‘Orque’ is a 25ft, TopHat Class, sailing yacht. She is traditionally built using mahogany planks on oak frames with copper fasteners. She was corroboratively designed in the early 1960’s by John H. Illingworth and Angus Primrose. We found her wallowing in the far reaches of a yard in Woodbridge, Suffolk, where boats go to die. I knew nothing about her, other than there was something about her; a stout resonance for a yacht of her size, something of good breeding. So I set out to find her story, knowing there would be one and what I found after some research is compiled in these pages.
She was Lofted in a neighbour’s hay loft. Her keel was laid in 1970 and she sailed into Plymouth Sound in the Autumn of 1974. Percy Lipsett had been gathering lead for one year before he started the build, this was then melted down for the keel. He also cast all the brass fittings himself. The whole boat was completed by one retired shipwright in only a few years.
As I mention in the text on Percy Lipsett, his family have been very generous in giving their time. They have scanned on to computer the entire photographed log of every stage of the build. There are two boxes of slides with a beautifully written description of each and every one. I do not know if it was his intention, but his efforts in compiling this stage by stage log will give an invaluable source to not only rebuild Orque, but also as a manual of traditional boat building. As a christmas present from them I received a printed book with a selection of these slides and descriptions.
The following pictures are taken from the advert, listed online, that first attracted me to Orque. Even though the thumbnail picture in the listing was very small I could see that there was obviously a great deal of knowledge and care put into her design. Further pictures revealed a very intelligent interior; simple and effective. I had heard of both Illingworth and Primrose but knew little about them.
When we found her she had been sat on the trailer, uncovered for more than two years. Before that she had languished from maltreatment for over five years at the hands of the previous owner. The obvious deceit in the ‘description’ given me was more than apparent; the whole transom and most of the plank ends were so rotten you could dig it out with your fingers. The attempts to conceal all this and a lot more under a few coats of B&Q exterior special were laughable.
Deceit brushed aside and the extent of the damage realised, it was still an Illingworth & Primrose, mahogany on oak and well built. The shape was still very much unblemished and apart from the transom, the coachroof, the cockpit, a bulkhead, several timbers, all the plank-ends, the motor, the mast, the boom, the deck, the interior fittings and public health, the rest of the issues were mostly superficial so, price renegotiated for a project, once again I went against reason and did it anyway.
For me Orque is not just a beautiful and well designed yacht but also a small reminder of a time when functionality and form were on a par; when fair trade, decency and professionalism were commonplace, and workmanship had not yet been brushed aside in the wake of quick profits and cheap labour.