Practice makes perfect for Lowestoft crew

THE sights and sounds of the yellow RAF search and rescue helicopter working off the Lowestoft coast this week generated a great deal of interest but this time no one was in trouble as it was the latest in the very worthwile training exercises involving the town's RNLI lifeboat.

There was no emergency out at sea around lunchtime on Tuesday but the joint exercise was an opportunity to practise the professional skills necessary to rescue those in distress in all weather conditions.

Coxswain John Fox said: 'Today we let off an orange smoke at the start of the winching exercise to signal we needed 'help' before we were requested to steer a steady course and speed before winching could commence.

'A helicopter crew member was lowered to our deck, but he first had to let the dangling earthing strop make contact with the sea to discharge the big static electricity build-up within the helicopter.'

The operation requires a lot of skill on board the lifeboat and the helicopter.

'The helicopter winchman has controls to lower and raise the winch cable to adjust for a vessel's movement with the height of the waves – a very skillful job when it is rough,' said Mr Fox.

Several members of the lifeboat crew were winched up into the helicopter and then lowered back on to the Spirit of Lowestoft's deck during the exercise about two miles offshore.

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A maximum of two people per lift can be taken off a boat.

'The exercise was very worthwhile for both ourselves and the RAF, who were training a pilot.

'An important part of our volunteer crew training is to be able to work safely and effectively with the Sea King helicopter as we never know when these skills will be needed for real, such as if we were working a long way offshore and a casualty we had rescued needed to get hospital quickly for treatment,' said Mr Fox.

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