Back in 2017 during the legendary Round the Island race Harry had the privilege of sailing with BBC presenter Ben Fogle. Having been to many of the places featured on his shows and articles there was plenty to talk about, it wasn’t long until the topic switched to wooden paddle boards and the workshop in South Devon.
Ben’s brief involved the heritage of vintage boats and in particular the look and feel of the Thames Slipper Launches which were a big feature of river life in the 1930’s.
Back in the workshop myself and Alen hit the drawing board, using traditional boat building skills and techniques we designed and developed a paddle board fit for purpose and built to stand the test of time just like the classic yachts we know and love today.
Myself, Alen and Tom would like to say a huge thank you to Ben Fogle, Helen Chislett and the Financial Times for commissioning the project and publishing such a beautiful article.
For more information on the build and pictures of Clipper Class paddle board, please visit our Blog and the Lignum Shop.
You can read the story as told by Ben and written by Helen Chislet from the Financial Times below.
“I inherited my love of boats through my father and late grandfather, with childhood summers spent on lake Chemong in Ontario, Canada, where Grandpa would take me and my brother and sisters on his 50 year old, red cedar canoe he has loving restored. All our boats were made of wood, even the speed boat. To this day, I have an enduring love of wooden boats. A classic Riva would be my dream. I first saw someone paddling in California about 10 years ago and was immediately captivated as there was such elegance to standing on water. It looked so peaceful and tranquil. I finally had my first go in southern Spain soon after I was hooked from then on.
The television presenters red cedar paddle board was inspired by trips he made in his grandfathers wooden canoe in Canada as a child.
In 2017, I took part in The Round The Island boat race, circumnavigating the Isle of Wight. One of our crew, Harry Robinson, by trade a boat builder, mentioned his company, Lignum, also made bespoke surfboards. I asked him if he could also make paddle boards because I wanted one that was handmade, a piece of art in effect. It needed to have a teak deck in keeping with my love of vintage boats, such as the Thames Slipper Launches that were such a feature of river life in the 1930’s. I added the proviso that I also wanted to be able to take my children and my black Labrador, Storm, out on excursions. As Storm is almost always by my feet, the boat had to have some extra depth and buoyancy to take her 30kg weight. Lignum made the hull out of western red cedar grown on Dutchy land in the south west of England – it is lighter in colour with larger growth rings than its North American counterpart. The shaft is spruce and the blade is red wood, both sourced from Dartmoor National Park. Tom Stockwell of Stockwell Surfboards then coated the timber in a layer of glass fibre and eco resin, creating a water tight shell to protect the timber from the elements. Harry estimates it took 180 man hours to complete the design – one that also meets ECOBOARD gold level standard, I am proud to say.
Since taking possession of my Clipper Class board, I have enjoyed many hours paddling on the Thames in Henley, where my in-laws live. However, one of my most memorable trips was paddle boarding along the coast of Cornwall with Storm.
She sat paws hanging over the side, whilst seals came along to investigate what we were doing. It was absolute bliss. I am convinced she loves paddle boarding just as much as I do, because when your senses are on maximum, it feels as though man, dog and boat become one. With Storm at the bow end, nothing compares to the feeling of contentment and freedom that paddle boarding brings.
However, I would like to say the board is only really borrowed from my children: Ludo, nine, and Iona, eight. Both have great balance and often join me on excursions. Once they are committed, I will commission some smaller boards so we can all enjoy it together. Maybe they will be gold medal champions when the Olympics finally recognise it as a sport!” As told to Helen Chislett.