The chances are you or someone you know will have sailed a Drascombe at some point. YBW looks back as the iconic British boat brand celebrates 50 years

With their distinctive shape and stunning red sails, a Drascombe is a beautiful boat to behold on the water, and holds a special place in many people’s hearts.

As Drascombe’s managing director, Sharon Geary-Harwood, told YBW: “Drascombe is known by many of all ages. It makes me smile when I am at a boat show to hear a child say to their friend: ‘That’s a Drascombe there, as my Grandfather has one'”.

The story of the Drascombe goes back to 1965 when John Watkinson, a retired naval officer, was asked by his wife, Kate, to build a boat to take the family sailing: the only criteria – it had to be safe.

“So John sets to work, he designs and then built by hand a beautiful boat call ‘Katharine Mary’, with her Lug rig, this is where the Drascombe Lugger began,” explained Geary-Harwood, as she picks up the story.

In 1965 with the first one built, the Drascombe was taken to the Earl’s Court Boat Show.

Drascombe luggers taking part in a regatta

A regatta to mark the 50th anniversary

It sold within 29 minutes with plenty of other orders following.

The first Luggers to be sold were built of wood by Kelly and Hall at Noss Mayo in Devon, and then John Elliott Bros.

But demand soon outstripped production, and with the growing popularity of Drascombe, John Watkinson approached Honnor Marine in Totnes with the plan of producing them in GRP.

“Over the years, there have been many additional models added to the Drascombe range, the Skiff, Scaith, Scaffie, Cruiser Longboat, Peterboat and Drifter, although the Dabber, Longboat, Coaster, Gig and the Drifter 22 along with the Lugger are still being built by Churchouse Boats,” explained Geary-Harwood.

“We have also over the years been able to make advanced changes to the Drascombe Longboat which has enabled people with disabilities and special needs to enjoy being out on the water,” she added.

People sailing a Drascombe

More than 6,000 Drascombes have been launched since the first one in 1965

Since 1967, the Drascombe has been in continuous production, celebrating its 50th year in 2017. Churchouse Boats got the licence to produce them in 2002.

To mark the momentous anniversary, the very first Drascombe Lugger, Katharine Mary, was exhibited at the London Boat Show. The boat had been found and restored by the team at Churchouse Boats.

In July at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, Katharine Mary took to the water for the first time in many years.

There were further celebrations at the Southampton Boat Show in September, where Barton Marine, which makes products for sailboats including Drascombe, hosted a 50th anniversary cake and champagne event for the iconic boat brand.

“I am very grateful to Barton Marine for all of their support, and especially Suzanne (Blaustone, executive director of Barton) as she understands what it is like to be of the minority female company owners in the marine industry, so it can be very tough at times,” noted Geary-Harwood.

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Drascombe’s managing director said 2018 was already looking like a promising year.

“We have a good order book taking us into the early spring, with more Drascombes being sold to Sailability or outdoor education centres, something which we are very proud off,” she said.

Geary-Harwood said she will always cherish becoming involved with Drascombe.

” I do not regret for one moment of getting involved and then buying a business which has a good brand name along with reputation. To me, the customers are the most important part of any business, and with a good team and good following, it all adds to the uniqueness of what we provide,” she said.

“I have even started sailing, so I can learn more about what our boats can do, along with enjoying some good times with fellow sailors,” added Geary-Harwood.