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A Demonstration of Design: The life, times and boats of Ian Proctor

by David Henshall 8 Feb 12:00 GMT
The original Topper dinghy © Proctor family

As the UK started to emerge in the early 1950s from the years of wartime austerity, the dinghy and small boat sailing scene would undergo a huge explosion, both in terms of numbers and variety. Indeed, the rich diversity that is such a strong feature of our almost unique sailing activity, has its roots in this wonderful period of design and development.

Two of the primary architects who helped drive these changes forward were the 'Wizard of Putney' – Jack Holt and the 'Master of Design', Ian Proctor. Back in 2012, we celebrated the centenary of Jack Holt, a man whose pragmatic approach to making easy to build, easy to sail boats, did so much to democratize the sport of dinghy racing.

Now, in 2018, we can turn our attention to the life, times, boats and innovations of Ian Proctor, as we celebrate his centenary. And what a life it was! His story will be told at next month's RYA Dinghy Show and in a detailed article that will soon be appearing here on the YachtsandYachting.com website.

These pictures and words will be interesting and informative, but the place to really see the amazing breadth of his designs has to be out on the water and on a racecourse. However, many of his most iconic boats are now 'old ladies', so the choice of venue for an event where they can be displayed had to be very carefully considered. With their wealth of experience in running the annual Classic Boat Revival, the UK's premier classic gathering for small boats, Bosham Sailing Club, on the northern side of Chichester Harbour, were the number one choice and it is with real pleasure that we can reveal that they will be hosting the main Proctor themed event of the year over the 2nd and 3rd of June.

The organizers already have a wide variety of Proctor designed boats that will be making their way to Bosham for this event. On the Saturday they will be displayed on the picturesque 'Bosham Green' that is such an eye-catching part of the area. There will be a Gala Dinner at the Club on the Saturday night, then on the Sunday the boats will head out onto the water for some racing that (weather permitting) will end with a spectator friendly run up past the club to a grandstand finish in front of the Green.

The organizers for the Gala event are keen to get as inclusive a spread of Proctor designs as possible; those classes that are still managed by active class associations will be getting invites, but that still leaves a large number of lesser known designs that we are keen to see out sailing on a race course again.

If you have a favourite Proctor themed story, any pictures or other details – or better still, one of the boats designed by the great man, then the Dinghy Show is a great starting point. The Proctor Story talk will be on at lunchtime up on the main stage (both days), this will be backed up by a number of early examples of his more iconic boats in the West Corridor, along with a number of informative display boards.

Importantly, Bosham Sailing Club will have their stand, B19, at the Dinghy Show and the intention is to hold some Proctor flavour 'clinics' at times there during both days.

The modern dinghy world may have moved on in part, but it is hard to overstate the legacy left by Ian Proctor in terms of dinghies, small cruisers, innovations, the 'Proctor Masts' story and so much more. This is a great, one-off opportunity and if you want to be a part of the celebrations then we would love to hear from you. You can either contact Bosham Sailing Club on their stand during the show or email me directly at

See you at the Show, or at the Bosham Gala event.

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