Broads speedboat project for Great Yarmouth students

One gripe about qualifications is that some are irrelevant to real life and out of touch with the needs of the modern workplace.

But a group of young boat builders at Great Yarmouth College is working on a “real-life” project that demands top-notch craftsmen skills and total precision – or it will sink.

Seven 14- to 16-year-olds on the Young Apprenticeship Scheme are building their own speedboat to launch on the Broads in the spring.

They have already built the wooden frame and are about to take it to luxury boat builders Landamores at Hoveton where it will be fitted with a fibreglass shell.

Once it is painted by painting and decorating students at the college and upholstered by a local company, they will fit it with an outboard motor and take to the waterways.

The speedboat is based on a 1950s design, The Victory, which the students discovered on the internet.

They downloaded the design and made scale models first before embarking on building a full-size version in the carpentry workshops of Yarmouth College’s new �7.5m Kier Building where construction students learn their trades.

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The idea came from tutor Justin Turner to help the teenagers after their Young Apprenticeship failed to turn out as expected.

The six boys and one girl from local high schools were supposed to spend one day a week with a boatbuilding company and one in college.

But because of the economic downturn, work placements could not be found, so they had to attend college twice a week to learn theory and computer-aided design and basic boat building skills to prepare them for the workplace.

Mr Turner said: “They were doing small boat-building like scaled model boats and things, but when I visited a friend who was making a boat I thought it would be a fantastic project for this group.

“It was a real project and they would see real results.

“The design is from the 1950s, so first they had to convert all the imperial measurements into metric and it was estimated that the boat could travel at speeds of approximately 30mph.

“They are really pleased with this project and are so enthusiastic. They are making something tangible that they can have finished off at a big boat builders and then launch on to the water and ride in.”

Rachel Garden, Oliver Walker, Billy Bridge, Jordan Gowen, Theo Quinton, Laban Barrett and Jack Sherry, from Great Yarmouth, Caister, Cromer and North Walsham high schools, encountered some problems creating the timber frame.

“The boat is being traditionally made and crafted out of plywood. When they were trying to bend the wood to get the curves at the front of the boat it kept snapping,” Mr Turner added.

“So we soaked the lengths of timber in the dyke outside the building. We bricked them down and once soaked they could bend into the natural curves at the front of the boat.”

The group was among students who met then prime minister Gordon Brown when he visited the college earlier this year and Jordan chatted to him and posed for a photo to take home for his mother.

When the students visit Landamores, they will meet a former boatbuilding apprentice with Yarmouth College, Scott Guyton, who learned specialised boat building skills alongside more progressive fibreglass work on top-of-the-market Oyster luxury yachts and has recently been promoted to leading hand.

Local upholstery company P&R Upholstery has offered to make the seating in the boat, to be called Amy Lou after Mr Turner’s 14-year-old daughter.