Press Releases

Think of a lifeboat?

Think of a lifeboat that could withstand the rigours of the Bristol Channel?

Think of a lifeboat that that has saved 4,717 lives?

The result? A RIB - A Rigid Hull Inflatable Lifeboat - and it is on display at the National Waterfront Museum now.

Donated to the Museum by UWC Atlantic College, St Donat’s Castle, near Llantwit Major in South Wales, the RIB is the result of a project led by Desmond Hoare, an ex Royal Navy Officer, the college’s founder headmaster along with the staff and pupils who set about creating a safe and stable inflatable vessel that would withstand the rigours of the Bristol Channel and being dragged over the rocky shingle of the college’s foreshore.

The initial concept came from the student creation Psychedelic Surfer, the rigid-hulled inflatable they built to compete in Britain’s first ever Round Britain Powerboat Race in 1969, which finished in nineteenth place - not bad for a vessel created in two weeks!

The college, with its seaside location, castle and picturesque grounds, is the founding member of the UWC (previously United World College) movement, and around 350 students from 70 different countries live and learn there each year. A key part of their syllabus is spent learning and providing community services - including saving lives at sea.

Following the opening of a lifeboat station at the college’s shore side campus more than 40 years ago, rescue boats have been crewed by students and members of staff. The arrangement provides enthusiastic crew members and a rewarding experience for students.

After many experimental crafts were tried and tested, the B-Class Atlantic Inshore Lifeboat emerged, named in honour of the school. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution introduced this model into their fleet in 1972 and by August 1993 it had made 15,601 launches and saved 4,717 lives. The final innovation was to remove the transom - the back boards that in a standard boat keep the water out, but in the case of a RIB the removal of the transom allows water to flow out of the rear of the boat - the result, the Atlantic 21.

The RIB now on display at the Museum was built at UWC Atlantic College by the staff and students round about 2001 and the hull is made from the original Atlantic 21 fibre glass mould.

Speaking about the new acquisition, Modern and Contemporary Industry Curator, Ian Smith said: “At the Museum we tell the story of industry and innovation in Wales - the rigid-hull inflatable boat is a prime example of such innovation. We are pleased and proud to display this world renowned lifeboat and are very grateful to UWC Atlantic College for its donation. The objects that we collect today will tell the story of Welsh heritage for future generations to enjoy.”

Delighted to have the RIB on display at the Museum, Paul Motte, Acting Principal at UWC Atlantic College said: “The College’s association with the invention and early development of the RIB is a tribute to our predecessors and we are pleased that this early model is on display at the National Waterfront Museum. The worldwide development of the boat, particularly as a lifeboat, is something with which the college can be rightly proud.”

David Sutcliffe, a member of the College's founding staff in 1962, has since told the full story in The RIB: the Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Lifeboat and its Place of Birth - the Atlantic College. Books can be purchased at the National Waterfront Museum and online at

The RIB will be on display in the Museum’s Frontiers Gallery until the end of May.

For more information about the National Waterfront Museum, contact Marie Szymonski on 01792 638970.

For more information about UWC Atlantic College, contact Alexandra Smith, Marketing Manager on 01446 799278 or visit

Admission to Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales sites is free thanks to the support of the Welsh Assembly Government.

Amgueddfa Cymru operates seven national museums across Wales.

· National Museum Cardiff

· St Fagans: National History Museum

· National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon

· Big Pit: National Coal Museum

· National Wool Museum, Dre-fach

· National Slate Museum, Llanberis

· National Waterfront Museum, Swansea