Which companies come to mind when you think about the greatest and most revered British boat builders? Princess? Sunseeker? Hunton?
Perhaps you do and there’s plenty of justification for that. But even if you discount these famous big hitters, it’s still a challenge to limit a list of special British builders to just ten. Names like Ring, Redbay, Ribquest and Humber all deserve appreciation for their work and so too do some of the popular (if more sedentary) builders like Orkney. There are also some extremely promising recent additions to the British scene, including English Harbour Yachts and C-Boat, but their relative infancy means they have a few rungs to climb before they make it onto a list like this.
As for the ten I’ve chosen, well for the excellence of their boats, the passion of their fan-base and the sturdy resilience of their brand, every one of them deserves to be celebrated with all the extravagant, flag-waving, patriotic zeal you can muster.
(1) Ribcraft - for working RIBs
Supplier to the military, the RNLI, the Olympic Fleet, the Coastguard and various commercial operators around the world, Ribcraft has resisted the temptation to bastardise the RIB concept in favour of fluffy cushions and showroom gimmicks – and its boats are all the better for that. Expect sturdy sea hulls, large diameter tubes, rock solid fixtures and fittings, Samson posts, jockey seats and respect from everyone you meet. Top class.
RIB buying guide: Which RIB to buy?
Search all Ribcraft for sale - www.boats.com
(2) Cockwells - tender loving care
If you want the work of a skilled craftsman rather than a cleverly programmed machine, this could be the yard for you. Located on a pretty offshoot of the famous Fal Estuary, Cockwells only builds three or four boats a year but from initial concept to final specification, every element is yours to define. There is a more affordable off-the-shelf line of pilot boats available (See Cockwells 9.5 tender: First look video) but if you want to eradicate all compromise (and your wallet can handle the pain), very few builders in the world can match Cockwells for quality.
Cockwells 650 SR review: handmade sport runabout.
(3) Williams Performance jet tenders
Williams has done more than any other builder to prove that a small jet boat can be a serious mariner’s tool instead of just a boy racer’s toy. Having started in 1995 as a builder of high-class, cold-moulded wooden powerboats, this Oxfordshire-based company now concentrates solely on four-stroke jet craft and is the leader in its field. With more than 20 shipyards specifying Williams as the preferred tender, its formula for the small, high-end jet boat shows no signs of losing its appeal.
Williams TurboJet 285: the perfect fit for Beneteau MC5.
Search all Williams performance tender for sale - www.boats.com
(4) Shetland - Great British boat builders
Designed and built in Britain since 1968, the engaging simplicity of the Shetland ethos has seen it sell 45,000 boats, and it often seems that most of them are still putting in a shift on our inland and coastal waterways. Now based in Suffolk, the company’s basic aim remains the production of safe, reliable, trailerable family cruisers at accessible prices. They don’t offer fireworks but they always offer fun without fuss and their legions of happy owners are perfectly happy with that.
Search all Shetland boats for sale - www.boats.com
(5) Scorpion - high-performance RIBs
Holder of various world and British endurance records, Scorpion has been at the forefront of British RIB building for a very long time. Renowned throughout the world for tough, fast, offshore craft that are stylish and beautifully finished as well as potent, Scorpion certainly charges juicy money for its boats – but take one out for a spin and quibbling with the price begins to seem churlish.
Scorpion RIBs partner Ben Ainslie Racing for America’s Cup World Series
Search all Scorpion RIB for sale - www.boats.com
(6) Trusty - high-spec boats
This Kidderminster-based yard hand-builds its motorboats to fantastically high standards. In fact, the flagship T28 won particular acclaim for the fact that it feels like a ‘little ship’ rather than a compact cruiser at the recent 2014 Motorboat Awards. This classically styled, four-berth semi-displacement cruiser even went on to win the ‘Wheelhouse and Walkaround’ category outright. With great use of space and rock solid build, it’s more than just ‘Trusty’ by name.
5 boats for the older powerboater.
Search all Trusty for sale - www.boats.com
(7) Osprey - sea RIBs
After 25 years of building boats, Osprey has a reputation as one of the very best small RIB brands around. You can choose your favoured hull and then spec it with a list of fittings to suit a range of uses from racing to commerce, diving or family cruising. Whichever way you go, Osprey’s “warped V hull” seems to perform something of a magic trick, with great speed from modest power, as well as pin-sharp handling and remarkably composed beahviour in lively seas. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the Osprey fleet contains some of the most brilliant fast sea boats money can buy.
Osprey Vipermax 7.0: a treat of a boat.
(8) Fletcher - Original Great British boat builder
I started boating in a Fletcher 15 and I have yet to come across anything that can eclipse the simple, affectation-free driver engagement of that nimble little £400 rocket ship. Fletcher has always done a great job of providing the novice with affordable ways to get started in boating – and today that continues with an approved used scheme known as ‘Cherished’, plus a new fleet that follows the same old formula. Now as ever, you can expect fast, affordable fun and a bucket load of British heritage.
Affordable fun: Five brilliant “boy-racer” boats.
Search all Fletcher boats for sale - www.boats.com
(9) Pascoe International - pedigree
Pascoe is all about pristine race pedigree allied to some of the classiest design and construction solutions ever witnessed on a leisure boat. In fact, with its delectable SY10, Pascoe could be said to have played a big part in showing other builders how much can be achieved with an authentic RIB concept. However, it has since progressed to other equally impressive hard boat projects, not least in the form of the lovely Landau superyacht tender (pictured).
5 super stylish powerboats.
Search all Pascoe boats for sale - www.boats.com
(10) Revenger - offshore quality
Revenger’s modern fleet comprises six boats from 23 to 32 feet – and they continue to do a great job of preserving the marque’s pristine reputation for offshore racing success. Founded in 1980, Revenger rarely shouts loudly about what it does and it often sneaks beneath the headlines, but if you want a rapid, soft-riding, well-proven sea boat with superyacht finish and sensible prices, there are very few builders in the world that can match Revenger.
RIB buying guide: which RIB to buy?
Search all Revenger boats for sale - www.boats.com
For more powerboat listings see:
Five classic powerboats: Triana, Broom, Riva, Fairey, Albatross
5 boats for the older powerboater
Affordable fun: Five brilliant “boy-racer” boats