Sidmouth Lifeboat Crew trains with HM Coastguard Search and Rescue helicopter

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be winched from a helicopter onto a lifeboat whilst on the move? Sidmouth Independent Lifeboat crew had the opportunity to find out this weekend.

In the first of its kind since the start of the pandemic, Sidmouth Lifeboat crew undertook a training session with HM Coastguard Search and Rescue helicopter from St Athan, South Wales on Sunday.

This important training experience helps the crew prepare for the transfer of seriously injured casualties, so they can be quickly taken to hospital for treatment.

The training scenario involves the Helm of the lifeboat holding a steady course at a particular position underneath the helicopter. This manoeuvre requires a lot of skill from the Helm, as in this position the helicopter pilot is unable to see the lifeboat.

Holding a steady course at speed also allows the helicopter to maintain enough lift and conserve power.

Once on course, a weighted bag is sent down a few times to ensure a stable winching platform, before the Coastguard’s winchman is lowered onto the deck of the moving lifeboat.

Sidmouth Independent Lifeboat has had experience of this situation “in real life” in the past, including the rescue of a diver with the bends, a hypothermic swimmer and a kayaker who had ingested large amounts of seawater and was at risk of secondary drowning.

The crew usually have the opportunity to undertake this training a few times a year alongside HM Coastguard Search and Rescue, depending on availability and weather. However, pandemic-related restrictions put things on hold for the last 18 months, so this weekend’s training was the first opportunity for some of the newer crew to get involved.

Sidmouth Independent Lifeboat would like to thank HM Coastguard Search and Rescue and the crew who trained with us on Sunday for sharing their time, skills and expertise. We look forward to the next session.

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