French Navy orders fleet from small Hampshire firm

The hull of a boat on a trailer with sails up. It's a Drascombe Gig as ordered by the French Navy

Drascombe Boats, based in Hampshire, has secured yet another order from the French Navy.

Its first was eighteen years ago (2005) when the French placed an order for ten Drascombe Gigs – now it’s come back for four more.

“Two years ago, we were approached by the French navy to quote for four Drascombe Gigs,” says Sharon Geary Harwood, MD and owner. She says the French Navy plan to use them as training vessels.

“Last week the official order and deposit was received by ourselves. This order, along with a new Longboat ready to be delivered to a Sailability group and a new Lugger due into the workshop next week, means the total new boats up until the end of May stands at six, with more enquiries still coming through. We have taken on another member of staff to help with the workload.” That brings the number of staff to four. “I like to get my hands dirty now and again,” says Geary Harwood, “although I leave the men in the workshop to do what they are best at, producing these beautiful boats for our customers.”

Geary Harwood says the process was a ‘big learning curve’. “The French Navy knew what they wanted, we just had to work through all the paperwork to get there, a big learning curve and one for which I am proud to have achieved.

“When they were originally designed, they were ideal training vessels for rowing, we are fitting all four gigs out for rowing so a maximum of eight people can row.

“The moulding work starts next week with a company who we sub contact to, Custom Moulds and Moulding mould all of our boats and we have a great working relationship with Paul Noble and his team.”

Normally the company’s customers include families, she says, “however our boats are for everyone to enjoy, the lone sailor, couples, families, scout groups, outdoor education centres and we can adapt for Sailability use too.”

A Drascombe Gig as ordered by the French Navy

Along with new builds, Drascombe Boats also sell spares/accessories and trailers, and offer a brokerage service to new and existing customers.

The Drascombe Gig was designed by John Watkinson in 1984 as an addition to the growing fleet of Drascombe designs. Watkinson was a formal Naval Architect, and designed the very first Drascombe Lugger Katharine Mary for his beloved wife Kate.

At 91, Kate is delighted that her husband’s legacy is still loved and enjoyed by many people around the world.

The Drascombe Gig is the largest boat in the Drascombe range, originally designed for use as a naval sail training vessel. There is room for a crew of twelve and reefing points are included on the jib as well as the main. There is ballast ensuring the boat is stable for a lighter crew. The gig can be sailed, rowed or motored using an outboard.

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One response to “French Navy orders fleet from small Hampshire firm”

  1. Douglas Elliott says:

    When the late John Watkinson designed the Drascombe Gig, it was with the sail training market in mind.
    John Watkinson had a career in the Royal Navy for many years, upon leaving the service with the rank of Commander, he purchased Kelly and Halls Boatyard at Newton Ferrers in Devon which he ran successfully, eventually he sold the Boatyard and lived at Drascombe Barton in mid Devon, hence the Drascombe name. There he designed and built the Drascombe Lugger for his own use as a sailer trailer. The Drascombe Gig was one of several of his designs to bear the Drascombe brand name, if he was still with us today, I’m certain he would be delighted to know that the Drascombe Gig is fulfilling the role he intended.

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