Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved 146,277 lives – this equates to an average of two lives saved every day for 200 years.

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