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Boat builder Jack Chippendale MBE


He was a master at creating superb wooden boats. From The Telegraph

Jack Chippendale's particular skill was constructing dinghies – small, cheap boats whose popularity took off in the straitened post-war years. Always keen to ensure that the largest number of people should benefit from sailing, Chippendale pioneered methods of breaking down designs into yet cheaper kit form, allowing those on very tight budgets to construct the dinghies themselves. If anything, the kits required an even higher standard of workmanship than boats built in the yard, as adjustments could not be made during assembly; so every pre-made piece had to be perfect.

As dinghy racing took off in the 1950s and 1960s, it was considered a distinct advantage to race in a Chippendale boat. . .

His upbringing was strict, as was his civilian boatbuilding apprenticeship, which required him to work 80 hours a week, including four hours on Sunday mornings. Perhaps understandably, he soon fell out with his employer and set up on his own. In the 1950s and 1960s Chippendale Boats, based at Fareham in Hampshire, became a byword for quality, and expanded until its staff numbered 35.

Even with orders flooding in, Chippendale remained uncompromising about accuracy. But above all he was determined to transmit his talents to the apprentices he took on. “If you train people exceptionally well,” he noted, “you can afford to pay them more. They don’t require supervision and their work earns you more money.”

So strong was this ethic that over the years his apprentices became affectionately known “Chippendale people” – a breed whose highly-respected representatives now fill many senior posts in the boatbuilding industry. His yard built and modified the first Fireball, a high performance 16-footer designed by Peter Milne, and was also the first to build Folkboats (rugged 25ft sailboats) commercially in Britain, as well as the Osprey, International 5-0-5 and Kestrel dinghies.

. . .Despite his long memory of traditional techniques, Chippendale was a fierce advocate of innovation and new materials. . .

Jack fought back from financial catastrophe, when a money manager ran his firm aground. His delight was the happiness of felt by the owners of his boats, who sailed them for years.

He worked all his life. Shortly before his death he noted: “I started when I was 14 and I’m now 87 and still involved — so that’s 73 years. I still enjoy it.” In all, he estimated, he built 4,000 boats. Of these, he was particularly proud of Storm — a 35ft wooden cruiser which remains comfortably the fastest boat on the Broads. . .

To us Jack Chippendale represents the best of Great Britain. What a contrast he makes to the latest government budget.

Ave atque Vale.

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