Shipwright, sailing instructor, gentleman.
Percy Lipsett was a shipwright who served his apprenticeship in 1953 at Woolverstone Shipyard.
His introduction to boat building was building a dinghy as a hobby, miles away from the nearest body of water, in Derbyshire, where he was a sheep farmer. A friend saw the dinghy and suggested his skills may be better suited to boat building than sheep farming. He put him in touch with Austin Farrar who had bought a boatyard in Woolverstone from the Royal Navy where he built racing dinghies and small yachts.
Farrar had his own Dart one design class, invented the pull pit (but didn’t patent it), invented the trapeze for dinghies (again, no patent) and was known for his very quick International 14’s; he also set the standards when it came to cold moulding construction. It must have been a real gift to have served his apprenticeship with such a prolific figure in the English sailing scene, it’s no wonder he remained there for seven years.
Percy Lipsett left Woolverstone in 1960 to become a sailing instructor at an Outward Bound centre where he remained for four years before moving to Devon. Here he became the Area Youth Officer and was given the responsibility of introducing and promoting sailing in schools.
The choice of a TopHat design for his retirement yacht was no accident. Austin Farrar was a personal friend of Illingworth, who was living in the area at the time, and so I must imagine Percy would have know him too, working at the yard. I wonder if they might have discussed the plans of his Tiger V’s and his intention to create a larger version, because Percy purchased a set of the line drawings the same year they became available.
It is testament to Mr Lipsett’s building abilities that Orque was built entirely with one set of hands and within four years. The only parts not built by him were the rig and sailing hardware.
In researching this I have managed to get in contact with the family of the late Percy Lipsett who have been a tremendous help. Among the wealth of information I received from them were correspondences between him and Illingworth & primrose, discussing such matters as material thicknesses, rig set-up, and deck hardware, as well as letters to lumber yards and sailmakers. The language and form of the letters give a nice snippet into his character.
I was was also very fortunate to meet his daughter who was kind enough to drive from South Manchester to Lowestoft just to bring me reproductions of the original plans she had had professionally copied! We then spent the whole day going through both sets of plans ensuring no details had been omitted. She had also come to see Orque and was, I think, a little sad to see the decrepit state of her father’s yacht, having spent many days sailing her as a teenager and seen the whole building process from the keel up. We talked of many things and I hope she returned with a glint of hope to see Orque back in the state she remembers.