Windboats celebrates 100 years of boat building

UK-based yacht builders, Windboats, is celebrating its 100th year of building sailing and motoryachts. The company has grown from modest beginnings making small wooden boats to 72ft luxury cruising yachts and motorboats.

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, later becoming its 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. 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. Windboats used the opportunity to diversify, acquiring Norfolk motorboat builder, Hardy Marine. The RNLI commissioned two Hardy 42s for crew training vessels, and Raymarine commissioned a Hardy 36 as its primary test boat.

Trevor’s son, Oliver, joined the company in 1999 and became managing director in 2010. 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 continue to drive the business forward.

This year sees the launch of a range of hybrid options for the Hardy model range offering silent cruising with zero emissions.

“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,” says Oliver.

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