From Matt Gilbert
In order to progress the acquisition of our ‘Olympic Legacy’ safety boat, Hugh and I travelled to Lymington on Thursday to ‘road test’ a boat that the Sub-Committee had identified as a potential candidate.
An early start got us to Lymington, which we found was a very long way, for about 10.30, conditions were perfect with the snow blowing in the wind, just like sailing at Colemere so far this year!
Having put on every bit of warm waterproof clothing we had taken with us, we were driven down to the water with the boat, we were told that going out into The Solent was not practical as it was likely to be too rough – given the temperature, we were happy to agree, not least because, even on the windiest day Colemere does not have particularly large waves!
The boat we were testing was a French made 4 metre Rigiflex with a 25 hp engine, they are used by the Police, Fire Brigade, RNLI and others (including the Olympics), so it had good credentials and, with a solid moulded hull, it wouldn’t get a puncture, unlike, potentially, a rib. It was also pointed out to us that in ‘beautiful orange’ it was less likely to get stolen.
The test started well with the boat floating off the trailer – always a good sign, and the engine started too! So off we went for our trial, with the salesperson demonstrating very impressive manoeuvrability in both forward and reverse gears, and then, in order to demonstrate the potential to get to an incident quickly, he gave the boat a bit more throttle and the boat surged forwards, coming up onto the plane very quickly and shooting off down the River – Wow! Just a touch more responsive than our current boat.
It was then our turn to put the boat through its paces and this confirmed that the boat does indeed do what is required, strangely, as you will notice from the photos, Hugh was keen to see how safely the boat could be driven with your eyes shut – a very important aspect of rescue boat design!
Unfortunately, the Harbourmaster, being distinctly miserable, presumably due to the weather or, possibly, having just returned from a special course on customer relations, had spotted our salesman’s demonstration of speed and we were apprehended for speeding – clichés such as ‘zero tolerance’ and ‘I’ve never seen anything like that before’ followed and it was clear that he would be lucky to escape with his life and, as accomplices, we would probably be deported. Finally, after further negotiations it appears that the Harbourmaster settled on a fine and your Colemere representatives escaped with unblemished records.
Having escaped the clutches of the Law, we returned home, through the blizzards until, as we once again entered Shropshire, the sun came out, confirming that we live in the right part of the World!
No decision has yet been taken, but the Rigiflex is certainly a strong candidate.