Lyme Regis Boat Building Academy Launch Day – 4th June 2024

Court Assistant Mr Chris Adams visited Lyme Regis Boat Building Academy on 4 June to witness the Academy’s Launch Day.  Chris, who chairs the Billmeir sub-committee of the Education and Charity Committee, writes:

“A very considerable crowd gathered on the afternoon of Tuesday 4th June 2024 outside the Lyme Regis Boat Building Academy on Monmouth beach, and around the slipway at the nearby Cobb Harbour to support the Academy’s Launch Day.

It was something of a civic occasion, attended by the mayor of Lyme Regis who spoke to the assembled crowd at the top of the slipway. Some insight was given to the history of boat building in Lyme Regis which commenced during the reign of Edward I. Construction of the first vessel at Lyme Regis’s shipyard, a galley built by forty local men, commenced in 1295. Due for completion by Christmas of that year, pay disputes delayed delivery until July 1296. The original shipyard was located near Ozone Terrace, a short distance to the east of the premises of the Academy, and close to the location of the town’s current bowling green. The mayor speculated that if one was to dig up the bowling green, a course of action not however recommended, shipwright artefacts were likely to be found beneath it.

In the 18th century a larger vessel was constructed on the  site of the town’s current museum, much further to the east on the other side of the Lim estuary. The planning associated with that vessel had some shortcomings in that it became necessary to demolish part of the sea wall in order to complete its launch.

Happily no such urban vandalism was required for the launching of the three recently completed vessels from the Academy. All proceeded smoothly and in fine reflection of the excellence of the Academy and its tuition.

The three boats launched were:

  • A 14 ft. glued carvel Crosby catboat TRIO
  • A 14 ft carvel and cold moulded Riva Scoiattolo, outboard powered
  • A 20ft Looe traditional clinker diesel launch (restoration)

All three were put through their paces in Lyme Bay beyond the shelter of the Cobb in what was quite a brisk wind and moderate sea, and all returned safely to harbour.

There was a fourth boat still in the yard, a 14ft 4in glued clinker Welsford Walkabout lug yawl. That was not yet complete and would be launched at a later date.

Prior to the launchings, Will Reed, Director of the Academy spoke about the significance of the day and provided some background history of the Academy. It was founded in 1997 by Tim Gedge, a former naval officer – and incidentally a contemporary of the Renter Warden – with a keen interest in boatbuilding. The Academy, now operating as a charity, is housed in what were the former premises of the RAF’s sea search and rescue centre. Since its foundation the Academy has completed 288 boats, the cost of all but two of which was funded by individual owners. Will Reed  emphasised that perhaps of more significance than the three boats launched on 4th June, and the fourth due to follow shortly, was that the day marked the launch of the careers of 14 new boatbuilders. In the 27 years since the foundation of the Academy a total of 618 new boatbuilder have graduated.

It was a pleasure to meet all of the students who included Ailin Brickhill, who had worked on the Riva Scoiattola (pictured).

Following the completion of his course at the Academy, Ailin was heading home to the Isles of Scilly intent on setting up his own boatbuilding business on St Mary’s. We wish him every success in this venture and indeed congratulate all those students completing their boatbuilding courses at Lyme Regis this year.”



Further images from the day can be found at the following link.  Link to 11 items

Chris Adams  – 10th June 2024