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Henri-Lloyd - For the Obsessed

Renowned Dorset Boat Building Academy casts its net wider

by Debbie Granville 2 Aug 2023 14:22 BST
The BBA's Bursary for Women also aims to dispel the stigma around women in practical skills industries © Boat Building Academy

The world-renowned Boat Building Academy (BBA) in Lyme Regis is casting its net wider with new courses and additional bursaries for students and local people.

The BBA, based on Monmouth Beach, was founded in 1997 by Naval Commander Tim Gedge. Since that time more than 280 boats have been handcrafted at the Academy using traditional and modern techniques, and many graduates have gone on to work at the country's top boatyards.

This summer, the BBA has announced the introduction of new courses in boat building and furniture making and new bursaries to make the skills accessible to even more people.

Director Will Reed explained: "Since attaining charitable status in 2020 the Academy has been able to really spread its wings and explore new ways to promote what we do.

"In addition to our twice yearly, 40-week full time boat building course, we are now offering students a more compact, six-week Build a Boat Course which gives a taste of a broad range of skills, while building a Joel White Shellback Dinghy.

"Our 12-week furniture making course has produced a stream of capable woodworkers who have worked in all aspects of the industry, and we are now running an improved course introducing some new techniques to give students a flavour of boat building."

Also new for 2023 is a two-week build a wooden stand-up paddleboard (SUP) course, with two students studying for the price of one.

Will continued: "People of all ages, walks of life and backgrounds come to the BBA. Many people come to us for our professional training, and some of our graduates go on to secure employment in the most prestigious boatyards in the country. There's a real caché to certification from the Boat Building Academy.

"Others are seeking to make drastic career changes, sometimes leaving high-powered jobs in finance and academia to become boat builders.

"For some, it's simply a chance to follow a dream for the sheer joy of building wooden boats surrounded by like-minded enthusiasts and our expert tutors."

The underlying aim of the BBA is to preserve and promote ancient and modern boat building skills for everyone and the academy's popular bursary scheme is also growing.

"The BBA bursary scheme is open to UK residents and aims to fund a generation of men and women boat builders and woodworkers, who would otherwise be unable to afford their training," explained Will.

The academy's Bursary for Women also aims to dispel the stigma around women in practical skills industries.

The newest bursaries, which have been funded by the Alice Ellen Cooper Dean Charitable Foundation and the Valentine Trust are aimed at people from Dorset and offer the chance to apply for up to 50 per cent off the Academy's 12 and 40-week courses as well as taster days and short courses.

Will continued: "Despite the current financial pressures on businesses and charities we feel our outstanding reputation is helping us to make real headway.

"Our 40-week Boat Building course starting this month (August) is almost full and interest is growing in our other new courses, with students ranging from 17-75.

"When December comes around another cohort of students will sail their newly built boats out into Lyme harbour and begin their journeys as professional boat builders.

"It's a joyous sight of new life being breathed into ancient traditions."

For more information on courses and bursaries available at the BBA visit: boatbuildingacademy.com