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100 years of great British boatbuilding

Published on: 05 December 2019


2020 marks a mammoth year for UK yacht manufacturer and British Marine member, Windboats, with the celebration of 100 years of building world-class sailing and motoryachts. This milestone, reached by only a handful of marine businesses is a cause for celebration of the company’s history, its global success and its exciting future.

From modest beginnings Windboats has grown from strength to strength, having crafted a variety of quality vessels ranging from small wooden boats to 72ft luxury cruising yachts and motorboats.

Windboats is a boatyard with a rich and interesting history. Established in 1920 by Graham Bunn, a master craftsman and yacht designer, the yard quickly developed a reputation for excellence in boatbuilding and produced one of the finest fleets of hire boats in the Norfolk Broads. The fleet became known as the ‘Windboats’.

In 1945 the yard was purchased by Donald Hagenbach, who led Windboats to become one of the founder members of the Ship & Boat Builders National Federation, which today is known as British Marine. He later became the Federation’s President. The business diversified into building aluminium boats in 1957 and soon after started using ferro cement construction under the trade name Seacrete which was later awarded the Lloyd’s 100A1 certificate.

The business changed hands for the third time in 1974, purchased by Windboats’ own Production Director and Naval Architect, Trevor James. One of his many successful designs was the 65ft research trawler built for the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, handed over by Queen Elizabeth II in 1976.

Windboats moved into GRP yacht production in 1983, commencing a 30 year association with Oyster Marine, one of the world’s top marques in luxury sailing yachts. The yard went on to build nearly 300 Oyster yachts ranging in size from 35-72ft.

In 2013 Oyster yachts moved their production in-house and Windboats used the opportunity to diversify, acquiring the highly respected Norfolk motorboat builder Hardy Marine, who produced an range of models from 32-62ft.

Trevor’s son, Oliver, joined the company in 1999 and became Managing Director in 2010. His father sadly passed away four years later but Oliver continued to build the business with Trevor’s wife, Yvonne, as Chairlady. In 2014, on the 40th anniversary of ownership, a new partnership was formed with luxury British yacht brand, Gunfleet Marine, founded by Richard Matthews after selling Oyster Marine in 2008.

Oliver James and his team will continue to drive the business forward, starting with a very topical launch to celebrate the company’s 100th year – a range of hybrid options for the Hardy model range.

Oliver James, Managing Director at Windboats comments: “2020 marks the 46th year of ownership by the James family of this 100 year old company. The story of Windboats wouldn’t be the same without the talents of the exceptional team and the loyalty of our clients and suppliers. With a healthy order book, we look forward to carrying on the tradition of building yachts to the highest standards, whilst flying the flag for British boatbuilding.”

Find out more on the Windboats website here