The inflatable rescue boat (IRB) is an essential tool in surf life saving in Australia (and many other countries). It was introduced in the early 1970s and eventually replaced the iconic wooden surfboat. Competitive rowing of the traditional surf boats remains a strong and spectacular feature of surf life saving in Australia. IRBs are used for rescue and in competition. Racing of powered craft from the shore in sizeable surf is fast and spectacular. The IRB is commonly referred to as a rubber duck or rubber ducky.
Surf life savers in Victoria and other states compete in a 5 round IRB state competition every year from May to July after the close of the summer surf life saving competition. After the state championships there is an Australian championship in July, held in a different state every year. While there are different categories of competition, they are all variations of patient rescue simulation.
The minimum age for drivers, crew and patients in IRB competition events is 17, 16 and 15 years respectively. On the starters gun driver and crew run to the boat which is being held in position in the shallows by handlers (usually 2, but this can be increased to four if conditions warrant). As soon as the driver and/or crew make visible contact with the boat the handlers must release all contact with the boat and provide no further assistance to the driver and crew. The driver starts the motor when fully aboard and the crewman must be in contact with the IRB when the motor is started. The driver has a pontoon handle for his left hand (his right hand being on the throttle grip) and a foot strap for his right foot. The crewman has a bow-rope handle and a pontoon handle to hold on to, and foot strap for his left foot. The patient crouches in the IRB holding on to the pontoon life line. The crewman can be seated or standing and can move his weight around to assist in turning the boat and negotiating swell. The crewman can leave his normal position for patient pickup.
The rubber duck proceeds out to sea around the buoy anti-clockwise, and picks up the patient who must have hands clasped or one hand holding the opposite wrist. I observed patients with their arms forming a loop above their head to facilitate pickup. Upon returning to shore the motor must be shut down then the crewman assumes control of the IRB while the driver runs to the finish line.
On the weekend of June 11/12 round 5 of the Victorian IRB competition was held at Apollo Bay. The format was IRB rescue where a boat with driver and one crew race out to collect a patient waiting in the water at a buoy then return to shore.
These photos were taken during a number of heats on the Sunday and are not in any particular order.