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The inflatable collar or sponson that attaches to a conventional rigid hulled boat was conceived as fendering to assist life boats in coming alongside. It quickly became clear that this 'fendering' was actually a breakthrough in boat design giving exceptional sea keeping, safety and a 'variable geometry' hull that helps to absorb shock loads in big seas.
The RNLI named their first Ribs after the College and the Atlantics have been the mainstay of the RNLI inshore rescue fleet ever since, although they are now bigger and faster versions designated Atlantic 75's and 85's. The RNLI makes all of its Ribs at its own Rib building facility in Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
Boatbuilders were quick to adapt the design to a retail specification. The market has grown exponentially over the last forty years. 4m Avon Sea Riders have given way to boats that are not uncommonly 8m in length. Solent Rib Charter have a 15m cabin Rib in build.
Many well known UK manufacturers have 'offshored' their production but the majority of serious 'commercial' boats are still produced in the UK by firms like Ribcraft, Halmatic, Delta and MST. Solent Rib Charter have purchased some forty Ribcraft boats from new over the last fifteen years.
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