Iain Oughtred

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Photograph: Kathy Mansfield

We were very sorry to hear the sad news that Iain Oughtred, the world-renowned boatbuilder and designer has died. His boats and designs have appeared in WaterCraft hundreds of times over the years, whether on the water at rallies, raids and festivals or in the workshops of professional boatbuilders and home builders alike.

Growing up in Australia, Iain raced 12’ (3.6m) Gwen 12 dinghies on Sydney Harbour – successfully! He built 7 of them and drew up the plans for the class association; his first drawing project. Fascinated by how boats were shaped, built, rigged and handled, he got a job as a draughtsman for a naval architect.

Iain Oughtred sailing JEANIE II, a Ness yawl designed and owned by him, in Portsoy, Scotland. Photograph: Kathy Mansfield

After work for several other yacht designers, Iain began designing and building boats of his own and advertising the plans. He was instrumental in the UK’s wooden boat revival; his boats have become synonymous with events like the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy and Sail Caledonia.

An Oughtred Guillemot in build in boatbuilder Jamie Clay’s workshop. Photograph: Jamie Clay

Iain was a master of small boat design, working for the past 23 years from his home on the Isle of Skye. He produced more than 100 designs of rowing dinghies, sail-and-oar designs, skiffs and more, so often based on traditional Scottish and Nordic boats. His writing is an invaluable legacy; Iain’s Clinker Plywood Boatbuilding Manual continues to be the go-to guide for countless amateur boatbuilders, while Wooden Boat Building in Britain still offers the most comprehensive survey of the trade. 

21′ (6.4m) Kotik, designed by Iain and built by Ewan Kennedy. Photograph: Ewan Kennedy

One design of Iain’s deserves special mention. In 2009, the prototype St Ayles Skiff was launched; the first of 400 to be built so far around the world. Beautiful, stable, lightweight and crucially – like all Iain’s boats – designed to be built by amateurs for a relatively low cost. The 22’ (6.7m) St Ayles Skiff is a four-oared coastal rowing boat, designed in collaboration with Alec Jordan of Jordan Boats, who designed and produce the plywood kits for the skiffs along with many of Iain’s other boats.

St Ayles Skiff SOY QUINE. Photograph: Kevin Rayne

The vast and thriving community of owners, builders, sailors and rowers of Oughtred boats is testament to Iain’s dedication to his craft. As Iain said himself in his ‘Designer Monologues’ article for us back in W111 (May/June 2015), “I knew it was what I had to do”.

Photograph: Chris Perkins